Languages for the Future

Which languages the UK needs most and why

The Languages for the Future report identifies Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese as the languages most vital to the UK over the next 20 years. They were chosen based on economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors including the needs of UK businesses, the UK’s overseas trade targets, diplomatic and security priorities, and prevalence on the internet.

Multilingualism conference – Lithuania, 7-9 November 2013

On 7-9 November 2013 the Institute of Foreign Languages of Vilnius University will hold the conference ‘Linguistic, Pedagogical and Intercultural Challenges in Tertiary Education’.

Conference themes include linguistic studies, language teaching, teacher training, literature studies, intercultural studies, language projects, CLIL and plurilingual/pluricultural education.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is 15 September 2013. The deadline for submitting articles and registration is the 1 October 2013.

For more information, go to


For information on other multilingualism events happening across Europe, please visit

Key Findings: Languages in Secondary Education

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. You can browse all the national/regional profiles or simply focus on secondary education by reading on:


■ Additional support in the national language is provided for newcomers either before or during mainstream education in 21 countries/regions, with Denmark, Italy and Ukraine reporting no provision.

■ As expected, all countries/regions surveyed offer foreign languages in both lower and upper secondary education. Significant differences emerge, however, in the number of compulsory languages offered, the range of languages, the monitoring of language skills, the use of CLIL, and the extent to which the CEFR is used to evaluate the level achieved.

■ The only countries/regions to make two languages compulsory at both lower and upper secondary level are Austria, Estonia, France, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.

■ As expected, attainment targets in line with the CEFR for foreign languages are much better established in secondary schools than in primary schools in the participating countries/regions, with 13 of them explicitly stating a level to be achieved. B2 seems to be the commonly agreed level for proficiency in the first foreign language, and B1 for the second.

■ Nineteen countries/regions offer regional or minority (R/M) languages within secondary education. The countries/regions not offering R/M language education are Denmark, England, Estonia, Greece and Poland.

■ Eighteen countries/regions monitor the language skills acquired either through national/regional or school-based tests, with only Italy reporting no monitoring. Austria and Wales set no targets for the standard to be achieved, but all other countries/regions do. All countries/regions offer the languages free of charge to all pupils.

■ Few countries/regions are making immigrant language provision available systematically (three in pre-primary and five in primary), and in secondary eight countries/regions out of the 24 responded positively. These are Austria, Denmark, England, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Scotland and Switzerland.

■ Full state funding is available for immigrant languages in Austria, Denmark, England, the Netherlands and Scotland. In France and Switzerland funding is provided by the countries of origin of immigrant pupils and in Estonia parents meet the costs. The only countries/regions offering immigrant languages in both primary and secondary education are Austria, Denmark, France and Switzerland.

■ The most commonly offered foreign languages are English, German and French, although other European languages such as Spanish and Italian are also offered. Some immigrant languages such as Arabic, Croatian, Polish, Russian and Turkish are offered as optional foreign languages, and Arabic and Turkish have a firm status as examination subjects in secondary schools in France and the Netherlands. Russian is offered widely in Eastern European countries either as an R/M language or as a foreign language.

■ As in primary education, CLIL is widespread in the teaching of R/M languages, but much less so in foreign languages, with only France reporting widespread practice, and 14 other countries/regions reporting localised examples.

■ Foreign language teachers are well qualified, and only in Estonia and Northern Ireland do general classroom teachers teach foreign languages.

■ There is a little more structured support for mobility at secondary level than at primary, with Austria as well as Catalonia reporting that teachers spend a semester abroad as part of their pre service or in-service development. Another 17 countries/regions encourage and support mobility of teachers financially, leaving Estonia, France, Italy, Portugal and Romania as countries where teachers are less likely to spend time in a target language country.

■ In line with EU and CoE recommendations, foreign language teachers in most countries are required to have attained a certain proficiency level in the foreign language and this is measured against CEFR levels in eight countries/regions. C1 appears to be the most common level required, although B2 is considered appropriate in Basque Country.

■ There is a shortage of language teachers in some countries/regions, and special measures are being taken to recruit professionals with appropriate qualifications and to encourage people to qualify as language teachers. The most active countries/regions in teacher recruitment are Scotland, Basque Country, England, Romania and Switzerland, who are all recruiting for teachers in at least three of the four language categories.

English as the language of Europe?

In this guest post, Christiane Keilig from the British Council in Berlin shares her views on why just English isn’t enough.

Last Friday the German president, Joachim Gauck, proposed to make English the language of the EU.  I was surprised to hear it  – why did he say that? Just to appease the British and make sure they stay aboard the EU? Or to allay fears that Germany is becoming too powerful? It’s probably a bit of both. But, thinking about it, it does seem to make sense, because:

  • English is comparatively easy to learn (I had to learn Latin and Greek  as first foreign languages and I rejoiced in English)
  • It is already an established business language and dominates in certain areas, for instance IT and banking
  • It is the language spoken by big economies

Okay, but.

