The August issue of the monthly magazine IQ devotes three full pages to an article on the Language Rich Europe results and language policy issues in Lithuania. The article by Viktorija Vitkauskaitė is an interesting read and covers a number of key points suggested by the LRE launch in Vilnius. The ‘average performance’ by Lithuania is summed up in a quotation by Dr Irena Smetonienė, who states that ‘Lithuania is neither among high achievers, nor among loosers’. Still, the title of the article ‘Maži mažakalbiai’ suggests that Lithuania is ’a small nation with a small number of languages’. The LRE findings actually do not look too worrying for Lithuania, but the IQ article suggests the we should start reviewing our language curricula as we are losing the competitive edge as a country and living the strategy of ‘English is enough’.
The key points covered in the article are:
- Children at pre-school age can learn languages only ‘out of their parents’ pocket’ and here Lithuania is lacking behind seven countries in the LRE research.
- English prevails in all sectors at the expense of other languages, which is not different from anywhere else, but not at such a high percentage: 92% of secondary school learners choose English and continue it as the only language in the later stages of education (!)
- Companies require language skills, but neither invest in nor use the linguistic capacity of the staff. Prof. Boguslavas Gruževskis says: ‘This is a general problem which is a result of low valuing of work force [by employers]’. Lifelong Learning programmes are there for language learning but not used.
- Employees of state institutions are encouraged and supported more in language learning, but there is a lack of multilingualism in city services. Kęstutis Ambrozaitis, executive manager of Lithuanian Tours, confirms that tourists lack services other than in English in Lithuania, although, for example, German tourism has grown by 23% in the last year.
- The article also expands on immigrant languages that receive no attention at all in Lithuania. Immigrant languages will likely be ignored in decades to come. Prof. Boguslavas Gruževskis is quoted as saying that it’s an unfortunate trend, as by ‘’using’’ immigrants and their language potential the country’s economy /employers can gain a lot, including access to other countries and cultures.
- Loreta Senkutė, president of the Lithuanian Youth Council (LiJOT), voices the students’ suggestion for a major change in language education for Lithuania: all learners throughout education should learn more than one compulsory foreign language and English should preferably be offered as the second foreign language in the school curriculum as it is picked up faster than other languages due to its spread in media, music, movies, etc.