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Language and Social Change in Central EuropeDiscourses on Policy, Identity and the German Language$

Patrick Stevenson and Jenny Carl

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780748635986

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748635986.001.0001

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(p.214) Appendix C Introduction to the 2005 Commission Communication ‘A New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism’

(p.214) Appendix C Introduction to the 2005 Commission Communication ‘A New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism’

Language and Social Change in Central Europe
Edinburgh University Press

Kol'ko jazykov vieš, tol'kokrát si človekom.

The more languages you know, the more of a person you are. (Slovak proverb)

I. Introduction

For the first time, the portfolio of a European Commissioner explicitly includes responsibility for multilingualism. This document is the first Commission Communication to explore this policy area. It complements the Commission's current initiative to improve communication between European citizens and the institutions that serve them. It also:

  • reaffirms the Commission's commitment to multilingualism in the European Union;

  • sets out the Commission's strategy for promoting multilingualism in European society, in the economy and in the Commission itself; and

  • proposes a number of specific actions stemming from this strategic framework.

I.1 Multilingualism and European values

The European Union is founded on ‘unity in diversity’: diversity of cultures, customs and beliefs – and of languages. Besides the 201 official languages of the Union, there are 60 or so other indigenous languages and scores of non-indigenous languages spoken by migrant communities.

It is this diversity that makes the European Union what it is: not a ‘melting pot’ in which differences are rendered down, but a common home in which (p.215) diversity is celebrated, and where our many mother tongues are a source of wealth and a bridge to greater solidarity and mutual understanding.

Language is the most direct expression of culture; it is what makes us human and what gives each of us a sense of identity.

Article 22 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that the Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.

Article 21 prohibits discrimination based on a number of grounds, including language.

Together with respect for the individual, openness towards other cultures, tolerance and acceptance of others, respect for linguistic diversity is a core value of the European Union.

Action by the Union and the Member States to uphold multilingualism therefore has a direct impact on the life of every citizen.

I.2 What is multilingualism?

Multilingualism refers to both a person's ability to use several languages and the coexistence of different language communities in one geographical area. In this document, the term is used to describe the new field of Commission policy that promotes a climate that is conducive to the full expression of all languages, in which the teaching and learning of a variety of languages can flourish.

The Commission's multilingualism policy has three aims:

  • to encourage language learning and promoting linguistic diversity society;

  • to promote a healthy multilingual economy, and

  • to give citizens access to European Union legislation, procedures and information in their own languages.

Responsibility for making further progress mainly rests with Member States (be it at national, regional or local level), but the Commission will also do all within its remit to reinforce awareness of multilingualism and to improve the consistency of action taken at different levels.