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Strategic Framework

What is the EU's role in languages?

The European Commission is committed to promote language learning and linguistic diversity across Europe as part of its aim to "improve the mastery of basic language skills in Europe",.

Within this context, the Commission is working with Members States towards the objective of enabling citizens to communicate in two languages in addition to their mother tongue. This goal was agreed between the EU’s heads of State and Government during a meeting in Barcelona in 2002, it is therefore often referred to as the “Barcelona objective”. 

The over-arching activities of the Directorate General for Education and Culture in the field of languages is outlined in more detail in the 2008 Communication "Multilingualism - an asset for Europe and a shared commitment".

Priorities in field of languages include several important objectives:

  • to retool education systems in the Member States so that the students graduate with higher competencies in foreign languages;
  • to gather data in order to monitor progress towards indicators and benchmarks of language teaching and learning to encourage multiligualism as a pathway to improve employment prospects and free movement in the EU;
  • to reward innovative initiatives in the field of teaching and learning languages.
Why is it needed?

The harmonious co-existence of many languages in Europe is a powerful symbol of the European Union's aspiration to be united in diversity, one of the cornerstones of the European project. Languages can serve as a bridge to other people and open access to other countries and cultures, promoting mutual understanding.

The ability to speak foreign languages is increasingly important to increase the employability and mobility of young people and is a factor in competitiveness. Poor language skills cause many companies to lose contracts and are a major obstacle to free movement of workers.

Yet too many Europeans still leave school lacking a working knowledge of a second language. This is why the efficiency of language teaching and learning must be improved.

What is being done?

The Directorate General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) responds to these needs through three main activities:

In addition to this, DG EAC supports these activities through:

  • Cooperation with Council of Europe and its European Centre of Modern Languages - an institution dedicated to innovation in language teaching;
  • Collaboration with the language service providers within the European institutions, in particular the European Commission’s Directorates General for Translation and Interpretation, in their promotion of education and training of linguists;
  • European Language Label - an initiative dedicated to encourage new language teaching techniques.

In addition, the new Erasmus+ programme will provide young people with the opportunities improve their language skills through learning and training abroad".