What role does the EU play in promoting languages?
It is working with national governments to meet an ambitious goal: enabling citizens to learn at least two foreign languages from an early age. This goal was agreed by EU Heads of State and Government in 2002 already. The same objective was emphasized in December 2017: "enhancing the learning of languages, so that more young people will speak at least two European languages in addition to their mother tongue."
Why is it needed?
The European Union's aspiration to be united in diversity underpins the whole European project. The harmonious co-existence of many languages in Europe embodies this. Languages can build bridges between people, giving us access to other countries and cultures, and enabling us to understand each other better.
Foreign language skills play an increasingly important role in making young people more employable and equipping them for working abroad. They are also a factor in competitiveness; poor language skills cause many companies to lose contracts and hamper workers who might want to seek employment in countries other than their own.
However, too many Europeans still leave school without a working knowledge of a second language - reason enough to make language teaching and learning more efficient.
What is being done?
The European Commission responds to these needs by:
- taking the actions recommended in the proposal for a Council Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages, as well as the Communication on Rethinking Education and its Staff Working Document “Language competences for employability, mobility and growth”
- basing its policies on hard evidence, and therefore making them more effective
- taking part in working groups (including national government experts) on transferable skills with a particular emphasis on language skills
It supports these activities by:
- working together with the Council of Europe and its European Centre of Modern Languages whose main focus is innovation in language teaching
- cooperating with the European institutions' language service providers, especially the Commission's Translation and Interpretation departments, to promote education and training for linguists
- awarding the European Language Label to encourage new language teaching techniques
Finally, the Erasmus+ programme offers opportunities for young people to hone their language skills by engaging in learning and training abroad".