As part of the Language Rich Europe project, we are holding workshops across Europe to discuss the findings and plan the next steps. In this blog post, Lorcan Murray, an intern at British Council Netherlands, writes about the workshop held in Utrecht in November.
Much ado about Language
On an unseasonably warm and sunny day, Projects Team Netherlands made its way to the heart of the country, to the lovely city of Utrecht (which meant Lorcán, the intern, had a much shorter commute, so he was happier than usual!). Our purpose was to host a Language Rich Europe workshop with our partners Levende Talen and Mercator, at the wonderful location of Silverijn, on multilingualism in business and education.
We arrived nice and early to deal with last minute preparations (“put the banner over there. No, over there. Hmm, a bit more the left.”) and panics (“What do you mean, you don’t know where the name badges are?!”), and welcomed our seventy invitees to arrive in dibs and drabs. Some arrived too early; some arrived unfashionably late, but eventually we were all gathered for the introduction from Toon van der Ven, the Chairman of Levende Talen and moderator of the afternoon, which kicked-off the programme.
Mr van der Ven was followed by a panel consisting of Ms Sena Dora International Account Manager at ABN AMRO (about being multilingual at a bank), Ms Debbie Ceiler, director of secondary school Bernardinus College (about her school offering a wide language programme), Dr. Michel Wauthion, Education attaché at the French Embassy in The Hague (about the situation on foreign languages offered in secondary education in France) and Professor Guus Extra (about LRE results for Netherlands and other European countries). Each panel member ended the discussion with a thought provoking point of view. Unfortunately, Your Humble Author was unable to witness this panel discussion, as, well; someone had to welcome the late-comers!
Fortunately, Your Humble Author was able to take part in one of the four group workshops, with each group containing a panel member, and so off we all split to our designated rooms. (Your Humble Author was in Group 4. Group 4 was the best group.) In these groups we discussed the point of view put forward by our respective panel member. In the case of Your Humble Author, it was foreign languages offered in France and the interesting idea of entrelinguisme – where you learn several similar languages at the same time, in this case French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Italian – was debated.
After all too short a time, the lively and interesting discussion was drawn to a close and we all reconvened to relay our findings and recommendations to the other groups. The findings of group 4? That there needs to be a more national consistency in language teaching, rather than have every school have a different language policy. Since you cannot speak every language, the need to be selective in which languages we teach is paramount. How do we choose? Unfortunately, that question proved too big for the timeframe!
The programme came to a close with a nice lecture from Jacomine Nortier from Universiteit Utrecht about the advantages and prejudice of multilingualism, including a delightful video example of code switching: a child switching between English, French, and Filipino in the same sentence!
And so the day came to end with a borreltje in the gezellig basement of Silverijn, and an excellent chance to network. Proost!