‘Many languages, one world’: UN launches essay contest to celebrate multilingualism

Head of UN DPI, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, and President of ELS, Mark Harris, signed the agreement to host a multilingual essay contest. It was launched at UN Headquarters in New York with a signing ceremony between the UN Department of Public Information and the ELS Educational Services.

The United Nations is asking college and university students to write an essay in one of its six official languages on the role of multilingualism in a globalized world.

The contest, ‘Many Languages, One World,’ supports international education and multilingualism through the continued study of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Information about the contest, including guidelines for submission, can be found at http://www.els.edu/ManyLanguagesOneWorld.

Language Rich Europe launch – Denmark

In the latest of our launch events, Language Rich Europe will be launching the results of its research in Denmark on 6 February 2013. The programme is as follows:

Welcome: Sabine Kirchmeier-Andersen, Director, Danish Language Council

Presentation of LRE project: Aneta Quraishy, LRE Senior Project Manager, British Council

Presentation of LRE results: Professor Guus Extra, Tilburg University

Languages in Denmark in 3 language monitors, LRE, ELM and META-net: Sabine Kirchmeier-Andersen

Multilingualism in Denmark: Writer and Adj. prof. Peter Harder, Copenhagen Business School, Network for multilingualism ‘Ja-til sprog

Questions and panel discussion.

There will also be live-tweeting from the event from Language Rich Europe’s twitter account

You can read the results of the Denmark LRE research in Danish and English on our website.

What has Language Rich Europe been up to lately?


Language Rich Europe has had a very busy few months! In this post, LRE Director Simon Ingram-Hill reflects on some of the project’s recent activity.

After the launch events across the 25 participating European countries and regions this summer and the 50+ consultative workshops so far held, there was major LRE media coverage in a number of countries not least Scotland on 26 November about the lack of foreign language competence in UK hurting British business competitiveness.

We have just held our first major international conference at the British Academy with 160 policy makers and high level practitioners, debating key results from the research findings. British Council CEO Martin Davidson then launched the English version to 250 stakeholders of LRE’s CUP publication ‘Trends in Language Policies and Practices for Multilingualism in Europe’.

Other indications of how seriously this project is being taken: the full report is to be published in 19 other languages; we presented LRE to the all-party parliamentary committee on Modern Languages at the House of Lords on 10 December; key recommendations are being formulated for presentation at the European Parliament Brussels on 5 March.

And best? At the Report’s launch Caroline Parker signed a number of songs to much applause reprising her acclaimed performance at the Paralympics 2012 opening ceremony. Sign language by the way is an official minority language in many European countries.

Caroline Parker signs songs

Find out more from Simon Ingram-Hill and the Language Rich Europe website

LRE Launch – Ukraine

Language Rich Europe launches the results of its research in Kyiv, Ukraine on Friday 9 November at the Institute of Social and Political Psychology of the National Academy of Pedagogic Sciences of Ukraine.

Ukraine is one of only three non-EC countries participating in the project (the others are Bosnia and Herzegovina and Switzerland).

The programme for the event is as follows:

Welcome speeches by the President of the National Academy of Pedagogic Sciences, the Directory of British Council Ukraine and the Deputy Minister of Education and Science.

Project overview by Eilidh MacDonald, Project Co-ordinator Language Rich Europe, British Council Germany

Cross-national analysis of language policies and practices in Europe by Prof. Guus Extra, Tilburg University

Presentation of the LRE research results in Ukraine – Lyubov Naydonova, Institute of Social and Political Psychology

Presentation on language policies and practices in Wales – Martin Dowle, British Council Ukraine

The presentations will be followed by a round table discussion with the following topics and speakers:

Language Policy Trends in Lithuania, Vilma Backiute, Ministry of Education and Science of Lithuania

Main Aspects of Multilingual Education Development in Autonomous Republic of Crimea: Policy, Identity, Culture – Iryna Brunova-Kalisetska and Yulia Tyschenko, Crimea Policy Dialogue Project

Issues of language policy in higher education – Prof. Stepko M.F, Institute of Higher Education

Presentation by Prof Vasyutynsky V.O., Institute of Social and Political Psychology

Language policy and the language situation in Ukraine, Prof. Masenko L.T., Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Language Rich Europe launch – Wales

At a time of globalisation, troubled economies and increasing migration, knowledge of foreign languages is critical to building social bridges, improving job prospects and enhancing competitiveness in Europe.

