A high-level group of experts presented its final report on multilingualism in the European Union on 26 September – the European Day of Languages. Its recommendations to the European Commission
stress the importance of research for the development of policies, strategies and best practice.
The high-level group on multilingualism, made up of 11 experts from various fields of research, had been set up in response to the 2005 Commission communication ‘A new framework strategy for
Leonard Orban, European Commissioner responsible for multilingualism, finds the recommendations very valuable. ‘This report can inspire concrete projects,’ he says. ‘For instance, research into
aspects of multilingualism where there are currently gaps in our knowledge. How can language learning be promoted outside formal educational settings? How to encourage language learning at an
older age; how can multilingualism be used for integrating linguistic minorities?’
Fields of study suggested by the experts include:
– effectiveness of informal language learning;
– long-term effects of early language learning and bilingual upbringing;
– management of multilingualism (e.g. English as a lingua franca at European level);
– language and social integration (e.g. effects of enlargement, integration and migration into the EU);
– link between language policies and political power (e.g. strengthening regional and minority languages, languages as instruments of political power).
Some of these topics, the group points out, will need to be addressed by a European research effort and require funding under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). For others, smaller-scale
studies will be sufficient.
Regardless of the size of the research project, ‘multilingualism is anything but an ideological hobby horse of the European Union and the Council of Europe’, the report states, explaining that
the variety of language spoken in Europe has a direct impact on a large number of policy areas. Due to the EU’s enlargement as well as migration flows, the Union and its Member States are faced
with ‘a multilingual challenge of unprecedented size, complexity and policy relevance’. ‘The various dimensions of multilingualism, above all the learning of languages, have the greatest
significance for the good of society and for the well-being of individuals,’ the report summarises.