European Presidency Conference: Why languages matter: European and national perspectives on multilingualism

September 25, 2014 to September 26, 2014
This conference was organized by the Italian Presidency of the EU, in Florence. Manuel Miguéns, member of the EUNEC executive committee, represented the network. The main message of the conference is that multilingualism is extremely important, as languages are necessary skills for business, to study abroad, for employment. New language teaching methods have been discussed, including the use of ICT. Languages are considered to be one way to bridge the gap between the worlds of education and of work, and in this sense the theme is related to the theme of the October conference on ‘bridging the transition between education and the labour market’. Languages were also looked at as a business sector, which lead to almost corporative discussions.

For the future, it will be regarded as normal to speak at least three languages; reality is far from that now. There are low levels of linguistic competence among youngsters; especially small firms tend to lose contracts due to the language incompetence of their employees, although very competent in their jobspecific field.
The notions of functional multilingualism and of flexilingualism are discussed. Other recommendations are related to introducing plurilingualism in teacher education, to raise parents’ awareness on the need for language learning, to teach immigrants in their mother tongue, and to the importance of expert teachers (Pedro De Bruyckere). There was hardly any attention for linguistic research.
Pierre Mairesse, replacing Xavier Prats-Monné, concluded with the suggestion to promote the link bewteen language policies and city policies. Multilingualism should be promoted through policies related to education and training, to immigration, to employment, to culture.
The conference also drew the attention to the launch of an Erasmus+ online language learning tool (in MPL),