How well is Wales responding to these challenges?


The Welsh launch of Language Rich Europe will take place on Tuesday 9 October at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff. 

The programme is as follows:

Welcome and introduction from Simon Dancey, Director British Council Wales

Address by the Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM

The Importance of Multilingualism, overview from Professor Colin Williams, Cardiff University

Language Rich Europe Cross National Findings – Aneta Quraishy, Senior Project Manager, British Council

Language Rich Europe Wales and UK results – Dr Lid King, Director The Languages Company

Panel discussion – Aled Eirug (British Council Wales Advisory Committee Chair), Professor Colin Williams (Cardiff University), Professor Stephen Hagen (Newport University), and Dr Lid King (Languages Company)

Maži mažakalbiai – is Lithuania ‘a small nation with a small number of languages?’

Vilma Bačkiūtė, Project Manager British Council Lithuania, summarises an article about Language Rich Europe which first appeared in the Lithuanian magazine, IQ I 2012 metai I Rugpjūtis 08 (29)

The August issue of the monthly magazine IQ devotes three full pages to an article on the Language Rich Europe results and language policy issues in Lithuania. The article by Viktorija Vitkauskaitė is an interesting read and covers a number of key points suggested by the LRE launch in Vilnius. The ‘average performance’ by Lithuania is summed up in a quotation by Dr Irena Smetonienė, who states that ‘Lithuania is neither among high achievers, nor among loosers’. Still, the title of the article ‘Maži mažakalbiai’ suggests that Lithuania is ’a small nation with a small number of languages’. The LRE findings actually do not look too worrying for Lithuania, but the IQ article suggests the we should start reviewing our language curricula as we are losing the competitive edge as a country and living the strategy of ‘English is enough’.

The key points covered in the article are:

–         Children at pre-school age can learn languages only ‘out of their parents’ pocket’ and here Lithuania is lacking behind seven countries in the LRE research.

–          English prevails in all sectors at the expense of other languages, which is not different from anywhere else, but not at such a high percentage: 92% of secondary school learners choose English and continue it as the only language in the later stages of education (!)

–          Companies require language skills, but neither invest in nor use the linguistic capacity of the staff. Prof. Boguslavas Gruževskis says: ‘This is a general problem which is a result of low valuing of work force [by employers]’. Lifelong Learning programmes are there for language learning but not used.

–          Employees of state institutions are encouraged and supported more in language learning, but there is a lack of multilingualism in city services. Kęstutis Ambrozaitis, executive manager of Lithuanian Tours, confirms that tourists lack services other than in English in Lithuania, although, for example, German tourism has grown by 23% in the last year.

–          The article also expands on immigrant languages that receive no attention at all in Lithuania. Immigrant languages will likely be ignored in decades to come. Prof. Boguslavas Gruževskis is quoted as saying that it’s an unfortunate trend, as by ‘’using’’ immigrants and their language potential the country’s economy /employers can gain a lot, including access to other countries and cultures.

–         Loreta Senkutė, president of the Lithuanian Youth Council (LiJOT), voices the students’ suggestion for a major change in language education for Lithuania: all learners throughout education should learn more than one compulsory foreign language and English should preferably be offered as the second foreign language in the school curriculum as it is picked up faster than other languages due to its spread in media, music, movies, etc.

Readers of Lithuanian can access the full article at http://iq.lt/iq-zurnalas/ (see issue IQ 2012 m. Nr. 8 – Politika / Maži mažakalbiai  – NB: it’s paid subscription).

