The role of schools in building community links through languages

Connecting-Classrooms-560London has a proud tradition of embracing its many different cultures and languages. Within neighbourhoods, schools often fulfil the role of “community hubs”, engaging families across cultures, supporting newly-arrived families and those with English as an additional language to overcome barriers, and encourage their children to achieve and contribute their skills and talents.

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At risk of digital extinction: Europe’s smaller languages fight to survive

wordcloudNew language technologies present an important way in which we can enable smaller languages in the linguistically diverse digital age, helping them be heard around the world.

This threat of digital extinction for smaller languages will become even more acute as the internet – and the larger languages that it rode in on – extends into every aspect of our lives, dictating how we speak and think. Smartphones, tablets, mobile apps and social media all increase the reach of the digital universe, accompanying us from the second we wake up (and check the news and our email) to the last moment before we sleep (one final scroll through our Twitter feeds).

How can we reverse this trend for the European languages at risk? Read more 

Minority languages fight for survival in the digital age

Language is about much more than just about talking to each other; it’s one of the bases of identity and culture. But as the world becomes increasingly globalised and reliant on technology, English has been reinforced once again as the lingua franca.

The technological infrastructure that now dominates our working and private lives is overwhelmingly in English, which means minority languages are under threat more than ever.

But it might also be true that technology could help us bring minority languages to a wider audience. If we work out how to play the game right, we could use it to help bolster linguistic diversity rather than damage it.

As more public services go online, the language in which those services are presented is all important. At the European level, around 55 million speak languages other than one of the EU’s official languages. In the UK, the total speakers of Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic and Irish number hundreds of thousands.

Language technology advances mean it will be possible for people to communicate with each other and do business with each other, even if they don’t speak the same language.

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Languages are in vogue in the fashion industry

model in red dress on catwalkInternational brands and overseas supply chains make languages essential for a career in fashion.

Being multilingual can help you make the best of opportunities in the competitive fashion world. Although English remains the industry’s current lingua franca, the flexibility gained by learning another language can take your career to the top.

Read more interesting findings

Arsène Wenger: Public Language Champion

Arsene Wenger

The British Academy-Guardian Language Festival was highly successful in promoting language learning through its School Language Awards announcing 13 prize winners, including seven supplementary and six state schools, for innovation in how to increase the numbers of students learning languages at higher levels. Here are the festival highlights.

The Festival concluded with the very high profile award of the first ever Public Language Champion going to Arsène Wenger, Manager of Arsenal Football Club. Arsène, in addition to being an outstanding football manager, speaks English, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese in addition to French. His passion for language learning has led to the development of the Double Club, a scheme which encourages children in primary and secondary schools to develop their language skills through football.

Perhaps with a presage of David Cameron’s recent support for the learning of Mandarin Chinese, Arsène said that he would like to learn Chinese one day. S2F will be developing closer links with the Arsenal Double Club to promote language learning in London and nation-wide throughout 2014.

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Supporting multilingual families – a linguistic treasure for Europe

“Multilingual Families” is an important project co-funded in the framework of Key Activity 2 Languages of the Lifelong Learning programme that is targeted at preserving the languages and culture of the 47.3 million immigrants living in the European Union and the many families with parents having more than one language. These people represent a linguistic treasure house for Europe and one that must be preserved to enhance the linguistic and multi-cultural diversity of Europe.

To preserve this treasure into the second generation, i.e. the children of immigrants and linguistically diverse parents, is vital as a continuing linguistic resource. Children who are bilingual are also a strong beacon to their monolingual peers that multilingualism, is obtainable.

The difficulty is to support and inform immigrant or bilingual parents how and why to raise their children multilingually in an informal setting.

The “Multilingual Families” project will provide this support to parents in 3 ways by answering the questions:

  • Why – should we support children’s learning and continuing use of the family language?
  • What – can we do to support them?
  • How – do we implement real language support so that they learn the family language and retain it?

It will go further and provide support materials to teachers, immigrant groups in fact all stakeholders that work with immigrants and bilingual parents, so that they can disseminate the project resources to immigrant and bilingual parents and support them by answering questions and obtaining materials, in the form of informal and formal guides for teachers, stakeholders and parents. Example activities for parents and teachers are being created as well, to act as a starting point to motivate informal language learning and use.

In addition, a large repository of information and links about raising children in more than one language has been added to the website.

Finally “Multilingual Families” will also create resources for the children, to show them directly why having 2 or more languages, and family languages, is something to be proud of and has huge value in their lives. These resources will be available in 17 languages and are being added to the project website.

For more information, you can send an e-mail to:

Copenhagen’s Host Programme facilitates the integration process

CopenhagenFollowing on the previous blog post on Key LRE findings in public services and spaces we bring you this great example from Copenhagen where the city’s host programme ensures that language classes to migrants and a new international population do not sit in isolation of the overall integration package the city provides. To date 176 volunteer hosts have come forward to participate.

