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Framework strategy for multilingualism

This communication sets out the Commission's strategy for promoting multilingualism in European society, in the economy and in the Commission itself. The aim is to build up citizens' linguistic skills until each citizen has acquired practical skills in at least two languages other than his or her mother tongue.

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 22 November 2005 - A new framework strategy for multilingualism [COM(2005) 596 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Multilingualism refers to both a person's ability to use several languages and the co-existence of different language communities in one geographical area.

The Commission's multilingualism policy has three aims:

  • to encourage language learning and promote linguistic diversity in society;
  • to promote a healthy multilingual economy;
  • to give citizens access to European Union legislation, procedures and information in their own languages.

This communication sets out various activities for promoting language learning and linguistic diversity:

Main areas of activity

The Commission proposes the following activities to promote a multilingual society:

  • implement, in cooperation with Member States, the European Indicator of Language Competence;
  • promote discussion and produce a recommendation on ways of bringing the training of language teachers up to date;
  • publish a study of best practices in early language learning in 2006;
  • create chairs in fields of study related to multilingualism and interculturalism through the proposed programme for education and lifelong learning;
  • continue to support the teaching and learning of languages through its cooperation programmes in the fields of education, training, youth, citizenship and culture;
  • reinforce in the 7th Framework Research Programme the research and technological development activities on language-related information society technologies.

The Commission urges the Member States to:

  • establish national plans to give structure, coherence and direction to actions to promote multilingualism, including increasing the use and presence of a variety of languages in daily life;
  • review their current arrangements for training foreign language teachers in the light of the findings of the study "European Profile for Language Teacher Education";
  • review their current arrangements for early language learning in the light of best practices from across Europe;
  • implement the conclusions of the Luxembourg Presidency concerning Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL).

THE MULTILINGUAL ECONOMY

This communication sets out the areas in which the EU needs a more mobile workforce with language skills.

Multilingualism and competition

The Commission intends to strengthen the follow-up of its 2002 Action Plan on Skills and Mobility. Language skills will be among the issues addressed during the European Year of Workers' Mobility in 2006.

Multilingualism and consumers

The recently adopted Directive 2005/29/EC on unfair business-to-customer practices strengthens safeguards on the language used in after-sales service.

Multilingualism and the information society

The Commission is working to promote multilingualism as part of the i2010 initiative to foster growth and jobs in the information society and media industries. The European Union programmes eContent, eContent plus, Media and eLearning support the creation and circulation of multilingual European content and knowledge.

Translation

The increased use of on-line machine translation demonstrates that an essentially mechanical function of that kind cannot replace the thought processes of a human translator, and thus emphasises the importance of translation quality. Developments such as the "European Standard for Translation Services" should give clients a higher level of quality.

Interpreting

Demand for trained interpreters is increasing in an expanding market, particularly in supranational and international organisations. Interpreters help the institutions of multilingual societies to function. They support immigrant communities in their dealings with courts and hospitals, and with the police and immigration services. Properly trained interpreters thus contribute to safeguarding human and democratic rights.

Language teaching, testing and certification

Language certification has become such big business that consumers have difficulty choosing the most appropriate courses and certificates available on the market. The Commission wishes to contribute to making this supply more transparent by publishing on the web an inventory of the systems currently available.

The Commission proposes the following actions to develop the multilingual economy:

  • publish a study on the impact on the European economy of shortages of language skills in 2006;
  • publish on the web an inventory of the language certification systems available in the European Union in 2006;
  • launch a study on the potential for greater use of subtitles in film and television programmes to promote language learning;
  • publish the interinstitutional, multilingual database IATE (Inter-Agency Terminology Exchange), which proposes validated terms from EU-related contexts;
  • organise a conference on the training of translators in universities, in 2006;
  • launch, as part of i2010, a flagship initiative on digital libraries making multimedia sources easier and more interesting to use;
  • bring together and coordinate the work of European researchers in the fields of human language technologies, machine translation and the creation of language resources (dictionaries and thesauri).

The Member States are urged to review training programmes at universities.

MULTILINGUALISM IN THE COMMISSION'S RELATIONS WITH CITIZENS

The very first Regulation adopted by the Council defines the European Community as a multilingual entity, stipulates that legislation must be published in the official languages and requires its institutions to deal with citizens in the official languages of their choice.

Translation and interpreting within all the institutions costs the equivalent of 1.05 % of the EU's total budget for 2004, or 2.28 per citizen per year.

Over the past ten years, the Commission has developed several multilingual initiatives (Citizens First, Dialogue with Citizens, Your Europe - Citizens and the Citizens' Signpost Service) to help citizens understand how European legislation affects them, what their rights are when they move to another country and how they can exercise their rights in practice.

The Commission will:

  • ensure, through an internal network, that all departments apply its multilingualism policy in a coherent way;
  • continue to foster multilingualism on its Internet portal (Europa) and in its publications;
  • launch a Languages portal on Europa;
  • give a greater role to its translation field offices in the Member States in promoting multilingualism, particularly through the customisation of the Commission's messages for local target audiences;
  • organise high-level seminars on multilingualism in the Member States, targeted at journalists and other opinion multipliers;
  • continue to offer grants and teaching assistance to universities for conference interpreting, to help develop distance-learning tools and to fund student bursaries and training visits;
  • continue to develop cost-effective communication and conferencing tools;
  • support the European Master's in Conference Interpreting and the European Master's in Conference Management;
  • continue to play an active role in the International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publication;
  • continue to provide universities with a model curriculum of a Master's degree in translation and provide visiting translators;
  • organise an international translation competition between schools in Member States, to promote language knowledge and the language professions.

The Commission has already invited Member States to report in 2007 on the actions they have taken towards the objectives of the Action Plan " Promoting Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity ".

The conclusions of this communication

  • the Commission will set up a High-Level Group on Multilingualism made up of independent experts;
  • a ministerial conference on multilingualism will be held to allow Member States to share the progress they have made so far, and to plan future work;
  • the Commission will present another communication proposing a comprehensive approach to multilingualism in the European Union.

RELATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission of 1 August 2005 - European Indicator of Language Competence[COM(2005) 356 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 24 July 2003 -- Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity: an Action Plan 2004-2006[COM(2003) 449 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Decision No 1934/2000/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 July 2000 on the European Year of Languages 2001[Official Journal L 232 of 14 September 2000].

Council Resolution of 16 December 1997 on the early teaching of European Union languages[Official Journal C 1 of 3 January 1998]

Last updated: 20.01.2006

See also

For more information, please consult the Europa portal for languages or the website of the Directorate-General for Education and Training.

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