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European Union Issues - Pan-European Language Issues

Language; June 2009


In March 2009, the Swedish Government put forward a proposal to reward immigrants who complete their Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) courses faster. Before implementing the proposal nationwide, however, the Government has asked the Institute for Labor Market Analysis to evaluate the plan by carrying out a pilot project in a limited number of municipalities.

The Institute has recently informed the Government it had picked 13 municipalities to participate in the trial, as well as an additional 15 municipalities to make up a control group.

Specifically, the programme would allow students who pass the most advanced level of SFI within one year to receive between 6,000 and 12,000 kronor ($780 to $1,550).

Participating municipalities will receive extra funding to support efforts to improve the quality of SFI courses as well as money to offer bonus payments to SFI students who meet the necessary requirements.

Municipalities in the control group, on the other hand, will only receive the quality improvement funds.

The list of proposed municipalities now goes back to the Government, which will have the final say on which municipalities are eventually chosen for the pilot project, which is expected to start in early 2010.

Source: The Local, News, June 11, 2009 by David Landes

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Language; June 2009


CILT, the National Centre for Languages, has decided to set aside one million pounds for a program that would encourage teenagers to learn foreign languages and thus help them compete in a globalized job-market. The Languages Employer Engagement project will see employers working with schools in England to demonstrate the relevance of languages and intercultural skills to business.

A recent survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed that the importance of languages to UK firms is set to grow as companies operate in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Seventy-two percent of UK international trade is with non-English speaking countries – but it is estimated that only one in ten British workers can speak a foreign language.

The announcement of the project, designed to tackle a decline in language take-up at GCSE1 follows news that the study of languages at University is low.

CILT's Chief Executive Kathryn Board said: "In the current economic climate, being able to speak more than one language will give school leavers a competitive advantage in the job market over monolingual English speakers, as well as the chance to take advantage of job opportunities in the EU and elsewhere in the world."

The two-year program, funded by the government's Department for Schools, Children and Families, will build on the success of CILT's Business Language Champions scheme, which has seen 150 businesses supporting languages in schools since 2004. Business Language Champions have come from a wide range of industries including engineering, retail, transport, sports, media and the charity sector.

1General Certificate of Secondary Education

Source: The National Centre for Languages, Latest News, June 11, 2009

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Language; June 2009


The Estonian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Margus Laidre, officially opened the first Estonian School in London on 30 May 2009.

In his opening speech, he stated that this was an important cultural and historical milestone; one of the most important events in the lives of Estonians in England since Estonia's re-independence in 1991. "The establishment of an Estonian School not only shows the vitality of the Estonian spirit here, but also that people still desire to preserve their language and culture while living abroad," said Laidre.

The Estonian School in London is an Estonian-language school founded by parents in the spring of 2009 with the support of the Estonian Embassy. It plans to begin regular lessons this fall for 3- to 14-year-old children twice a month. The lesson plans are based on Estonian state lesson plans and teaching materials. The children will be taught by qualified instructors who all have experience in working in Estonian schools.

The Estonian language had previously been taught in Estonian Houses in London, Bradford and Leicester. In London, language lessons and a children's nursery have been in place for years, and the children's summer camp held in Catthorpe in Central England will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.

Source: Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonian Review: 27 May - 2 June 2009

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Language; June 2009


Experts working with immigrant women say that illiteracy and a lack of Finnish language skills create many problems for them in daily life, including often that they do not understand their basic rights.

It is estimated that there are thousands of illiterate immigrants in Finland. They are unable to read or write, even in their native languages. Most are from Africa. With a sharp rise in the number applicants for asylum, it is probable that there will also be growing numbers of illiterate women.

Often, women who come to the country as refugees have no idea that physical abuse and violence in relationships is a crime. Some are not even aware that they have the right to work, if they want.

There are organizations that help immigrants with day-to-day matters, such as shopping. Most immigrant women take care of getting their children to and from school, although the children have to interpret in contacts with school authorities.

Source: YLE, News, January 24, 2009

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Language; May 2009


The European election website has made some of its promotional material available in Basque, Catalan and Galician, while the European Court of Justice has announced that it will now be able to deal with correspondence in the three languages.

These co-official languages in the Spanish State have had a special arrangement with the Parliament since 2005, again used only in correspondence. Currently, Basque and Catalan are often used in the Committee of the Regions, the Commission and the Council.

Only recently the Spanish Government has pledged that, following the European Parliament elections, it will propose that Catalan, Galician and Basque-speaking MEPs be able to use their languages in debates in the Parliament.

On 13 June 2005, following negotiations between the then 25 member states of the EU, its Council of Ministers approved a series of conclusions paving the way for community institutions and bodies to use languages other than those classified as official languages of the European institutions in a limited official capacity. This does not mean that they are recognized as official - a status only enjoyed by the 23 languages that currently appear in Regulation 1/1958, which remained unamended by the conclusions.

