Concluded Working Groups
The CEL/ELC just concluded three working groups that tackled three contemporary issues in the changing landscape of multilingual and multicultural Europe.
The three groups, “Rethinking Multilingualism”, “The Future of Language Degrees”, and “Higher Education Language Policy”, were recognised by the CEL/ELC Board members as pertinent issues for the upcoming decade, especially in light of European-level projects and strategies for growth and mobility.

Future of Language Degrees
In recent years, language degrees have come under pressure in many European countries. The reasons for this include social changes, for example, in students’ study preferences, career outcomes, government policies and university strategies. There have been significant changes in the intellectual environment, affecting the relationship between languages and other neighbouring subject areas, especially in the arts and humanities, but also in the social sciences. The Bologna process and the internationalisation of higher education also pose particular challenges to language degrees.

The Special Interest Group developed a preliminary analysis of the profile of language degrees and their recent development in the countries with which participants are familiar. It examined the key strengths in these degrees and the areas in which they found difficulties. It identified the main external pressures affecting them and explored potential opportunities for future development.

The SIG drew up preliminary recommendations to the CEL/ELC, including proposals for future research and development projects at the European level and a programme of action to engage key stakeholders and policy markers. It also considered the availability of information and support for academic leaders concerned with the development of language degrees.

The SIG held its first preliminary meeting in the autumn of 2011, and closed in September 2012, working mainly through online consultation, including online meetings and webinar events. It was chaired by Michael Kelly of the University of Southampton.

The full text of the final report can be found here.

SIG 1: Languages and intercultural careers

The group’s task is to propose ways in which language programmes in European universities can better equip students to undertake careers that require intercultural competences, including a range of multilingual and multicultural strategies. This is important both for the careers of students and for the future development of languages in European universities.

5 members of the group met at KU Leuven, Brussels on 5 June 2015, hosted by Erik Uytterhoeven. They had wide-ranging discussions of the career outcomes that might be available to graduates with languages, and of the range of skills/competences that should feature as learning outcomes in the area of intercultural understanding. They discussed some of the programmes and modules that are now available, linking intercultural understanding with language learning and teaching. They also discussed preparations for the ELC event in Berlin in November, where time is allocated for a group meeting at 10.30 on Thursday 26 November. The group’s results will be presented to the ELC plenary meeting on 27 November.

In preparation, all group members are invited to submit details of existing programmes and modules where intercultural understanding is explicitly associated with language learning and teaching, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels (Bologna cycles 1 & 2), including teacher education and professional development.

Members are also invited to contribute to the preparation of three documents: a list of career outcomes for graduates with languages; a list of learning outcomes that language students should expect to achieve in the area of intercultural understanding and communication; and a bibliography of materials relevant to languages and intercultural, including links to relevant projects.

The group will review the results of the members’ contributions in September and discuss a set of Recommendations and an Action Plan. It hopes to present an interim Report in November at the Berlin meeting. Any ELC members who would like to contribute to the group’s work should contact one of the co-ordinators.

Prof. Mike Kelly (University of Southampton):
Dr. Ruth Tobias (Freie Universität Berlin):

SIG 2: Validation, recognition (and evaluation) of informal and non-formal language learning

Following initial discussions and feedback, members of the SIG2 group have organised online meetings for the last week of June/first week of July to discuss the following main questions:

- Identification of new tools and methodologies to facilitate and improve the recording and validation of the results of informal and non-formal learning. This might start with the various excellent examples of portfolio systems and consider what further developments could be made or what additional approaches might be feasible;
- Further investigation of the processes involved in learning that occurs outside formal education systems, possibly also examining how these processes can be linked to teaching practice and better matched to assessment systems.

On the basis of these exchanges, the group will decide specific areas to address in a face-to-face meeting planned for September/October. This meeting will also serve to establish the format and content of the contributions to be presented by the group to the General Assembly in November.

Currently, a dozen colleagues from various teaching and geographic contexts are involved in the group, but any other ELC members who are interested in the broad range of issues within the area of informal and non-formal language learning would be very welcome.

