The Language Rich Europe (LRE) consortium called on European institutions and member state governments to initiate new policies to support immigrant language teaching, revise trilingual learning, and use the particular position of English to promote and support multi/plurilingualism. This would help to develop a truly multilingual Europe and in turn ensure economic competitiveness while building more inclusive societies.
European Recommendations were presented in Brussels this week at the EESC during the LRE final conference. There was an institutional response from the European Commission, European Parliament and the Council of Europe.
Key findings & recommendations:
- English is now the most widely-chosen second language in Europe’s schools, especially in higher education studies. A new model for developing and preserving other languages is needed to promote diversity among languages used and spoken by Europeans.
- The European Commission’s trilingual formula of ‘mother tongue plus two’ should be updated and further developed. For many citizens ‘mother tongue’ is no longer the same as the national language. The particular position of English also means that in practice most citizens will learn English plus one, so it is rarely any ‘two’. A useful development of the formula could include the clear articulation of a linguistic profile.
- The particular position of English in Europe should be explicitly acknowledged, in order to propose a new model for the co-existence of languages in Europe. This would have implications for policy formulations and would encourage more research and development work on the ways in which the position of English could be used to promote and support multi/plurilingualism rather than to undermine it. This would also mean that European funding streams, for example, the successor to the Lifelong Learning Programme, would prioritise support for languages other than English.
- Immigrant languages have significantly changed the linguistic landscape in Europe. To develop more inclusive societies, immigrant languages should be explicitly recognised at European level. Funds should be allocated at the national and European levels to support language teaching from pre-primary to university education that reflects the diversity of student populations.
- Existing barriers to the employment of teachers from other member states should be removed. Teachers should be enabled and encouraged to do training abroad to improve the level of achievement in language learning. For example, “Erasmus for teachers” should be established.
- When creating audio-visual materials, subtitling – not dubbing – should be the default option for organisations on the European level. The comparative data demonstrate a strong positive correlation between subtitling and language competency.
- We should reassess the ways in which multilingualism increases trade and profitability. Research is needed into how successful companies actually engage in successful business exchanges across languages and cultures from an economic and sociological perspective rather than with a solely linguistic bias to produce case studies and practical guidance.
Lid King, director of the Languages Company, said whilst presenting our Recommendations: “English is perceived as the language people should learn and are learning. That used to be the elephant in the room. Now we can see that elephant.” He said policymakers needed to recognise the “particular position” of English but that “more work needs to be done on how English can be used to support multilingualism.” He called on a strategy of subtitling as opposed to dubbing films, televisions programmes and conferences.
Faced with growing divisions amongst member states during the crisis, the EU needed to go in a positive direction towards celebrating diversity rather than being defensive and falling into ‘linguistic protectionism’, King said. He added that multilingualism could “calm tensions”, both amongst Europeans from different member states and non-EU immigrants.
You can read Androulla Vassilliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, full response to the Recommendations ..