There are also other huge economies out there and I would argue that if you want to sell a product or a service to a foreign market, you need to speak their language and not just English.

Because a market, or rather, countries, are also about culture and I believe that you cannot truly understand a culture without speaking the language – language itself reveals a lot about a country’s mindset.

Also, business is not all. Especially in Europe and in times of crisis, it is important that we understand each other – we cannot afford to threaten a construct which, although fraught with bureaucracy, is also there to maintain peace. Personally, I sometimes think that aspect is sadly underrated.

Moreover, in times of globalisation and mobility, with families living and working far away from their home country, it’s also important their children can learn their mother tongue – it is a vital part of their identity and culture.  So it’s not just about learning the language of the country they’re now living in and then ‘just’ English.

Just to pick up on one of the areas of the project’s research: Education. The Language Rich Europe research clearly shows a tendency for English as the most widely chosen language to be learned at school – which could be seen to be endangering the diversity of languages.  It is important that especially at school other languages are taught with the same importance attached to them .

For instance, the school my son goes to offers English, French and Latin and you can choose the order in which you learn the languages. I convinced him to learn Latin first, as that gives him a good basis for grammar and all romanic languages. It would be a shame if opportunities like that would disappear.

At the conference on 5  March, Language Rich Europe’s experts will present recommendations for more language diversity in the areas of Education, Audiovisual Media and Press, Public services and Spaces, and Business. They will present the outcomes of the project’s research and will surely provide food for thought and discussions.

Why not join the debate? Do you think English should be the language of Europe?  Comment here or tweet @LanguageRich  to  let us know what you think!

Language Rich Europe launch – Denmark

In the latest of our launch events, Language Rich Europe will be launching the results of its research in Denmark on 6 February 2013. The programme is as follows:

Welcome: Sabine Kirchmeier-Andersen, Director, Danish Language Council

Presentation of LRE project: Aneta Quraishy, LRE Senior Project Manager, British Council

Presentation of LRE results: Professor Guus Extra, Tilburg University

Languages in Denmark in 3 language monitors, LRE, ELM and META-net: Sabine Kirchmeier-Andersen

Multilingualism in Denmark: Writer and Adj. prof. Peter Harder, Copenhagen Business School, Network for multilingualism ‘Ja-til sprog

Questions and panel discussion.

There will also be live-tweeting from the event from Language Rich Europe’s twitter account

You can read the results of the Denmark LRE research in Danish and English on our website.

Key Findings: Languages in Primary Education

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. You can browse all the national/regional profiles or simply focus on primary education by reading on:



  • According to both the EU and CoE, all young European children should learn two languages in addition to the national language(s) of the country in which they reside.
  • In primary education, apart from Italy and Ukraine, all countries/regions offer extra support for newcomers in learning the national language.
  • Apart from Wales, all countries/regions report foreign language provision in primary education. Denmark and Greece make two foreign languages compulsory, while 18 countries/regions have one compulsory foreign language. In England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, foreign languages are optional.
  • Foreign languages are taught from the first year of primary in 12 of the countries surveyed, from the mid-phase in seven, and from the final phase only in the Netherlands, Scotland and Switzerland.
  • English, French and German emerge as the most commonly taught foreign languages. In many cases, one of these languages is the compulsory subject to be studied by all pupils. Italian, Russian and Spanish are other languages offered either as compulsory or optional foreign languages.
  • Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is widespread for foreign languages only in Spain, while this approach is being used in 13 other countries/regions, although not systematically.
  • Seven countries/regions report using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) explicitly in foreign language learning, although more may base their national/regional standards on its principles and approaches. A1/A2 is the CEFR target for this age group of foreign language learning.
  • Apart from Denmark and Estonia, Regional/Minority languages are offered in 22 countries/regions. R/M language classes and lessons in other subjects taught through R/M languages are open to all pupils irrespective of language background in 20 countries/regions, although Bulgaria and Greece only target native speakers of these languages. The offer is rich in a number of countries/regions, with Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Romania and Ukraine offering four or more R/M languages either as subjects or, in the majority of cases, as a medium of instruction. Twelve countries/regions report widespread CLIL, with another six reporting it in some areas.
  • Only five countries/regions report offering immigrant languages at primary level. These are Austria, Denmark, France, Spain and Switzerland (in the canton of Zurich). In France and Switzerland, immigrant language classes are open to all pupils, while in Austria, Denmark and Spain they are reserved for native speakers of immigrant languages. Spain and Switzerland offer lessons partly in school hours, whereas in the other countries they are offered as extra-curricular activities. Achievement in immigrant languages is not linked to any national, regional or school-based standards, although the development of language skills is monitored in all countries. Lessons in immigrant languages are fully funded by the state in Austria and Denmark, whereas in France, Spain and Switzerland they are mainly supported by the country of origin.