The findings of the Language Rich Europe research launched in Lithuania in May – read more about it here and view the LRE Lithuania profile on our website.

Language Rich Europe launch in Greece

The Language Rich Europe launch in Greece took place on 21 June 2012. Zoi Tatsioka, South-East European Research Centre, summarises the key points from an event which couldn’t ignore the current political and economic situation in the country.

The Language Rich Europe launch took place in Athens, Greece on 21 June 2012 in the beautiful building of Goethe Institut. The talks were very interesting and stimulating and the audience contributed to the conversation with constructive questions and comments.  Simultaneous interpreting from Greek, English and German facilitated interactions throughout the event.

First, we were welcomed by Dr Matthias Makowski, Director of Goethe Institut in Athens, with Tony Buckby, Director British Council Greece introducing the project and stressing the significance of partnership in multinational projects. We were also greeted by Eusebi Ayensa Pat, President of EUNIC Greece.

Eilidh MacDonald, from the British Council Language Rich Europe team, provided an overview of the project, explained its objectives and stressed the need of Europeans to speak more foreign languages as expressed in the European Barometer findings. Moreover, she emphasised the importance of the project for businesses and the role of multilingualism in boosting the economy.

Dr. Kutlay Yagmur, from the University of Tilburg, provided some key findings and stressed the importance of the project in order to identify the best practices in the EU and to motivate countries and regions to improve or implement better language practices. He also talked about the challenge of the project to develop a common yardstick for 24 countries and regions with unique historical characteristics and societal conditions. Some of the points made when presenting the results were the need to improve immigrant language provision especially in pre-primary education and the fact that the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages has not been ratified in many countries, including Greece.

Dr Sara Hannam, formally of the South-East European Research Centre (now Oxford-Brookes University) focused on the findings of Greece. She stressed the fact that the research was conducted in a very challenging time for Greece which resulted in great difficulty in the collection of data. Some of the most important findings are mentioned below:

– Greek is the official language of the country. Immigrant languages are not recognised and the only recognised minority language is Turkish in the Thrace region.

– With regard to foreign language learning, there is considerable investment from the state and the private sector.

– English is the de facto first option in foreign language learning in primary and secondary education. In secondary education in particular examination taking is emphasised. However, this emphasis on the English language can have a significant effect on the concept of multilingualism.

– Turkish is offered in a large number of primary schools in the Thrace region but reduces significantly in secondary education.

– Regarding media, subtitles are used on TV to motivate language learning and as an act of respect to the original language. There is some provision for sign language, but there is room for improvement. Numerous new language communities are represented in newspapers and magazines, which reveals important information about the population of Greece. This however is not reflected in official spaces and documents.

– Regarding public services and spaces, the service user needs to be conversant and literate in Greek. Dr Hannam emphasised the difficulty in collecting data for this domain and argued that the effect of the economic crisis should not be underestimated.

– In the case of the business sector languages play a very important role in business life; however, little reward is offered to the employees who are speakers of foreign languages.

In her conclusion, Dr. Hannam mentioned that the rich linguistic history ofGreeceand present reality need to be reflected via policy and protection mechanisms and celebrated. Finally, she stressed the importance of the project in order to raise awareness and make multilingualism a priority in the wider society.

The final talk was given by Professor Bessie Dendrinos, from the Research Centre for English Language Teaching, Testing and Assessment, University of Athens, who stressed the importance of deliberate and implicit language policies. She mentioned that a certificate of language competence is Greece is not essential for anyone who wants to work in Greece, while job applicants for public services are awarded significant credit points for their certified competence in foreign languages. Also, she referred to the increasing support for Greek as a second language (GSL) in primary and secondary education in both mainstream and after-school support classes. Finally, she mentioned the need for a coherent language education policy and referred to the positive steps that the University of Athens is taking in this direction