Brussels, 27 September 2015
Language Learning has a central role in successfully tackling challenges in Europe
On the 26th of September we were celebrating the European Day of Languages, aimed to highlight the linguistic diversity of Europe. Our continent counts over 200 languages, 24 official EU languages and about 60 regional/minority languages. In addition we can count many more languages spoken by people from other parts of the world. In view of the current migrant crisis, languages will play a central role in managing all aspects of integration of new arrivals across Europe. While the Commission continues to promote multilingualism under several programme, in particular Erasmus+, the Lifelong Learning Platform (EUCIS-LLL) notices that the EU has, in recent years, considerably scaled down its activity to promote languages as a key aspect of the European project. Therefore, the Platform advocates for a Europe where intercultural dialogue and language learning are put back on the agenda because they greatly contribute to successfully tackling the current challenges we are facing.
Despite the EU’s goal for every European to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue (COMM (2008) 566) and mounting evidence of the many benefits of multilingualism and language learning, cuts to national education budgets have led to substantial reductions in language provision in some European countries and we are still far away from reaching the target of Europeans learning languages from an early enough age, let alone for them to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue to a basic level. Although the 2012 Eurobarometer survey on Europeans and their languages revealed positive attitudes to multilingualism, with 98% saying that mastering foreign languages will benefit their children and 72% agreeing with the EU goal of at least two foreign languages for everyone, Member States are not doing enough to achieve these goals. Indeed, according to the First European Survey on Language Competences, only 42% of 15 years old Europeans master the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in written comprehension of their first foreign language.
The European Commission has made first steps towards the recognition of the importance of a strong multilingualism policy. Language learning is identified as a priority by the ‘Education and Training 2020’ strategic framework and the Commission recognises the importance of language skills for the Agenda for new skills and jobs. However, LLLPlatform believes that the EU multilingualism policy should not only focus on its employability assets. A strong EU multilingualism policy is also a key tool to foster a shared European identity and to make the EU public space more democratic. Furthermore, in the light of the refugee arrivals, it is key to assure the respect for language diversity and the support for lesser-used languages as a fundamental value at the heart of the EU identity as outlined in the Charter for Fundamental rights (adopted in 2001). Just like the Paris Declaration (March 2015), calls for “more inclusive societies through education”, the Platform believes it is high time to recognize to power of language learning to build a stronger European union.
Notes to the Editor: The Lifelong Learning Platform gathers 39 European networks working in education and training. Together, they cover all sectors of education and training including networks for secondary and higher education, vocational education and training, adult education and popular education; networks for students, school heads, parents, HRD professionals, teachers and trainers. www.eucis-lll.eu
Contact: Audrey Frith, Lifelong Learning Platform Director, +32 2 893 2515, email@example.com