  • In primary education qualified language teachers are employed to teach languages as follows in the countries/ regions surveyed: 16 out of 24 in the national language, 17 out of 22 in R/M languages, 14 out of 23 in foreign languages, and two out of five in immigrant languages. In Austria, England, France, Italy, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Switzerland, foreign languages are taught by generally qualified classroom teachers. Pre-service and in-service training is widespread in most countries/regions except for immigrant languages.
  • A clear area for development in foreign language teaching is teacher mobility: nine countries/regions out of 24 report having no support at all in this area, and only Catalonia and Switzerland report structured teacher mobility programmes. More should be done to stimulate language teachers to spend more time in the country of the language they are teaching to acquire higher level linguistic and cultural competencies.
  • A number of countries/regions are taking active measures to increase the supply of language teachers. Basque Country, Denmark, Estonia and Switzerland are recruiting national language teachers. Bulgaria, Denmark, England, Friesland, Hungary, Lithuania and Ukraine are recruiting extra foreign language teachers. Basque Country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Ukraine are recruiting R/M language teachers. None of the countries/regions surveyed are actively recruiting immigrant language teachers.

EC 2013 Call for Proposals – The multilingual challenge for the European citizen

Aneta Quraishy, LRE Senior Project Manager, shares some key points from the EC 2013 Work Programme SSH.2013.5.2-1. The multilingual challenge for the European citizen call for proposals 2013.

In this year’s European Commission call for proposals there is once again a focus on multilingualism and a call for collaborative projects (large-scale integrating research project) in this area. The Commission underlines that there is a ‘considerable gap between citizens who are proficient in two or more languages and who can thus benefit from all professional and personal opportunities that the EU can offer, and those who – because they only speak their mother tongue – find their opportunities limited.’

The following research dimensions (abridged below) are highlighted in the 2013 call:

  • Comparative analyses of the past and present language related policies and actions of the EU, individual European countries, the Council of Europe and other parts of the world.
  • Research into past and present coping strategies (e.g. political, social, cultural, educational) of linguistic diversity in situations of language hegemony.
  • Research onto how to strike a balance between preserving linguistic diversity (and the associated identity) and facilitating effective communication between all European citizens
  • Assessment of language teaching at various levels (pre-school, primary, secondary, adult – lifelong learning) and of various forms of language learning (family teaching, informal learning in peer groups).
  • Research on multilingual education and learning, as well as emerging needs related to enlargement, migration and globalisation.
  • Assessment of new technological tools, new forms of communication, new media and their effect on multilingual skills.

For more information on the call for proposals please visit the European Commission’s website

Key findings: Official Documents and Databases

Language Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights. In the first part of the LRE survey we examined whether official documents and databases on languages were present in the countries/regions surveyed.

We believe that the existence of official documents supporting language diversity, and the construction of databases mapping languages spoken, will strengthen awareness of multilingualism in any national or regional context and will also lead to better education policies. Why do you think it is important for your country to map languages spoken there? What could be done to improve this practice of mapping linguistic diversity?

Some key findings in this area include:

■■ Legislation on national and R/M (Regional Minority) languages is provided

in almost all countries/regions surveyed, on foreign languages in 14 countries/regions, and on immigrant languages in only six countries/regions.

■■ Official language policy documents on the promotion of national and foreign languages are available in almost all countries/regions, on R/M languages in 18 countries/regions and on immigrant languages in only four countries/regions.

■■ The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) has been ratified by Parliament in 11 out of the 18 countries surveyed, and signed by Government in France and Italy. In Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania and Portugal it has neither been ratified nor signed.

■■ The largest numbers of officially offered R/M languages in education emerge in South-Eastern and Central European countries. In Western Europe, Italy and France are the clearest exceptions to this general rule, as they offer a wide variety of languages. The concepts of ’regional‘ or ’minority‘ languages are not specified in the ECRML but immigrant languages are explicitly excluded from it. In Western European countries, immigrant languages often have a more prominent appearance than R/M languages but enjoy less recognition, protection and/or promotion.

■■ Most countries/regions are familiar with official language data collection mechanisms and most of them address three types of languages: national languages, R/M languages and immigrant languages. Five out of 24 countries/regions have no language data mechanisms at all: Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Denmark, Greece and the Netherlands. Portugal only collects data on the national language.

■■ There is also variation in the major language question(s) asked in official nation/region wide language data collection mechanisms. Over half of the countries/regions surveyed ask a home language question, while others ask about the main language and/or the mother tongue.

Fourth international meeting of the EDiLiC community

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.