Source: Eurolang News, May 12, 2009 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; May 2009


Speaking at a Forum for Europe debate in Catalonia on 14 May, Jaime Mayor Oreja, Spanish conservative Partido Popular's (PP) lead-candidate for European elections, said that Catalan, Basque and Galician should not be official in the EU. According to him, these languages should be protected in the autonomous communities but they should not be official in the EU. He continued, saying that the "challenge" for Basques, Catalans, and Galicians was not to promote their own languages at the EU level, but to support Spanish. "It should be the second language in the EU", he said. He thinks that Spanish does not have the status it deserves at the EU level. Speaking to Eurolang, Catalan language expert Miquel Strubell underlined that Partido Popular, which has been in opposition in Spain since 2004, is widely regarded in Catalonia as being an opponent of the Catalan language. This helps explain Mr. Mayor's call for Galicians, Basques and Catalans to back Spanish in the EU and drop their claims to full official status for the co-official languages. Strubell says that this is in line with the current anti-linguistic diversity movement of Spanish nationalists.

"There's a full-blooded offensive to hispanify the whole of Spain - as was done in France with French - in the name of a freedom that only they have," said Mr Strubell.

Source: Eurolang News, May 25, 2009 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; February 2009


To help ensure successful integration into the German school system and to encourage the involvement of new immigrant parents, the city of Frankfurt developed the "Mama learns German - even Papa" program. The program first began in 1997 as a pilot in a Frankfurt suburb with the involvement of eight elementary schools. There are currently about 100 courses in Frankfurt am Main as a result of cooperation between the Frankfurt Office of Multicultural Affairs and the city schools and nurseries.

Through the "Mama Learns German - even Papa" program, the immigrant mothers and fathers of children in primary schools and kindergartens join their children in the classroom for two mornings a week. They learn German along with their children and so get a real insight into the lives that their children will be leading in their new country. The contents of the language classes are very much focused on the practical everyday words and expressions that the parents need to navigate their new life in Germany and to understand the activities of their children. It also forms the basis for cooperation between schools and parents. With lessons incorporated into the school day, parents are also relieved of the added burden of costly childcare.

The classroom provides a forum for the parents to connect, to discuss challenges and solutions and to find support and friends in an environment that is free from judgment and prejudice.

"The classes not only taught me enough German to find my way confidently around town and in stores, but also introduced me to other women who understood the challenges that my husband and I were facing with our relocation. After classes, we often sit and share our stories and find solutions together", explains Meera, who has been attending the classes for the past year with her five-year-old daughter.

All the schools that participated in the "Mama learns German - even Papa" program found that their students had demonstrated a significant improvement in their language and vocabulary skills as a result of the increased use of German in their homes and with their parents. Improved communication skills also enabled the children to participate more in school and in the playground - making both their education and social integration easier, more successful and more enjoyable.

After the success of the "Mama learns German - even Papa" program, Frankfurt began looking to extend the program into secondary schools, as well as exploring variations on the program to increase its accessibility. The program has also been expanded nationally.

One variation that has been developed is based on an Israeli home-visit language program called Hippy - "Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters". This program provides language training for both preschoolers and parents in the family home, thus reducing the isolation some new immigrants experience and increasing the ability of parents caring for more than one child to participate. Parents are visited once a week by a trainer who not only speaks their native language (which helps dissolve cultural barriers) but who also plays games with them to reinforce vocabulary and local customs as well as to discuss parenting issues such as health and nutrition. The parents then try to spend at least 15 minutes a day interacting with their children and the material.

Frankfurt has always boasted a highly international population. An estimated 38-40 percent of its population is foreign born, collectively representing over 170 countries of origin. This means one in three residents have a non-German passport. Since 1973, when Frankfurt founded Germany's first "language and training course for foreigners", the city has focused on the goal of ensuring that immigrants have sufficient German skills to participate equally in civil and social life. Innovative programs such as "Mama Learns German - even Papa" help ensure that this goal is achieved and promise a generation of children increased success for their academic future.

Source: Maytree Foundation, Cities of Migration homepage

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Language; January 2009


The Culture Council in Germany warns that German as a scientific language is dying, with most academics speaking at conferences and publishing their research in English. The days when the scholars of the world learned German so they could read the latest findings in science, engineering and the arts are long gone. In science today, only one percent of the papers published are in German, the Council adds.

The reason is an increasing number of foreign academics coming to Germany for research or conference purposes, which puts great pressure on German scientists to present and work in English, as many visitors arrive with either very basic or no German skills.

According to the Council, foreign guest professors coming to Germany to teach or to join research institutes were "under the impression they do not need to learn German, because English will do." This was because knowledge of German was not necessary in order to be able to communicate in university and non-university research establishments with German colleagues.

As well as making it easier to speak with foreign colleagues, German academics also prefer English to their native language when it comes to publishing their work. The Council therefore calls for the increased promotion of scientific publications in German.

It admitted its concern over the future of the language, saying that the loss of scientific German could lead to a loss at scientific thinking, because "science thinking is connected to language and culture". The fear, it added, was that German as an international scientific language could suffer in the long term.

Olaf Zimmermann, the Council secretary, noted that "upholding scientific German language has nothing to do with protectionism or nationalism." He also demanded that all academic conferences held in Germany be conducted in both English and German, not English alone. "It should be natural therefore that during international conferences in Germany, German should be one of the working languages."

Source: Deutsche Welle, News, January 31, 2009 by DW staff (nda)

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Language; December 2008


Aspiring migrants hoping to be reunited with their families in France are now required to take a French language test. But the French government has lowered its expectations and candidates are not actually required to pass it.

