Today we have a guest post from Tony Jones, Senior Adviser, English Language Innovation for the British Council, and organiser of the 9th EFNIL conference.
EFNIL (European Federation of National Institutions for Language) is a network of European national language institutes and the UK is represented jointly by the British Council and the Oxford English Dictionary. The 9th EFNIL conference took place in London here at the British Council last week. There were 60 delegates from as far as north as Iceland and as far south as Malta. The theme this year was ‘the role of language education in a multilingual Europe’. The conference was opened by Sir Vernon Ellis, Chairman of the British Council who pointed to other cooperation in Europe on the multilingualism agenda (e.g. the Language Rich Europe project of course, co-location of the British Council and Goethe Institut in Ukraine teaching English and German respectively). It wasn’t easy for me to analyse each presentation in detail as I was one of the principal organisers and needed to keep in touch with the events manager to ensure that everything went smoothly. Nor is it a familiar site to see interpreter booths in our offices in Spring Gardens: this year interpretation was available in English, French, German and Italian and in opening the second day I managed to find out how to say ‘good morning’ in Maltese, Icelandic, Gaelic and Hungarian just to make it clear that there are many other-less frequently heard languages at an EFNIL conference. I was interested to note that speakers often expect to do their presentations in English and have to be encouraged to avail of the interpreters: one speaker said that he was more familiar speaking in French or English on his subject than he was in his native tongue, yet once he got going in his L1 he proved hard to stop!
The UK panel presentation looked at modern language (ML) education in this country from primary (Lid King), secondary (Linda Parker) and Higher Education (Tim Connell). While a ML is no longer required for GCSEs it is nevertheless an entitlement at Key Stage 4 in the national curriculum. One particularly interesting feature in the UK is the social divide whereby private fee-paying schools have a much higher participation in ML learning than in the state sector. Many job candidates in the London financial sector (the City) report languages being a tie breaker at interview and being asked how many foreign languages they actually speak. Other presentations of note came from Xavier North of the DGLFLF, Piet Van de Cran and Claude Truchot (University of Strasbourg).
Day 2 had update reports from Sabine Kirchmeier-Andersen on the EFNIL project, European Language Monitor, on Language Rich from Martin Hope, on META-NET from Georg Rehm and on EFNILEX from Tamas Vardi. While EFNIL conferences do not make recommendations they do produce a book containing all papers delivered – the book covering 2011 will appear at the 2012 conference in Budapest.
To keep in touch with EFNIL’s work, please visit the website www.efnil.org