Why is multilingualism important?
Languages unite people, render other countries and their cultures accessible, and strengthen intercultural understanding. Foreign language skills play a vital role in enhancing employability and mobility. Multilingualism also improves the competitiveness of the EU economy.
Poor language skills can cause companies to lose international contracts, as well hindering the mobility of skills and talent. Yet, too many Europeans still leave school without a working knowledge of a second language. For this reason, the EU has set the improvement of language teaching and learning as a priority.
What is the EU doing to promote multilingualism?
In the Council Conclusions on multilingualism and the development of language competences, Member States committed to enhancing cooperation in the field of multilingualism and improving the effectiveness of language teaching in schools.
The European Commission is working together with national governments to meet an ambitious goal – for all citizens to learn at least two foreign languages and to begin learning foreign languages at an early age.
This vision was confirmed by EU Heads of State as part of the proposal to create a European Education Area. Further support for this target was echoed in the December 2017 European Council Conclusions.
The Commission is responding to this call from Member States to reinforce the central role of multilingualism in the European project by:
- taking the actions recommended in the Council Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages. This includes working with Member States and leading experts in language education to modernise language teaching and to make it more efficient.
- strengthening its drive for evidence-based policymaking, rendering EU legislation more effective in providing public goods, such as a cohesive, multilingual society.
These activities are supported by:
- Collaboration with the Council of Europe and its European Centre of Modern Languages, which focuses on promoting innovation in language teaching. As many education systems are not using common methods of assessment, efforts to improve language teaching should be coordinated with the development of modern assessment methodologies.
- The Relating language curricula, tests and examinations to the Common European Framework of Reference (RELANG) initiative focuses on assisting educational authorities in relating language examinations to the proficiency levels defined in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Another strand of this cooperation develops support for multilingual classrooms, to help young migrants to integrate and excel in school.
- Cooperation with the European institutions' language service providers, especially the Commission's Directorate-General for Translation and for Interpretation, to advocate for the provision of education and training for linguists.
- Awarding the European Language Label to citizens and projects fostering the development of innovative language teaching techniques.
Finally, the Erasmus+ programme offers opportunities to young people to hone their language skills by engaging in learning and training abroad, and by supporting vocational and educational mobility.