"I would like all family reunification program candidates to take a test demonstrating their basic knowledge of French in our consulates"; Nicolas Sarkozy was clear about what he wanted to do back in March 2007, while still a Presidential candidate.

Less than two years later, the programs have just been set up. Since December 1st, family reunification candidates from Morocco, Mali and Turkey have had to take a French language test to get a visa. The test includes questions about the French language and the ‘values of the Republic'. If they fail, candidates are required to take lessons in their home countries.

This measure, enforced by the French Immigration and Integration Ministry, led by Brice Hortefeux, has changed the basic philosophy guiding family reunification cases and has sparked criticism from immigrant rights groups.

The government was forced to back down on one crucial point: candidates do not actually have to pass the test to be accepted for the programs. But they do have to attend the compulsory forty-hour course.

Sarkozy's initial intention was to follow the Dutch example, where potential immigrants are required to pass a Dutch language and culture test taken in their home countries, at a cost of 350 euros.

A source close to the ministry stated, "At first France was going to copy the Dutch system and make a successful language test compulsory. But Hortefeux's team wanted to avoid falling under the Constitutional Council's jurisdiction, which protects the right to family reunification, as well as the critical Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects private and family lives. The Dutch model, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, is too controversial to be imitated."

Since the requirement to pass the test has been abandoned, politicians and organizations fear that the new measure is simply a drain on resources. "The only thing this does, in my opinion, is increase the red tape [in order] to dissuade immigration candidates," said Socialist senator Claudine Lepage.

According to speeches in 2007 by Sarkozy and Hortefeux, the government initially had two goals: to reduce immigrants coming in on family reunification programs; and to integrate them more successfully. "This project [...] is intended to reduce the dominance of family reunion cases [before the judiciary] and to reinforce the social integration of family reunification candidates," the Immigration Minister told parliament in September 2007, while defending the measure. In the March 2007 speech, Sarkozy had also linked the language tests to a fall in family reunification cases.

The discourse has however changed since then: Hortefeux now only talks about the integration of immigrants helped by French language lessons taken in their countries of origin.

This new measure has only delayed family reunifications by six months. "It should be known that the initial family gathering request already takes between six to 18 months. Because of adding the six months needed to pass this new French test and complete the course, families can now be separated for a year, even two years. That complicates an already prolonged process," notes Sarah Belaïsch of Cimade, a French NGO assisting refugees and immigrants.

Another concrete obstacle is whether immigrants have the means to take the language courses. Admittedly, the French course is free. But people still have to get to the venue where the courses are held over a two-month period. "What about those who live far from the big cities? Who will pay the transportation and living costs for candidates who live hundreds of kilometers away?" asks Kamel Djendoubi, director of AEFTI, a French organization that works on training courses for immigrant workers and their families; "All these [measures] are designed to dissuade candidates".

According to the diplomatic telegram sent to French embassies and consulates on 2 December 2008, several exemptions could be allowed, including where the candidate's resources or lack of resources make it impossible to take the language course; "In case of law and order problems, natural or technological disasters, acts of war or when the completion of the tests produces physical or financial constraints or compromises the safety of the foreign national, the visa applicant can be exempted from this requirement," the French Foreign Ministry states.

"The diplomatic or consular authority retains the right to consider the reality of the situation involved," says the circular, due to be published soon. Embassies and consulates will not have to justify the reasons for which they grant an exemption or not. "There are possibilities for exemption, not obligations for exemption. That leaves the course open to arbitrary decisions," says Belaïsch. "If the person does not have the means to complete the course, the sanction is heavy: a visa refusal," she says.

For the moment, the language course is free (a budget of 2,405,000 euros has been allocated for 2009). The ruling UMP party initially wanted to make applicants pay for the test – like the Dutch government requires. But Hortefeux resisted the idea, fearing it would be opposed by the Constitutional Council.

Source: France 24, News, December 19, 2008 by Priscille Lafitte

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Language; December 2008


Turks living in Germany accept German as the official language taught at schools throughout the country; nevertheless, they call for more Turkish courses.

A proposal introduced by Cem Oezdemir, co-chairman of the Green Party, to bring additional Turkish language courses into German schools has been welcomed by all members of the Turkish community.

For both the Turkish and German press, he commented that German must always be the most important language for children who live and grow up in Germany. On the other hand, he added that it was important to ensure that children with an immigrant background can develop their multilingualism and therefore more Turkish could be offered in schools in addition to English, French, Spanish and Russian.

"Oezdemir's proposal is nothing new but it is a fair demand. We have been defending this for 15 years. Turkish courses in German schools will help integration," Hakki Keskin, Turkish-born member of the German parliament, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish Federation in Berlin, noted: "Germans say multilingualism is important but they change their attitude when it comes to Turkish". Turkish courses are among optional language courses at schools in a few German states densely populated by Turkish immigrants but they are not taught as a mother tongue. Turkey's consulates in Germany also offer voluntary Turkish courses to Turks in evening classes separate from Germany's official school curriculum. This means the marks given by Turkish teachers in these courses are not directly reflected in the school reports of immigrant pupils.

