The EU Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism (CSPM) has published its policy recommendations to the European Commission, member states and regional authorities. Education and public services must go multilingual to boost Europe’s language skills, sustain Europe’s economies and cater for increasingly diverse societies, says the EU platform.
There are still unacceptable gaps in support for multilingualism and language learning throughout the EU. Even where good policies exist, implementation is often inadequate; some countries and regions show a much stronger commitment to multilingualism than others.
To make language teaching and learning more efficient, and enhance the ability of public services to meet the needs of their users, the CSPM urges European policy makers to:
- make plurilingual education (i.e. mother tongue plus two) the norm: content-based language learning should be introduced more widely, and extensive informal learning outside the classroom created; early language learning and lifelong learning opportunities should be developed;
- strengthen learning support for immigrants: for integration and social cohesion purposes;
- improve language skills of public services across Europe: to offer adequate services to newcomers, foreigners, migrant workers, as well as to disabled people and citizens with communication difficulties.
Multilingualism is also crucial to the preservation and accessibility of the common European cultural heritage. In this context, translation can make existing texts cross linguistic and cultural borders, and is an essential tool for communication and intercultural understanding. Working conditions for translators should thus be substantially improved, and sound degree programmes and opportunities for mobility developed.
As the Chairman of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism, Uwe Mohr, points out: “Europe needs to develop a language policy that monitors language use and ensures that languages are treated equally. We also highly recommend that the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism be continued on a permanent basis to act as an instrument of dialogue between the EU policy level on the one side and the national, regional and local language policy levels and social reality on the other side.”
To advise policymakers in designing and implementing successful policies for multilingualism, nine CSPM members have committed to setting up an on-line Language Observatory. The observatory, part of the ongoing Poliglotti4.eu project funded by the European Commission, will conduct research, capture and disseminate good practice; it will be launched in the autumn.The ultimate goal of the project is to raise awareness for the importance of multilingual education and training inEurope. Because, as Mohr puts it, “only as multilinguals can we fully enjoy the benefits of our culturally and linguistically diverse Europe and live a richer, more interesting and more successful life in the Europe of the future.”
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