International Policy Documents
Language Policy is important throughout the world, and there is an extensive literature and many on-line resources about it. Some of this is summarized in Wikipedia.
Language Policy does not necessarily concern the learning of other languages , whether “foreign” or “minority”, but can often be about the official languages within a state and about the place of minority languages.
European Union Policy on Multilingualism
The European Union claims to be the first political entity with a specific policy on Multilingualism. This has been developed since the formation of the European Economic Community when equality of status was given to the 5 original official languages of the community. There are now 23 official languages in the Union.
The most important documents on Multilingualism are the 1995 White paper on Education and Training - Towards the Learning Society which set out as a key objective – The Learning of 3 Community Languages; and the more recent Framework Strategy on Multilingualism which set out a comprehensive strategy for the new millennium, including support for so-called minority languages.
EU language policy since the Year 2000 has been a central part of the Lisbon Strategy with its central aim of making the EU “the most dynamic and competitive knowledge based economy in the world”. It was further clarified at the Barcelona Council of 2004, which refined the meaning of “3 community languages” as “mother tongue plus two” and called for “further action … to improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age”. A summary of this ongoing process can be found in the EU Multilingualism Website.
In 2004 an Action Plan was agreed with member states, the outcomes of which were reported in 2007.
The Council of Europe – Multilingualism and Plurilingualism
The Council of Europe plays a major role in supporting multilingualism – which it regards as the characteristic of a society - as well as Plurilingualism – or the ability of individuals to operate across languages. Perhaps the major contributions of the Council of Europe have been in the fields of language teaching, learning and assessment.
Policy on languages has also been central to its work since at least 1954. The Council has a Policy unit based in Strasbourg which has made a major contribution to policy development across Europe. In particular it has been responsible for the production of 12 Language Education Policy Profiles (4 more in preparation) and for a Guide for the development of language education policies in Europe.
Despite EU claims, it is certainly the case that policies for multilingualism exist in other parts of the world. This is an area of the website that we would like to develop further in the coming year.
Of immediate interest are the policies developed in recent decades in AUSTRALIA and in SOUTH AFRICA.
Some of our links point to PDF files for which you will require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.