"I have been critical of Turkish courses offered by the consulates from the very beginning. Turkey should not set aside extra funds from its budget to send teachers to Germany. Instead, the German government should offer Turkish courses," said Keskin. According to him, Turks in Germany do not oppose German being taught at schools as the official language but they want their language to be taught as a mother tongue and as one of the optional language courses after a certain age.

"Turkish immigrants have the right to learn their mother tongue. Just as the Europeans are pressing the Turkish government for Kurdish courses, so it should be with the Turks living in Germany," explained Keskin. Turkish representatives complained about the low interest in optional Turkish courses given at some German schools. "Turkish courses, also attended by Germans, start from "a-b-c", prompting Turkish pupils not to join the classes," said Kolat.

Source: Europe News (Hurriyet), December 2, 2008

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Language; December 2008


Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union vote, at their annual conference in Stuttgart, to add to the Constitution the phrase, "The language of the Federal Republic shall be German" triggered controversy and unease in Germany. Surprisingly, Angela Merkel and Maria Boehmer, Merkel's aide for liaison with ethnic minorities, opposed the resolution.

While party conference resolutions are not binding on party leaders, they do demonstrate political priorities. Observers said the move was likely to be seen as a show of sympathy not just for schoolteachers who complain that almost nobody speaks grammatically pure German nowadays, but also for right-wingers who fear foreigners are taking over.

Delegates denied that the move marked a resurgence of nationalism. Most said they just wanted Germans to become as proud of German as the French are of French and the Poles are of Polish.

"Language is the most precious jewel of culture. Why should not we protect it in the Constitution?" said Otto Wulff, who heads the CDU's national committee of retirees.

Pressure to assimilate?

Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community Association, said, "CDU politicians are pandering to a latent fear of migrants". He thinks that immigrants may interpret the idea as pressure to assimilate.

Kolat added that it was irrelevant to improve the status of German since it is used in government.

Some in the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is in coalition with the CDU in the Federal Government, poured scorn on the CDU idea; SPD education spokesman, Joerg Tauss, called the resolution "utter nonsense".

How about Turkish?

The debate about whether German is under threat was revived recently when the new co-leader of the Greens, Cem Oezdemir, who is of Turkish background but born and bred in Germany, called for optional Turkish-language courses in public schools. Conservatives were outraged, retorting that migrant children could not even speak German.

A group that believes well-spoken German is under threat, the German Language Society (VDS), welcomed the CDU's resolution. Its secretary said they hoped German would be better taught in German schools.

Source: Deutsche Welle, December 2, 2008

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Language; December 2008


Fear is mounting among Germans that their language is being eroded by waves of English and other foreign jargon.

Experts say there is a growing backlash against the widespread use of foreign terms in the age of globalization, technology and immigration; business leaders are getting tired of English "management speech", even though nowadays seven out of ten Germans speak some English.

German companies are starting to shy away from relying on English in their marketing slogans, after years of using the foreign language so often that sometimes their own customers did not know what they were talking about.

For instance, a slogan for the perfume-maker Douglas, "Come in and find out", became famous because most people thought it was challenging customers to come into the stores then try to find their way out again. Similarly, a satchel is often referred to in German by the English term "bodybag".

Roland Kaehlbrandt, author of the book "German for Elites", said that many people have decided to change the situation. "They are no longer taking seriously those companies that use only English. Germans are very open-minded and positive about everything that comes from outside, but there is a fear now that we may forget our own language and our own culture." He noted that after the war and during the Cold War, using English in West Germany, particularly under the influence of the US, was simply cooler than using German.

At least 60 percent of new words being used in Germany today are English. "That is too much," Mr Kaehlbrandt added. "It is not because of functionality. German is a very functional language but there is something from the past, which Germany unconsciously, I think, is trying to get rid of. They want to get rid of their heritage since the language is conceived as being linked to the crimes of the Nazis. But we have changed profoundly since then. And the German language is much older than the Nazis."

Walter Kraemer from the German Language Association, which claims 32,000 members and campaigns to protect German, said the country's science and industry were being damaged as Germans fell back on English jargon and technical terms, even when talking to other Germans.

"There is no way around English," said Mr Kraemer, an economist and statistician. "It may be the international language, but before people communicate, they have to be innovative, imaginative, creative; this cannot be done in a language other than their own. People think better in their own language. German science is suffering, therefore".

He said that when Daimler Chrysler was manufacturing cars in Stuttgart and using English in the factories, it had the highest product recall rate in the country, whereas Porsche, which uses only German language, had negligible recalls. For instance, Kraemer remembers a scientist colleague of his who did not even know the German word for cancer (Krebs in German).

Annette Trabold, a linguist at the Institute for German Language in Mannheim, which studies dialects and trends in German, said that all languages were fluid and therefore it was no surprise that Germany had absorbed so much English. But like other commentators, she noted that the long-held German instinct to flinch at the thought of appearing nationalistic was changing. This was being reflected in language just as it was in every sphere of life.

Source: The Telegraph, December 17, 2008 by David Wroe

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Language; December 2008


A controversial educational scheme that forced schools in Spain's Valencia region to teach compulsory citizenship classes in the English language has been dropped after a wave of protests from teachers and parents.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Spanish Socialist Government introduced the subject "Education for Citizenship" to the curriculum this year to replace the traditional religious studies of the Catholic Church.

