We are a civil society that has formed an association to advocate multilingualism in the EU. We view multilingualism as a means to cultural development, a product of quality education, a route to social cohesion, a facilitator to the mobility and employability of European citizens, and an instrument for prosperity. Our basic tasks are to offer expert advice and assist the implementation of policies valuing European linguistic and cultural diversity and making sure that EU Member States respect the right of students to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue.
We are an alliance for languages and multilingualism in Europe, making possible the cooperation between European, national, and international networks, organisations, federations and associations that view multilingualism as an asset for European economic, social, cultural development, and as a facilitator for intellectual growth, social, and personal development. We aspire to be a strong voice of Europe’s civil society promoting language policies for multilingualism in all aspects of social life by way of focusing on people, and on their ability to use a variety of semiotic resources to access education, social affairs and culture, to participate as active citizens in the EU, shaping its making, benefitting from better communication, wider employment and business opportunities. To achieve these aims, we intend to assist raise further awareness about the EU’s linguistic resources, and get underway intercultural dialogue. Furthermore, we will continue drafting policy documents with which to advise the European Commission and EU Member States, and to provide council on how to implement relevant policies effectively. Most importantly, we intend to ensure that the right of all students to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue is respected, and that Europe’s rich linguistic and cultural resources are maintained, as they are viewed as crucial for the future of Europe, its economic development, and its political integration.
1. First launch of Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism (2009-2011)
The Civil Society Platform to promote multilingualism was launched in 2009. Twenty-three non-governmental European organizations concerned with languages, education, culture, publishing, translation, the media and other sectors of the civil society were selected by the European Commission to participate in a structured dialogue concerning multilingualism in practice. Memberlist. The ‘Platform’, as it was referred to for short, was established to develop a coherent framework for multilingual policy in the EU, as part of a larger political agenda for ‘bringing Europe closer to its citizens and strengthening a pan-European identity in harmony with national and regional identities.’
The mandate it was presented with, focused on the following priorities, which were consistent with the 2008 Communication “Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared priority”:
• Raise awareness of the value and opportunities of the EU’s linguistic diversity;
• Encourage the removal of barriers to intercultural dialogue and social inclusion;
• Achieve the Barcelona objective to communicate in two foreign languages.
Four Workgroups were created and met regularly in Brussels to work on the following issues:
• Language policy and planning
• Language diversity and social inclusion
• (Language in) Education
• Translation and Terminology
In July 2011, following the submission of its final report to the European Commission) the Platform had responded to its mandate and completed its assignment.
Originating from the work of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism was the Poliglotti4.eu project (2011-2013), to work on behalf of the European Commission on the situation of multilingualism in the fields of Education, Linguistic Diversity and Social Cohesion, Translation and Terminology, and Language Policy.
The work carried out by the Poliglotti4.eu, to which nine members of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism committed, is presented on the project website, which has, since the completion of the project, been maintained by the European Union National Institutes for Culture, EUNIC Global.
2. The relaunch of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism (2012-2015)
In June 2012 the Platform was officially relaunched to continue promoting multilingualism within the European Union ‘in a way that aligns with the new challenges and priorities that the European Commission has outlined for the coming years’, especially the Erasmus+ programme, and the ‘Rethinking Education strategy’. It was urged ‘to emphasize and the acquisition of languages for professional growth and mobility for a more dynamic and competitive Europe’ and ‘reveal avenues for stakeholders to collaborate and get involved at the EU policy level for more effective promotion and development of EU-wide multilingualism policy’. Finally, as laid out in the Council Conclusions, the Platform had to work toward further ‘securing language learning opportunities for all, in order to enhance the social inclusion of citizens with disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as to promote linguistic diversity and intercultural dialogue.’
The basic idea behind relaunching the Platform was so that it would explore innovative ways and methodologies to promote the acquisition of language competences with a view to achieving the Barcelona objective of ‘mother tongue plus two’ for every citizen. The new mandate included the following tasks:
• Extend the work achieved during the previous mandate on early language learning to other levels of education with special regard for the vocational education and training and adult learning fields;
• Investigate how to remove linguistic barriers to mobility particularly for disadvantaged groups;
• Take stock of the accomplishments resulting from the previous mandate, consolidate the collection of data on migrants’ linguistic integration and social inclusion with the aim to creating a policy handbook;
• Exchange information on accessible language learning resources;
• Explore how to best make full use of the new Erasmus+ and the European tools for education and training;
• Get expert input on partnerships, experimentation and new approaches to language teaching and learning with a view to the Erasmus+ involving universities, research centres, cultural and language Institutes, the language industry and other interested parties;
• Expand opportunities available for social and professional mobility through language acquisition, in line with the Commission’s own strategies and goals for growth;
• Explore the possibility of exploiting the full potential of the involved parties by putting forward a proposal for a language knowledge alliance;
• Discuss the preparation for the Erasmus+, the aim of which is to develop broader, higher visions for the mainstreaming of multilingualism through the contributions of experts and interested parties in the field;
• To discuss the Commission’s Re-Thinking Education strategy
During this second term, which ended in 2014-15, the European Commission, which had envisaged an enlargement of the Platform’s participants, so as to involve six new stakeholders who will be invited to bring their know-how, to network, and to identify best-practice scenarios so as to enhance the Platform’s scope, new members were selected and accepted under a status of associate partner.
In late 2015 the European Commission decided not to present a new mandate to the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism which had, in some ways limited, its scope to the priorities of the Commission. The ECSPM has since decided to continue its work, setting its own priorities. It will now function as an authentic civil society, but will build on the significant work that has already been done by the ‘Platform’.