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2001: the European Year of Languages?
2001: the European Year of Languages?
Keywords: Europe, European Commission, Foreign languages
The European Commission is proposing that 2001 should be the European Year of Languages.
The central message will be that learning foreign languages opens the door to understanding other cultures and to improving career prospects. Language skills make it easier to take full advantage of European citizenship, including living and working in other EU countries.
The Commission will manage the year in co-operation with the Council of Europe. The proposed budget for the European Council is £8 million. There will be a wide range of activities, accessible to all.
The long-term goal is to help all European citizens speak two European Community languages in addition to their mother tongue. Currently, 51 per cent of adult European adults and 29 per cent of young people between 15 and 24 years of age do not speak any foreign language well enough to hold a conversation. The European Year should help to improve this situation.
A key theme of the year will be the celebration of linguistic diversity. The aim is not merely to encourage people to learn widely-spoken languages such as English. To live among or to have successful contacts with people requires a knowledge of their language and their culture. Mastering a range of languages is also important in career terms. Employers can find plenty of people who speak English. But European businesses need other languages, too.
This will not be the first European Year on an educational theme; 1996 was the European Year of Lifelong Learning. That initiative was very successful. The Commission will build on that experience in organising the Year of Languages, which will underline the importance of beginning to learn languages at primary school or before, and of continuing throughout working life and beyond.
The centrepiece of the year will be a European Community-wide information campaign aimed at the general public, with a logo and a multilingual set of slogans. The Commission will organise the campaign in consultation with communication experts. Television and other mass media, in particular the press and the Internet, will play an important part.
A short Guide for Language Learners will be produced, in the form of a booklet, explaining what to look for in a good language course and suggesting techniques for learning successfully. There will be exhibitions and events open to the public, including open days at the European institutions. European competitions, aimed at schoolchildren and adults, will be organised. Celebrities will be asked to support the European Year and to help spread its message.
Member states will be asked to set up national and regional information relays, so that citizens can find out about language-learning opportunities near their homes. Co-finance will be available for national and transnational projects aiming to reinforce the message of the European Year and to increase opportunities for successful language learning.
The European Year will complement existing Community activities supporting language learning. The new Socrates programme includes this under different headings. For example, Comenius (school education) provides measures for the initial or further training of language teachers, and backing for language-learning projects based on exchanges between school classes. Lingua, under Socrates, will take a more targeted approach, aiming at the promotion of language learning and the development of teaching methods and materials. And the Leonardo da Vinci programme encourages learning in vocational training through transnational projects and exchanges.