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Rethinking Multilingualism

The CEL/ELC's conception of societal and individual multilingualism, which is broadly shared at the European level, was designed to guide policy in the final years of the last century and the early part of the 21st. The social landscape of Europe has changed radically in the past few years as a result of dramatic developments in such areas as the worldwide process of internationalisation, the intensification of European integration, the reconfiguring of European and global economies, the large-scale movements of population and the major advances in communications technology. These changes have transformed the linguistic and cultural fabric of European societies.

In order to address these changes, the CEL/ELC believes that the language community will need to engage with the grand challenges facing Europe and the wider world; work more actively with other disciplines; and address other policy areas. While we are aware that there is a growing recognition among policymakers at different levels of the importance of languages in addressing these challenges, there is a surprising lack of acknowledgment of the issue of languages in Europe 2020.

There is a need for a more complex understanding of multilingualism as a social reality: its uneven distribution in different areas of society; the roles of active and passive multilingualism; the interaction between formal learning and informal acquisition of languages; and the relationship between societal and individual multilingualism. There is also a need to re-examine the norms associated with language proficiency, the policies that have set objectives for language learning, the pedagogical tools that have been developed to support them at the European level and the increasing range of technological solutions to language learning and language use.

The CEL/ELC established a consultative group to reflect on the major changes directly relevant to language policy and language education policy to raise awareness of these changes at the European, international, national, and institutional levels, and to identify issues which require further research.