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Multilingualism revisited

Three months after the most recent European Commission’s communication on multilingualism (for further details consult the September edition of the ACA Newsletter – Education Europe), the topic of European unity in linguistic diversity is brought again in the EU spotlight. Primarily, with the second edition of the publication Key Data on Teaching Languages at School, which gives a detailed overview of the language teaching systems in place in the schools of the 31 countries participating in the EU Lifelong Learning Programme, i.e. the 27 EU member states, Lichtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Turkey. English is taught to over 90 percent of pupils across Europe at some stage during their compulsory education, finds this Eurydice publication, produced in conjunction with the Eurostat. In addition, the report, based on data for the 2006-2007 school year, finds that European pupils tend to favour the most widely-spoken languages in Europe: English, French, German and Russian account for 95 percent of all languages children learn within the researched area. Also, there seems to be an encouraging trend towards teaching at least two foreign languages at school (58 % pupils in lower secondary education), a development which falls in line with the EU multilingualism agenda.

Secondly, the European Parliament rings the EU alarm bell on the use of languages on the EU official websites, highlighting again the significance of linguistic diversity within Europe. A recent resolution adopted by the parliament, with a striking majority of 509 votes to two, calls on the European Council to increase the use of German on its websites, including those of the Council’s presidency. This follows the failure of the previous Dutch and Luxembourg Council’s presidencies to offer online presentations of their activities in German – one of the three most widely-spoken languages in the EU, together with English and French.

Although the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue is coming to an end, the European multilingualism watchdogs seem to remain well awake.

European Parliament