Prof. Michael J. Hammersley (Università di Bologna):

SIG 3: Multilingualism and multiculturalism

The Politics and the Aesthetics of Multilingualism and Multiculturalism in a Globalized World

After centuries during which multilingualism was the privilege of an educated elite, after an era in which multiculturalism was the sign of a liberal cosmopolitan intelligentsia, and, more recently, after decades in which multilingualism and multiculturalism were considered as models of political, economic and ethical integration, they have become questioned and sometimes attacked as economically irrelevant and politically dangerous. A number of countries in Europe, but also around the world, have become more restrictive in their approaches to these subjects, and there has been a definite reaction against the decades in which the “multi” factors were seen as a sign of progress and as beautiful.

The purpose of this Special Interest Group is to examine the values of multilingualism and multiculturalism in our days to define its new goals and objectives. On the one hand, the SIG will seek to identify what has changed in the populations’ and governments’ attitudes toward multilingualism and multiculturalism, on the other hand, the SIG will seek to propose new avenues of development, suggesting that they are not trends of the past, but really necessary for the future.

Among the questions that the SIG wishes to address is the positioning of multilingualism and multiculturalism against the mono-linguistic trends. The SIG also wishes to reflect on the issue of the diversity of language and culture and its relation to technology. Indeed, in a world of digital humanities, of instantaneous translation, and other devices, resorting to multi-linguistic capabilities may appear as a useless luxury. The SIG also wishes to interrogate these questions from an economic and political point of view. Migratory fluxes have been changing and the challenges of multiculturalism and multilingualism have changed accordingly. The SIG wishes to propose ways in which linguistic and cultural difference can and indeed should be ways of preparing the future of societies on a global scale.

The group had an initial meeting in Brussels in December 2014 and has gradually developed a network of correspondents. Further contacts were established in Lausanne in the spring of 2015. The SIG will present its first work in Berlin in November 2015. In the meantime, correspondents will work by email and video conference. A possible meeting in Brussels has been envisaged mid-September 2015.

To participate in the SIG and for any further information, please contact the convener of the group.

Prof. Boris Vejdovsky (Université de Lausanne):

SIG 4: Developing different models for language policies in Higher Education

The SIG, under the auspices and within the framework of the CEL/ELC, aims at formulating recommendations on how to develop different models for language policies in Higher Education and elaborating proposals for future initiatives at European and international level. The Group, open to academic staff and stakeholders inside and outside higher education, will draw from the experience of CEL/ELC SIG on Higher Education Language Policy – HELP (2003) and contribution of its constituents, presently from 28 different institutions, from 19 countries.

The new SIG will map implementations of language policies in HE in different contexts to provide concrete data about how it reflects the overall mission and vision of an institution. Examples of language policies in HE including the core principles, similarities or differences among them will help prepare a set of relevant recommendations.

The Group will develop a comparative analysis of language policies to find the relationship between the strategic documents and the emergent needs at local / regional / national / European / international level.

For the analysis of the expected results of HELP, languages will be seen as core competence and transversal competence for students and staff and they will be also seen as instrument for individual and institutional development within the respect of diversity.

The SIG will draw up:
- preliminary recommendations to the CEL/ELC,
- proposals for future research and development projects at European level,
- a programme of action to engage institutions, key stakeholders and policy makers.

The recommendation will be based on individual institutional reports covering the following questions/topics:
1. What is the LP policy of your institution? (who designed it? How? How was it evaluated? Is it explicit or implicit? etc.)
2. Which conceptions of languages and of multilingualism is it based on? (implicitly or explicitly? Ex. core competence, transversal competence, code to communicate, cultural value, identity value, heritage value, lingua franca, etc.)
3. Which levels does it cover and how (teaching staff, researchers, non-teaching staff, students)?
4. Which impact does it want to achieve (governance, learning/teaching, research, relationship with the society, etc) and how?
5. How does it reflect the overall mission and vision of the institution?

The outcomes of the SIG will be presented at the next meeting of the ELC in Berlin on 26 – 27 November 2015.

Manuel Célio Conceição (University of Algarve):
Jolanta Urbanikowa (University of Warsaw):

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.

Higher Education Language Policy

European universities are confronted with a variety of new linguistic challenges as a result of EU enlargement, increased intra-European mobility and migration, globalisation, and the internationalisation of higher education and research. Moreover, there has been a decrease in language provision at tertiary level in a number of European countries; and while English has assumed the role of a lingua franca / lingua academica, there are alarming reports from across Europe that students’ mastery of their first languages has declined.

