Language Rich Europe hits the headlines!


In the midst of busy preparation for next weeks LRE Conference for stakeholders and partners it is easy to lose sight of why our project is so relevant. Language Rich has been making news in the UK these last two days and that make us happy!

Check out today’s news story from Northern Ireland, “Northern Ireland ‘ill prepared’ for business future, says language report“.

Yesterday we made news in Scotland where a similar story took shape: “Foreign language skills ‘cost Scottish businesses’

This BBC video clip from Wales highlights the call for language learning in Wales.

Don’t forget to join the conversation next week at least virtually! Have your say on why language learning is so important.


Regional and Minority Languages: An inevitable decline?

Martin Dowle, Director British Council Ukraine, presented the language situation in Wales at last week’s Language Rich Europe launch in Kyiv. In this blog post, he summarises the approaches Wales is taking in order to promote Welsh and prevent its decline.

Is it inevitable that minority languages will always suffer decline? The case of Welsh shows this does not need to be the case. Since its low point in 1991, when just 18% of the Welsh population spoke Welsh, it has started to make a modest recovery. Today, 37% of 3 to 14 year-olds are able to speak Welsh, compared to just 15% in 1971, fuelling recovery from the cradle upwards.

Today, there are an estimated 611,000 Welsh speakers in Wales. Of these, 315,000 are native speakers, and the rest have competency, as a second language, to a greater or lesser degree.

Official figures suggest Wales loses between 1,200 and 2,200 native speakers every year. The number of communities – mostly rural — where 70% or more are native speakers continues to decline. But more people now speak (and are learning) Welsh as a second language in cities such as Cardiff than ever before.

In part this reflects a change in attitude to Welsh amongst non-Welsh speakers. Recent polling suggested 80% of Welsh people saw the language as something to be proud of. This is a far cry from the hostility that greeted the decision by the government in the early 1980s to set up a fourth TV channel solely in Welsh. Attitudes have changed, and this matters.

In 2000, the teaching of Welsh became compulsory in all schools up to the age of 16. The number of Welsh-medium schools is growing, as are measures to build the capacity of teachers to teach through the medium of Welsh.

But the Welsh government’s policy argues the school setting is not enough. Policy seems to me to focus on two areas.

First: the home. It encourages mothers and social carers, midwives, and nursery education to help develop the adoption of Welsh as a first language. If two parents speak Welsh, it’s estimated the chances the child will too are around 80%. If only one speaks Welsh, the chances are halved.

Second: the leisure activities of adolescents. The language is at risk if young people don’t see the benefit of speaking it, or think it’s cool to switch to English. So an effective language policy needs to consider youth culture, peer-group pressure, community attitudes, the global media and social networking. Providing enough cultural and social value to tip the balance in favour of Welsh is a big ask – but it’s essential to long-term survival. So policies really do need to focus on the language of ‘interaction’.

Read more about languages in Wales on the Language Rich Europe website and in our previous blog posts:

Language Rich Europe Launch – Wales
– Can Google Speak Welsh?
Speaking Welsh, Living in Brussels

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)