[lg policy] Languages help bridge the cultural gap

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Sep 27 10:39:39 EDT 2018

= Languages help bridge the cultural gap
Written by Svetoslav Hristov Malinov on 26 September 2018 in Opinion

There should be a European solution for ensuring schools recognise and
protect all of the EU’s official languages, says Svetoslav Hristov Malinov.
[image: Svetoslav Hristov Malinov]

*Svetoslav Hristov Malinov | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual*

The essence of European language policy is to foster linguistic diversity
and encourage language learning for reasons of cultural identity and social
integration. Languages can be considered as cross-border bridges. Language
is the means by which any European citizen living in a foreign member state
to discover a new country and easily find their way back home.

Parliament has been dealing with petitions from EU citizens living abroad
that are concerned with the lack of provisions for teaching and recognition
of language skills in their mother tongue. The objective of these petitions
is to encourage European linguistic diversity.

One such petition, by the Association of Bulgarian Schools Abroad (ABSA),
is dedicated to all languages within the EU, particularly the less-spoken
ones. The initiative aims to protect these languages and strengthen the
bonds between European pupils living in another member state and their home
country, family and history.


   - *Jill Evans: Europe must protect its rich tapestry of languages*
   - *Henri Malosse: Languages are the core of our cultural heritage*
   - Leonardo González Dellán: The EU should support minority languages as
   part of its international development


We need greater cooperation between member states in the field of language
learning. Most of their respective educational systems do not make
provisions for language assessment opportunities and the recognition of
language exams, diplomas or certificates in official EU languages other
than English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.

They usually teach in schools and recognise exams only in the five
languages mentioned above. This discriminates against those pupils that are
bearers of the EU’s other official languages.

Therefore, educational systems need to be more efficient and more flexible.
One way to eliminate this inequality would be to mutually recognise
competences in all official languages of the EU and developing a common
European system for the assessment and attestation of language competences.

The problem of non-recognition of the competences in less spoken languages
is one that affects thousands of European families and their children. The
issue affects the protection of those young people, pupils and students,
whose parent or parents have claimed their fundamental right of free
movement. This is why a common European solution is needed.

What is essential here is that the key concept is not the harmonisation of
educational systems - since member states can make their own decisions -
but rather the recognition. We must strive to have some sort of mechanism
for acknowledging language proficiency, irrespective of how pupils acquire
their knowledge and competences.

The plenary discussion regarding the ABSA petition, which took place in May
this year, was a great victory for multilingualism. It was yet further
proof that when you have a cause and appropriate arguments, your voice will
be heard in the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Multilingualism and equal treatment of all the EU’s official languages are
necessary for the free and smooth movement of our most precious capital -
people, particularly our youth. A mother tongue is the bridge connecting at
least two cultures - the one you live in and the one you come from.
Different cultures and different languages provide the backbone of
diversity in the European Union.

About the author

Svetoslav Hristov Malinov (EPP, BG) is Parliament’s rapporteur on improving
language learning and mutual recognition

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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