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Language Rich Europe study: work to be done

German, French, English and Spanish continue to dominate public primary and secondary education curriculums but more effort to promote non-European languages is needed to increase mobility and migration to Europe, according to The Language Rich Europe (LRE) project which reported on its findings last week.

"Now the challenge is creating a feasible format to engage decision makers"

Its study shows that language polices and practices fluctuate significantly in the 24 European countries and regions surveyed, with no one completely abiding to the official European standards of multilingualism.

“Europe’s got a lot of other issues on at the moment and languages doesn’t always appear at the top of the list,” said Martin Hope, director of the British Council’s Europe office and the LRE project director when speaking with The PIE News. “But we believe that learning more languages and the appreciation of different languages and cultures is actually part of the solution to getting Europe more integrated.”

Top five multilingual cities in Europe
  • Barcelona
  • Krakow
  • London
  • Milan
  • Vienna

The LRE project, co-funded by the European Commission and managed by the British Council, is unique from other studies because it looks at languages both inside and outside education in eight domains: languages  in official documents and databases, pre-primary education, primary education, secondary education, further and higher education, audiovisiual media and press, public services and public spaces, and business.

83% of companies use language skills as a factor in recruitment

Looking beyond the classroom, the study found of the companies surveyed, 83% use language skills as a factor in recruitment. However, 70% do not keep a record of staff language skills.

Out of the 63 cities surveyed, the top five with the most developed language policies according to the survey are Barcelona, Krakow, London, Milan and Vienna. Two-thirds of the cities report that they are able to offer a number of public services in three or more languages while 37% make it a policy to include language skills in staff job descriptions and 29% provide language training to staff.

Researchers from Tilburg University’s Babylon Centre for Studies of the Multicultural Society gathered information on language practices in 18 countries across Europe plus an additional three broken down into regions where a separate educational system exists (England, Wales, Scotland, N. Ireland) or where minority languages are dominant (Spain/Valencia/Seville, Basque Country, Catalonia).

Findings indicate that English is quickly becoming the second language of many European universities and many textbooks are being written in English in a desire to attract a global and diverse student body and increase international mobility among staff and students.

Many textbooks are being written in English in a desire to attract a global and diverse student body

In primary education, only Denmark and Greece make two foreign languages compulsory while 18 countries and regions have one compulsory language. In England, Northern Ireland and Scotland foreign languages are optional.

Hope mentioned that significant differences in the number of compulsory languages offered, the range of languages, monitoring skills and the use of bilingual or Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) emerge in the findings from secondary education.

“Now the challenge is creating a feasible format to engage decision makers -  a thick report is going to be less effective than a set of punchy key messages,” he said. “Now we have to pull out those key messages and get those across and engage with decision makers.”

Over the next nine months,  a series of over 80 workshops will take place across Europe to discuss the findings and develop recommendations at regional, national and European levels. These will be presented to policy makers in March 2013 in Brussels.

The Language Rich Europe report is available to download online in English. The overall European findings will be made available in a publication in 23 languages at the end of 2012.

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