The CEL/ELC firmly believes that each university should have its own specific language policy, reflecting the institution’s mission and context. For more than eleven years, the CEL/ELC has sought to contribute to the development and implementation of higher education language policies – through dedicated working groups and network projects.

The CEL/ELC Board therefore decided to establish a working group dedicated to higher education language policy with a view to identifying pertinent new developments and challenges, and to defining reference points that higher education instutitions in Europe may want to consider when developing or revising their own specific language policies.

The working group was launched at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on 24 September 2011. It was chaired by Karen M. Lauridsen of Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences (Denmark). The group concluded its research at the end of 2012 and produced a final report with recommendations.

The full text of the report can be found here.

Assessment and Multilingual Competence

The creation of the European Higher Education Area as a result of new needs related to socio-political and economic changes and internationalisation processes at different levels (European integration, economic globalisation on the European and international labour market, new communication technologies, internationalisation of education and research) introduces major changes in the European higher education sector and implies increasing interaction in multilingual and multicultural environments and the need for mutual comprehension in a context of diversity.

On the one hand, an adequate multilingual and multicultural communicative competence is now to be considered as a key competence for all students; it is a necessary resource for students and graduates to study, live and work throughout multilingual and multicultural Europe and the world and to manage a diversity of multilingual and multicultural situations in academic, professional, and social contexts. On the other hand, the Bologna process defines new European reference points applicable to all study programmes which take into account stakeholders’ needs in order to develop social relevance in discipline-specific knowledge and expertise and competencies for sustainable employability, citizenship, personal development and lifelong learning. Another reference point is the application of transparency instruments (ECTS, competence-based discipline-specific and generic descriptors) to ensure international readability.

For academic language and communication studies, this means redefining learning outcomes with the objective of developing adequate multilingual and multicultural student profiles aiming at competent use of this repertoire in relation to the specific needs of students and graduates and in the perspective of lifelong learning. Another aspect is the need for multilingual and multicultural competences to be demonstrated and assessed in order to indicate to the different stakeholders what a student is able to do in this domain and how well he or she can do it.

The group addressed relevant learning outcomes for academic study in different cycles, for future career and employability, and for mobility and social integration. It took account of different purposes of assessment, integrated approaches and alternative forms of assessment, multilingual modes of assessment, and testing.

The SIG was launched on 20 August 2010 at the Université de Lausanne. The group was chaired by Brigitte Forster Vosicki (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland) and Anne Räsänen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland).

Multilingual and Multicultural Classroom

This Special Interest Group focuses on the linguistic, cultural and pedagogical/didactic challenges of the international university, particularly on issues related to the Multilingual and Multicultural Classroom for teachers as well as students.

The first preparatory meeting of the SIG took place on 23 October 2009 at the Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel. Participants mapped current challenges of the Multilingual and Multicultural Classroom, including what solutions have already been found to these challenges and what remaining questions still need to be answered. The following key issues emerged from the preliminary workshop:
- the policy dimension: education policy and language policy at national and institutional levels
- the research dimension: policy research, policy-driven research, and research conducted from the language acquisition, foreign language learning, discourse analysis, and other linguistic points of view; in addition, research in the nexus between the humanities and social sciences.
- the preparation of in-coming and out-going students
- the preparation of domestic and international teachers.

A further meeting was held in Freiburg in April 2010. The group applied for EU funding for the development of in-service training modules for teachers as well as international preparation modules for students.

Translation and Interpreting in Public Services

Europe is undergoing profound changes that have had an impact on diverse arena, from the economy to education, from migration policies to agricultural practices. In this, Language Mediation (LM) is no exception. While it is true that the core of LM is always the same, it is also true that conditions, users, tools, and needs have changed to such an extent that LM practices are unrecognisable from what they were a few years ago.

That is why the CEL/ELC set up a Special Interest Group on Language Mediation (eventually renamed the Special Interest Group on Translation and Interpreting for Public Services, or SIGTIPS) entrusted with the task of reflecting on the current situation and on ways for the various components of the LM scene to be prepared to meet present and foreseeable needs.

The group was launched on 19-20 March 2010 and ran until 2012, chaired by Maurizio Viezzi. A final report was issued in cooperation with the European Commission. The final report can be found in six languages in the archive.