The Poliglotti4.eu Stakeholders Meeting on Multilingualism took place in Madrid on 1 - 2 December 2011
Poliglotti4.eu, the EU co-funded project on multilingualism and language policy, gathered stakeholders for a meeting at the Spanish Representation of the European Commission in Madrid on 1-2 December 2011, presenting the first results of this two-year civil society project, with participants engaging in lively discussions and interventions.
The conference was opened by Carmen Zamorano, Responsable for Translation and Interpretation at the Representation of the European Commission in Spain, José Antonio Agúndez Garcia, General Director for Cultural Promotion of the Ministry for Education and Culture of the Regional Government of Extremadura (Spain), Francisco Moreno Fernández, Academic Director of the Instituto Cervantes, Antonio Ventura Díaz Díaz, General Director Fundación Academia Europea de Yuste and Uwe Mohr, Chairman of the European Platform of the Civil Society to Promote Multilingualism and Poliglotti4.eu Project Director.
The opening was followed by a speech given by guest speaker Belén Bernaldo de Quiros, head of the Multilingualism Policy Unit at DG Education and Culture at the European Commission. She underlined the importance of fostering language competencies amongst European citizens and presented the new EU programme « Erasmus for All ». It is an instrument in the framework of the EU 2020 strategy of which the objective is the investment in knowledge and education. During the next year the programme will be negotiated with the EU Council and EU Parliament.
The next speaker, Joseba Achoteguis, Psychiatrist Professor at the University of Barcelona, spoke about language as a component of the Ulysses syndrome in migrants (due to psychological burdens, an increasing number of migrants and asylum seekers suffer from stress, depressions, nervousness, insomnia and lose touch with reality).
Before the lunch break, the first Round Table on Migrations, Languages and social Inclusion took place and was facilitated by Miguel Ángel Martín Ramos, Fundación Academia Europea de Yuste. The two interlocutors were Prof. Piet Van Avermaet, Director of the Centre for Diversity and Learning at the Ghent University (Belgium), who spoke about Super diversity, glocalisation and multilingualism and Prof. Concepción Otero Moreno, University of Hildesheim and Braunschweig Mayor City (Germany). She dealt with Immigration, language and integration as well as Training courses for language mediators in the non-academic field.
The second Round Table after lunch on Language learning and education was facilitated by Cor van der Meer, Mercator European Network of Language Diversity Centres. Piet van de Craen, Professor of General Linguistics, Vrije Universiteit, Brussel (Belgium) dealt with the question whether it was possible to find a Language Pedagogy which favors language learning. The second speaker of this Round Table was Professor Gisella Langé, Foreign Languages Inspector, Ministry of Education University Research – Lombardy (Italy). Professor Langé presented national and regional experiences with Language Education Policy Profiles in Europe. The third speaker was Jan Roukens, European Association for Terminology. His speech was about a major language problem in Europe: the pressure on national languages in higher education.
The second Round Table was followed by a very interesting and lively debate to which the participants of the conference made valuable contributions to the topics discussed so far.
Last point of the agenda of 1 December was an exchange of examples of multilingual best practice. This exchange was presented by Heidi Wiley, European Theatre Convention (ETC). The Poliglotti4.eu project partners which are also part of the European Platform of the Civil Society on Multilingualism took advantage of this session to present the platform’s political recommendations but also project survey results, the work of Multilingualism Ambassadors, tools for multilingualism as well as the Multilingualism Observatory, i.e. the website of Poliglotti4.eu. The contributions to this exchange came from Professor Jesús Baigorri Jalón, The Alfaqueque Language Research Group, University of Salamanca, Juan Ruiz Subirán, Director Baby Erasmus, who presented the Baby-Erasmus project and dealt with language teaching from kindergarten on and last but not least Sean Ó Riain, European Esperanto Union. The first day of the Stakeholders Meeting ended with his talk on the UK Springboard to Languages Programme and the Motivation of weaker learners.
The second day of the conference started with a Round Table on Language Policies and was presented by Martin Nuttall, ALTE (Association of Language Testers in Europe). The audience listened with great interest to the speeches of Mrs. Lurdes Auzmendi, Vice Counsellor for Language Policies, Department for Culture, Basque Government and Meirion Prys Jones, President of the NPLD - Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity and afterwards discussed the ideas brought forward.
This was followed by another Round Table on Language Policies, this time facilitated by Marta Lottes, European Association for the Eudcation of Adults. The speeches delivered came from Carmen Valero Garces, Professor of Interpretation and Translation at Alcalá University) who spoke about Multilingualism and Public services. The floor was then taken by Gardenia Trezzini, Editor in Chief Euronews. She presented the topic of Languages and the Media and paid special attention to how Euronews deals with multilingualism. Davyth Hicks, Eurolang / Secretariat for the European Parliament Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages gave the last speech of the Poliglotti4.eu Stakeholders Meeting. He presented an EU language plan for linguistic equality, recommendations from civil society for linguistic diversity. Just like the round tables before, this last one was also followed by a debate which showed clearly how much the audience had appreciated the different talk and speeches.
The Poliglotti4.eu Stakeholders Meeting ended with a plenary meeting during which conclusions from the conference were drawn and the issues and topics for further discussion were defined.
All participants considered the meeting to have been a great success and especially stressed the high quality of the talks delivered. With this in mind, the Poliglotti4.eu project team is already looking forward to further events as well as the Poliglotti4.eu closing conference which will be held next year 14-16 November in Parma, Italy. This conference will be a great opportunity to learn more about multilingualism and to take stock of the progress achieved in making multilingualism a European reality.
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I like to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling: 'what do they know of English, who only English know?
Seán Ó Riain