But the Conservative Popular Party's regional government of Valencia, in Eastern Spain, had insisted the new course in ethics was taught in English, claiming it would enhance the trilingual policy of a region that has both Spanish and Valencian as its official languages.

School inspectors widely reported that students, who are taught the classes in the second year of secondary school, lacked sufficient language skills to follow the subject matter and it had become "practically impossible for teachers to do their job".

"We reject the regional government's attempt to impose such absurd and arbitrary obstacles in the path of teachers and schools trying to teach the Education for Citizenship course," concluded the School Inspectors' Association at their conference last month.

The regional government, which reportedly spent around 8 million Euros employing classroom translators, said it would review its policy and that the classes could be taught in either Spanish or in the official regional language, which is Valencian.

Source: The Telegraph, News, December 16, 2008 by Fiona Govan

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Language; November 2008


Finland's leading vocational education providers are unable to handle the demand for Finnish language courses for immigrants. The language courses are particularly in trouble now, where a course typically designed for 54 immigrant students often has 300-odd applicants, and subsidies for such courses are inadequate to meet the demand.

The Finnish Government and local authorities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area have belatedly recognized the problem and are promising to look into the issues surrounding immigrant training. Although there is no word on whether this action will include Finnish language courses, the likelihood is that there will be a general overview of vocational training for immigrants.

According to a report conducted by the Employment and Economic Development Center (TE-Center), in collaboration with the Employment Office, a system for recognition of an immigrant's previous professional skills and qualifications still needs to be developed. The same study found that immigrants are having a very challenging time trying to be proactive of their integration into society due to severe restrictions in personal service. There is a distinct lack of individual help for immigrants, despite a range of electronic tools that have been developed to suit the needs of employment services. The report states that most immigrants do not have the skill-set to use e-services, especially where these are presented only in the Finnish language.

In addition, there seem to have been failures amongst vocational adult education centers in keeping proper track of the numbers of immigrants applying for courses. The development of a computerized database system is planned to improve this process.

Indeed, tackling the queues for Finnish language courses is particularly important for everyone concerned; a working knowledge of Finnish is a prerequisite for the many immigrants wishing to integrate smoothly into Finnish society.

Still, immigrants who apply for government-organized work skills training courses for the first time usually can get into classes in less than six months. Where they wish to rejoin a class following a break in their studies, however, it is generally difficult to find a new class for them.

Source: The Helsinki Times, News, October 31, 2008 by Nicholas Whitehouse – HT and Antti Aimo-Koivisto - Lehtikuva

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Language; November 2008


At the Third Integration Summit, held in Germany on 6th November, participants acknowledged that education was the key to integration. All first-graders, including those with an immigrant background, should have a good command of German.

Maria Boehmer, Integration Minister, said that the government planned not only to augment language skills but sought also to halve the number of school drop-outs and increase education levels among immigrants.

Only 58 percent of day-care centers in the country offered language assistance for children of immigrant background, said Boehmer, adding that State Governments had already taken steps towards improving this statistic.

She also pointed to government-sponsored integration courses as a success story in the quest for improved integration among immigrants. Some 500,000 people had participated in them so far.

Emphasizing that "immigrants are a part of our society", German Chancellor Angela Merkel had invited roughly 140 representatives from various states, countries and immigrant organizations to attend the summit. She underlined the importance of setting concrete goals in integration politics; goals that can be easily measured.

Some immigrant groups said that progress was too slow. They expressed their disappointment with the results achieved, primarily pointing to a lack of educational opportunities.

Mehmet Tanriverdi, President of the Federal Association of Immigrant Associations, claimed the German Citizenship Test introduced in September, together with the limitations on the subsequent immigration of family members hoping to join their relatives in Germany, had hindered progress on integration.

Merkel refuted the criticism, saying that 98 percent of those who have taken the citizenship test since September had succeeded in passing it.

Olaf Scholz, the Federal Employment Minister, underlined the importance that education and qualification have in supporting integration.

Source: Deutsche Welle, News, November 11, 2008

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Language; October 2008


A group of Moderate Party politicians wants to change Sweden's current program for teaching introductory Swedish to newly arrived immigrants in favor of courses more closely linked to the job market.

Elisabeth Svantesson and Tomas Tobé, members of the party's working group exploring issues related to employment and integration, said the change was needed because now, in many cases, it takes too long until refugees and immigrants find themselves with any real connection to the labor market.

The working group is part of a wide effort by the Moderates to improve what it sees as a failed set of integration policies, which have made it difficult for immigrants to find work quickly and led to unnecessarily high levels of social exclusion.

In a set of suggestions, the Group outlines what it sees as an entirely new approach to the way Sweden helps immigrants learn the language of their adopted homeland. For the last forty years, immigrants to Sweden have been offered free, publicly funded, introductory language classes through "Swedish for Immigrants" (SFI). This programme has been long criticized for being ineffective.

In February 2008, Education Minister Jan Björklund and Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni detailed several SFI shortcomings, and proposed a major overhaul, including compulsory skill assessments, more money for teacher training, and rewards for students who perform well.