Language Rich Europe Austria launch

Language Rich Europe Austria launch took place on 19 June 2012 in Vienna, Austria. The article below is written by Martin Gilbert, Director British Council in Austria.

Photo: Panel at Language Rich Europe launch in Vienna

“In Austria we are not in heaven but we have senior attention on this topic which is good.” Quote overhead at Language Rich Europe launch in Austria referring to the attention that politicians pay to multilingualism.

The very successful launch event of the Language Rich Europe project in Austria was held in the historic buildings of the Diplomatic Academy on 19 June 2012. This was a particularly fitting location for the launch because of its long tradition of multilingualism. Dating back to 1753 the Diplomatic Academy was founded by Empress Maria-Theresia as the Oriental Institute, an educational institute where diplomats could learn foreign languages. The Empress had apparently been dismayed because she felt her diplomats’ language skills were insufficient and trade with the Ottoman Empire was suffering.

The Language Rich Europe event was a lively affair and well attended by around 60 participants from  organizations where multilingualism is recognized as an important social , commercial and educational topic. The guest list had been put together with much care in order to ensure that key Austrian figures in government, the public and private sectors, research, academic and NGO networks were informed and invited to attend. It was heartening to see partners involved in multilingualism from networks as varied as the Vienna Board of Education, the University of Vienna, the Österreichische Sprachenkomittee the Chamber of Labour, education think tanks and the Austrian Parents’ Association.

Martin Gilbert, Director Austria welcomed the participants and speakers and outlined the programme. He reminded participants of the aims of the Language Rich Europe project, especially the fact that the project has the relationship between prosperity and multilingualism in its strapline.  The link between Maria-Theresia’s 1753 Vienna and her desire to improve trade through multilingual diplomats and the project’s aims provided a nice bridge to the next two influential political figures who outlined federal and Viennese city policy positions on multilingualism.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior was represented by Michael Giradi and the City of Vienna was represented by Kurt Stürzenbecher, a member of the Vienna Provincial Parliament. Michael Giradi, Director of Communications in the Interior Ministry spoke briefly on the value of German and the value of multilingualism and on steps that the Austrian government takes to support multilingualism. He outlined the government position on multilingualism and painted a challenging and positive picture. Dr Stürzenbecher gave numerous examples of how the City of Vienna actively promotes multilingualism. Both speakers were positive and supportive of the  Language Rich Europe project.

Aneta Quraishy, the Senior Project Manager gave a lively presentation where she outlined the Language Rich Europe aims. This was followed by Professor Guus Extra from the Netherlands’ Tilburg University’s Centre for Studies of the Multicultural Society, then spoke for almost an hour giving an entertaining and inspiring review of the project. He emphasized that he was giving a “taster”. This proved to be an excellent approach as the material is quite complex. Professor Extra praised Austrian political support for the implementation of policies in multilingualism. All participants received packs with the Language Rich Europe results and Austria Country Profile. Professor Extra raised interest and awareness. After the event all participants also received an email with a link to the presentations and results that are held on the Austria British Council website. Here it is in case you are interested

After a coffee break that was full of networking and chatter, the second part of the event commenced. The aim was to create a workshop like atmosphere with significant audience involvement allowing participants to discuss and contextualize the results and contribute to the debate. A stated aim was that at the end of the discussion several themes would have emerged leading to topics for further workshops and input to the London Conference later in the year. The themes included early language learning, integration and language, tri-lingualism and teacher training. The discussion was led by Michael Wimmer,  Director of EDUCULT, and data collection partner for the project  in Austria. Feedback collected at the end of the event highlighted the effectiveness of the panel discussion. The panel was diverse in terms of gender, age, background and career. It consisted of Natasha Ghulan, a 19 year old law student who won the multilingual speech competition Sag’s Multi in 2011; Hans Staud, the owner of a successful company that actively promotes multilingualism; and Eser Akbaba, an experienced multilingual Austrian journalist from the Austrian Broadcasting Company (ORF).

I am going to finish this report with a series of quotes collected by a participant, Marlis Monsberger:

“In Austria we are not in heaven but we have senior attention on this topic which is good.“

“It is easier to be convinced than to be convincing.”

“Wien bekennt sich zur Vielprachigkeit.”

“If the mindset is not open to multilingualism – how can you make policies…”

“Mit mehreren Sprachen gehen mehrere Welten auf.”

“Wenn du eine Sprache sprichst bist du ein Mensch, wenn du mehrere Sprachen sprichst bist du mehrere Menschen und offener.“

“Coming from an international background is a privilege.“

“Nur wenn man die Muttersprache gut spricht, kann man auch gut Deutsch lernen.”

“Integration bedeutet Sprache und Kultur der neuen Heimat aufzunehmen ohne seine Wurzeln zu leugnen.“