Copenhagen’s Host Programme seeks to facilitate encounters between newly arrived migrants and Copenhageners who wish to volunteer as hosts. It is coordinated by the city’s Department for Integration and Language which is responsible for administrating the Integration Act in the municipality of Copenhagen.

The programme is operated in close collaboration with two local organisations. The “Danish Refugee Council” carries out social activities with newly arrived inhabitants including Danish conversation courses and provides information on the local community, cultural activities and those carried out by local associations. “Foreningen Nydansker” helps newly arrived inhabitants integrate into the local education system and job market.

You can read more about the project on Council of Europe’s website. Kari Mørkøre-Yde, coordinator of the Host Programme, explained,

It is important that the Host Programme’s design remains a collaboration between the municipality, voluntary organisations and civil society, since the precondition for the success of the programme is to gain contact through the municipality, have the professionals work with volunteers in the voluntary organisations and participation of people from civil society who are motivated out of altruistic interest.

A great example of how language policies across Europe cannot sit in isolation in order to be successful. Language classes offered by cities to new migrants will only for example be fully beneficial if the overall city approach is an open and welcoming one in all senses. What greater way to do this than by getting local volunteers involved?

„Zwangsschwedisch“ in Finnland – Mandatory Swedish in Finland

An initiative to stop mandatory Swedish language classes in Finland reached 50,000 signatures in 6 months, meaning it must be considered by the Finnish parliament. Raija Laube (British Council Germany) is a Finn living in Germany. She gives her reaction to this news.


Als eine finnischsprachige Finnin habe ich mit Bedauern die Diskussion und die Sammlung von Unterschriften gegen den obligatorischen Schwedischunterricht in den finnischen Schulen verfolgt und die ganze Zeit leise gehofft,  dass diese Bewegung am Ende doch ohne Erfolg bleiben würde.

Natürlich war es damals in der Schule etwas lästig, diese Sprache lernen zu müssen, wenn wir doch lieber eine andere und eine mehr verbreitete Sprache hätten lernen wollen. Es mangelte an Motivation. Es gab zwar schwedische Sendungen im Fernsehen aber doch viel mehr englischsprachige oder deutsche Fernsehfilme. Um die Motivation zu steigern, verbrachten wir einige Wochen während der  Sommerferien in schwedischsprachigen Familien. Es half nicht viel. Erst, als ich die Sprache so gut beherrschte, dass ich schwedische Bücher in Original lesen konnte, fand ich daran richtig gefallen. Es ist ein Erlebnis Håkan Nesser in Original zu lesen und es ist ein Fest unsere eigenen finnlandsschwedischen Autoren ohne den Umweg der Übersetzung lesen und verstehen zu können. Ich möchte Kjell Westö, Monika Fagerholm oder Lars Sund  u.a. nicht vermissen.  Ich bin sehr dankbar für den Beitrag, den  die Autoren, Komponisten (Sibelius) und andere Künstler für das Kulturleben Finnlands erbracht haben.

Für mich und für andere Personen in meinem Umkreis hat das Schulschwedisch unser Leben bereichert. Es gibt viel Zusammenarbeit zwischen Finnland und den Skandinavischen Ländern in vielen Bereichen. Meine Schwester als Kinderpsychologin beteiligte sich an Nordischen Projekten. Es wäre kaum ohne Schwedischkenntnisse möglich gewesen.

Und zu guter Letzt die Sprache selbst: Ich kenne keine andere Sprache, in der man so vielfältig mit Perfekt Partizip jonglieren und jubilieren kann.

Raija Laube

Case Study: ‘Take Care’ – A Health Care Language Guide for Migrants in 17 Languages

According to the Language Rich Europe research, the top provision of multilingual services is, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the tourist sector, with the most widely offered language being English. However, to what extent do cities look at the needs of their inhabitants before deciding which languages to offer and in which services? One of these needs is highlighted by the Language Rich Europe case study on the European Commission-funded project ‘Take Care,’ which seeks to:

[make] health care more accessible and effective for migrants who do not speak the language and are not familiar with the culture nor with the health care system in the host country

The case study highlights the importance of this, stating that the consequences of poor health can affect employability, educational achievement, social integration and job satisfaction, to name a few.

The main product of the project is a Health Care Language guide which provides methods for language learning based on the needs and experiences of the target groups, language tools on health care, and information on the health care systems in each country.

The project is currently being run in Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus, Lithuania, Portugual, Romania and Spain, but language materials will be available on the project website in up to 17 languages for use by groups from other European countries.

For more information on this and other projects, and to submit your own good practice case study, visit the Language Rich Europe website.