Tobé and Svantesson argue that tinkering around the edges of a failed program will not yield the desired results. They propose instead an entirely new approach, which emphasizes the importance of opportunities to learn job-related vocabulary in a workplace setting, as opposed to relying exclusively on passive classroom instruction.

"Being in an environment where you can meet other people who regularly speak Swedish can really help someone further develop his language skills," said Svantesson. In making their case for a new approach, the two cite statistics showing that less than one in three SFI enrollees ends up taking classes up to the highest level, whilst a third never receives a passing grade at any level.

They have dubbed their SFI replacement "Startsvenska (‘Start Swedish')", believing that "functional language training" will improve immigrants' chances of quickly learning the language and getting jobs. They say they are not entirely against classroom teaching, as learning the basics is important. On the other hand, they feel that just sitting in a classroom can be very isolating and does not allow immigrants any direct connection to the living language.

Their new proposal would also remove the monopoly currently held by Sweden's local authorities over how introductory Swedish language training is administered, leaving them instead as "one language education actor among many".

Currently, the proposal is in its early stages, with the next step being its airing in front of the Moderate Party's governing board.

Source: The Local, News, October 28, 2008 by David Landes

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Language; October 2008


Police officers are taking language lessons to help them communicate with Cumbria's growing Polish community. The ten-week course has been specifically tailored for the police to ensure they learn appropriate conversational language.

It has been designed by the County Council's multicultural service, which promotes racial harmony. Initially, 11 officers and Police Community Support Officers will take part, but if successful there will be further courses in the future.

Diversity officer for North Cumbria, PC Julie Dodd, said: "We have identified the need for officers to speak conversational Polish to break down barriers and forge positive links with our Polish community. By improving our ability to communicate we hope to improve the policing service we can offer the community."

Source: BBC News, October 9, 2008

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Language; September 2008


The Third Age Foundation was established in 2006 in Summerhill in County Meath and has provided language lessons for immigrants since then. The project involves older people who teach immigrants English.

More than 120 immigrants from countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Italy, Argentina, Moldova and China have participated in the project so far. Now it is likely to spread nationwide.

Immigrants attend weekly conversation classes that are practical, focusing on areas such as going to the doctor, shopping, filling in forms, or applying for jobs. More, the Foundation offers a homework club for children, so that parents can attend the classes.

Mary Nally, chair of the Foundation, said it was supported by local employers, with one supermarket organizing its roster to facilitate staff who wished to attend the evening classes.

Ms Nally added that there had been "huge interest" in the project from all over the country. Active retirement groups in Offaly, Dublin and Louth are already planning to start their own classes. The extension of the project across the State is being funded by Mr O'Brien's charitable foundation.

The Foundation has produced a teaching manual to help groups interested in beginning their own classes and a training and development officer has also been hired.

Source: The Irish Times, News, September 16, 2008

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Language; September 2008


"It is a paradox: there are more and more people speaking English nowadays, and at the same time it is harder and harder to find people who can provide qualified interpretation into and from English," said Commissioner Leonard Orban to journalists.

The increasing lack of English interpreters is a problem the Commission is trying to solve, in particular by promoting the acquisition of foreign languages through life-long learning programs.

The question of the predominance of English as a global language is an especially sensitive issue in the EU. The bloc has 23 official languages and 27 members, ranging from English-language states such as Britain and Ireland to countries that are fighting to limit the impact of English on their languages, such as France and Italy.

This situation has led to a surge in translation and interpretation jobs within the EU's institutions, as all press conferences with EU commissioners need to be interpreted simultaneously into all 23 languages, and all official documents have to be translated into them as well.

However, there is a widespread perception across Europe that native English speakers do not bother to learn other languages - putting the pressure on everyone else to learn English.

Orban carefully avoided criticizing the education systems in Britain and Ireland and instead highlighted joint projects with the British authorities "to raise the awareness of British citizens on how important it is to study foreign languages."

The EU's official goal is to have every EU citizen capable of holding a conversation in two foreign languages, in order to boost its economic competitiveness. According to Eurostat (EU's statistical office), the average secondary-school pupil in the EU studied 1.4 foreign languages in 2006. Luxembourgers were the most assiduous pupils, learning 2.5 languages each. The countries where pupils studied the fewest foreign languages (1.0 per pupil) were Great Britain, Ireland and Hungary.

Source: DPA, The Earth Times, News, September 18, 2008

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Language; September 2008


Commissioner Leonard Orban launched Communiqué entitled "Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment", which addresses languages in the wider context of social cohesion and prosperity.

By integrating multilingualism into a series of European Union policies and actions, the Communiqué aims to reflect the reality of the European Union, which is formed by more than 490 million citizens who nearly all have different language skills and different needs.

According to Leonard Orban "the harmonious co-existence of many languages in Europe is a powerful symbol of the European Union's aspiration to be united in diversity. With this Communiqué, we are prompting the EU Member States, local authorities and social partners to join forces and take action. Our inclusive approach takes into consideration the value of linguistic diversity in Europe, and its opportunities, as well as the more individual needs of learning languages to communicate efficiently."

