The fourth international meeting of the EDiLiC community (EdiLiC stands for Education et Diversité Linguistique et Culturelle – Linguistic and Cultural Education and Diversity) took place from 16 to 18 July 2012 at the University of Aveiro, Portugal. Since this organisation shares many of the aims of Language Rich Europe, it appropriately included a workshop, presented by Lachlan Mackenzie (ILTEC), about our project and its preliminary results. Lachlan blogs about the conference for LRE:
The conference reflected its commitment to multilingualism by being held in three languages, Portuguese, French and English, without simultaneous interpretation. To avoid any communication difficulties, speakers were required to talk in different languages and to use powerpoints in at least one language other than that used for oral presentation. A ‘good practice’ for sure!
The workshop covered the overall goals of Language Rich Europe, the results achieved so far and the findings for Portugal. The participants came from different countries and backgrounds. Some were primarily concerned with doing academic research into the performance and difficulties of language learners. Others were working on alleviating the linguistic and cultural problems faced by immigrants and other users of minority languages in societies dominated by national languages.
It became clear that Language Rich Europe and its network could provide the members of EDiLiC with ways of joining forces and exchanging experiences with colleagues across our continent. They were very interested in our network as a platform on which to meet, confront and influence those who take the decisions about the language policies that affect our schools, workplaces and public services.
A point that came up very forcefully in the workshop concerned measures for increasing plurilingualism in Europe by fostering mobility for students, teachers and others. In countries with severe economic difficulties like Portugal, insufficient funds are currently available to support mobility to France, the UK and Germany, and the number of candidates for study abroad is falling. The suggestion was made to consider other countries, especially those of Central and Eastern Europe, where living expenses are lower and there are underused opportunities for language-learning. However, it was also felt that the recommended emphasis on mobility can have the effect of actually reinforcing privilege in society, since it is the few students who have the means to travel that stand to gain further from study abroad.
The notion of plurilingualism was welcomed by the workshop as relevant to our schools. Full acceptance of this notion will imply different ways of teaching and learning and will create new relationships between schools and the communities they serve. The point was made that the academic research carried out in many centres is coming up with conclusions that support the lines of intervention recommended by the various European authorities and that a network such as Language Rich Europe can provide a basis for the research findings to become reality. The workshop was a valid starting-point for future collaboration between researchers and policy-makers.