The Union now has 23 official languages and over 60 more spoken in specific regions and countries or by specific groups. Globalization and immigration flows add further to the wide palette of languages in daily use by Europeans. According to the Commission press release, "Linguistic diversity is incontestably one of the most characteristic features of the EU, affecting the social, cultural and professional lives of its citizens as well as the economic and political activities of its Member States. This Communiqué sets out to respond to the challenges posed by this reality, and proposes an approach that advocates the inclusion of multilingualism across a whole series of EU policy areas."

The Communiqué invites EU Member States and the other EU Institutions to join forces to encourage and assist citizens to acquire diverse language skills. It explores issues such as: the role languages play in developing mutual understanding in a multicultural society; how language skills improve employability and ensure a competitive edge for European businesses; what to do to encourage European citizens to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue; and how the media and new technologies can serve as a bridge between speakers of different languages. It does not specifically tackle constitutional issues, regional languages, or the problems these languages continue to face. On the other hand, Commissioner Orban did re-affirm support for smaller languages at the press conference, albeit under the broader remit of promoting linguistic diversity.

The policy document, while not proposing any increase in budget, does propose to make the most of existing European programmes and initiatives in the fields of education, media, research, social inclusion and competitiveness, and foresees a review in 2012 of the progress made.

The Communiqué also calls for the establishment of platforms for civil society and businesses to enable the Commission to work more closely with the public in developing its multilingualism policies.

The Commission intends to review the success of the new strategy in 2012, when it "will decide whether any additional funds will be required in the next period". To this end, a permanent platform will be set up for the exchange of best practice on language policy between governments, business, NGOs, trade unions and academics.

The main objective of the Communiqué is to "raise awareness of the value of and opportunities in the EU's linguistic diversity and to encourage the removal of barriers to intercultural dialogue."

The European Parliament's Culture Committee will discuss the Communiqué on 6th October 2008.

Source: Eurolang News, September 23, 2008 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; August 2008


From September 1st 2008, people applying for Norwegian citizenship will have to prove their proficiency in the Norwegian language.

All persons aged between 18 and 55 who apply for Norwegian citizenship will have to document that they have successfully completed 300 hours of Norwegian language courses. Where they cannot do so, they will have to pass a language exam administered by Folkeuniversitetet or their local adult education program.

In addition to meeting the new language requirements, applicants must have lived in Norway for seven of the last 10 years. They must also give up their existing citizenship, have a clean police record and must pay a fee of NOK 2,500 upon delivery of their application. If citizenship is granted, the new Norwegians can participate in a citizenship ceremony, although it is not obligatory.

Source: Aftenposten, News, August 22, 2008

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Language; August 2008


The demand for the Finnish language courses in the Helsinki region has exceeded the available supply. The Uusimaa Employment and Economic Development Center says that immigrants applying for these courses have to wait about six months to get in.

For instance, Amiedu, an education center which arranges courses for immigrants, says that there were more than 300 applicants for its Finnish beginners' course this autumn. The course can accommodate only 54. The same problem has been growing in other educational institutions; there are not enough resources to satisfy all.

The Uusimaa Employment and Economic Development Center has increased language teaching for immigrants, but the center's education planner Anna-Liisa Tavi says that the Economic Development Center, as well as the employment offices of the Helsinki region and local educational institutions, all need more resources. "A project to develop a computerized reservation system, which will help us assess the need for language teaching in real time, is almost under way. But by itself that cannot fix anything. It should be clearly understood that we need people. Machines will not fix this."

The greatest demand in language teaching is for the beginners' courses, for which there is also the greatest supply. The more advanced the course, the more difficult it is for applicants to find a place.

Since early 2007, the Immigrant Services Unit of the Helsinki Employment Office has had between 65 and 80 applications each month from immigrants who are unemployed, who live on income supplement, who have lived in Finland for less than three years, and who want to take part in integration training. By law, a personal integration plan must be drawn up for each of them within two months, and only after that is it possible for them to apply for language teaching.

In addition to those taking part in the integration program, the number of immigrants who need other assistance is also increasing.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat – International edition - Metro, News, August 22, 2008

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Language; July 2008


Italian ministers should boycott EU meetings if they cannot use their language or if documentation is not provided in Italian – these are the instructions Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi has written to them.

He has called for more respect for all official languages within the EU institutions, not only for the three "procedural" ones (English, French and German).

Berlusconi also said that it was important to monitor language use at EU meetings and insisted that Italian ministers "should avoid participating in discussions or voting during informal talks of EU ministers unless working papers are available in Italian". He continued that ministers should take legal steps if irregularities in language use persisted.

Italy is not the only country that is fighting for the wider use of national languages within EU institutions. Countries such as France or Germany also complain, in particular about the increasing use and dominance of English. Even before France took over the EU Presidency in July, it was said that only proficient French-speaking journalists should attend the discussions in Paris; one of France's EU representatives was heard saying that "the French presidency will proceed in French".

Source: EU Observer, News, July 15, 2008 by Elitsa Vucheva

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Language; June 2008


Current regulations impose a five-year minimum wait for anyone wishing to become a Swedish citizen. Just recently, researchers Dan-Olof Rooth and Per Strömblad have proposed shortening the waiting period for newcomers if they manage to learn Swedish quickly: they think learning the language is a vital prerequisite for integration.

In a report commissioned by the government's Globalization Council, the researchers stress that the proposal would not lead to stricter rules for anyone seeking citizenship, but instead would provide an incentive for those wishing to speed up the process.

Both researchers say that "proof of proficiency in Swedish could consist of a test administered within the SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) system. Anyone wishing to test their knowledge of Swedish after a year, for example, can do so there; then if they pass, they can cite their grade when applying to become a Swedish citizen."

The Liberal Party has long argued that proficiency in Swedish should be a requirement for immigrants seeking to become Swedish citizens, an approach that has met with fierce criticism from much of the political establishment. Strömblad and Rooth argue that "the carrot may be a more effective method than the stick."

Source: The Local, News, June 8, 2008

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Language; June 2008


On June 11th, the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD), established in December 2007, was launched in Brussels to work for the promotion and development of Europe's less widely used languages.

The new network comprises the language departments of member states and autonomous governments, language NGOs, universities and research centers. They will be sharing best practice in language planning and development, and will together provide a powerful new voice as advocate on linguistic issues.

According to Meirion Prys Jones, NPLD Chair and Chief Executive of the Welsh Language Board, the NPLD project will unite language planning boards from across Europe – from both member States and autonomous Governments – for the first time, enabling their work with universities, research centers and NGOs to build and secure meaningful linguistic diversity in Europe.

Source: Eurolang News, June 10, 2008 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; June 2008


Leonard Orban, EU Commissioner for Multilingualism, and Zhang Xinsheng, Chinese vice-Minister for Education, launched an "EU Window" project through which 200 European schoolteachers and 400 headmasters will be sent to China over the next four years to help them improve their language skills and gain a better understanding of Chinese culture.

The first phase of the China-sponsored project (2009-2010) will involve summer training in China for 50 Chinese language teachers from EU member states and a ten-day study visit to the country for 100 European school headmasters and civil servants working in education.

Commissioner Leonard Orban complimented the Chinese Government on this initiative, saying it was an important step forward since the EU is China's number one trading partner. He also added that through improving language skills and gaining a better understanding of Chinese culture, new opportunities will open up for European citizens in the rapidly expanding Chinese market.

Source:, News, June 3, 2008

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Language; May 2008


In May, the Council of Europe celebrates the tenth anniversary of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the first-ever European treaty on minority languages.

A total of 23 European states have signed and ratified the Charter but there are still ten states, including Italy, Greece, Russia and Poland, which have not ratified it.

In a press statement to mark the tenth anniversary, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, defended the importance of the Charter, saying that it's "designed to protect and promote regional and minority languages, both as a key aspect of cultural heritage in Europe and to allow minority-language speakers to use their language in private and public life."

Davis also emphasized that minorities are an integral and essential part of Europe's mosaic and that therefore we must not only tolerate them, we must respect them.

He ended up by saying that "the extent to which the majority protects and promotes the rights of the minority – and that includes the opportunity to use their language - is a measure of the level of democratic development in a particular country."

Source: Ciemen Nationalia, News, May 19, 2008; and Eurolang News, May 19, 2008 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; May 2008


The organization Human Rights Watch claims that the examination, which many putative migrants to the Netherlands must take in their home countries to prove an adequate knowledge of Dutch language and culture before their arrival is discriminatory.

Non-Western migrants such as Turks and Moroccans have to sit the exam, while immigrants from the European Union, Japan and the United States are exempt. Human Rights Watch says it appears that the Netherlands wants to keep certain groups out.

The exam, which was introduced in 2006 by former Integration Minister Rita Verdonk, costs EUR 350. The number of applications from Turkey and Morocco has dropped substantially since its introduction.

Source: Expatica Netherlands, News, May 15, 2008

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Language; May 2008


Teachers in Northern Ireland are calling for additional resources, as it emerges that the number of pupils in schools whose first language is not English has gone up by more than 300 percent in just six years.

Figures released by the Department of Education show that 5,665 pupils currently in schools have significant difficulties with the English language and require additional support, compared to the 1,366 pupils in the 2001-02 school year.

Schools suffer not only financially but also from the current shortage of teachers qualified in English as an additional language. They say this is another area that must be addressed if migrant children are to be given quality education.

Source: The Belfast Telegraph, News, May 26, 2008 by Kathryn Torney

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Language; May 2008


Just recently, the Conservatives unveiled their plans to deny immigrant workers and foreign-born citizens benefits if they struggle to speak English and do not accept language lessons.

Chris Grayling, shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, plans to set out the party's detailed proposals for tackling unemployment. He argues that the employment rate for some ethnic minority groups is below the national average, citing language barriers as one of the factors.

Therefore, speaking English will be an essential requirement, with job centers and voluntary groups offering language lessons to those whose prospects are hampered by an inability to communicate.

Source: The Telegraph, News, May 26, 2008 by Rosa Prince

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Language; April 2008


Official figures disclosed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families show that more than 800,000 schoolchildren in the UK do not speak English as a first language.

14.4 percent of children aged five to eleven speak languages other than English at home – compared with 13.5 percent a year ago – making 470,080 pupils. In secondary schools, there are 354,300 pupils with English as a second language, an increase from 10.6 to 10.8 percent.

The figures disclose that English-speaking primary school pupils are in the minority in 14 local authorities. For instance, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets only 23 percent of pupils have English as their first language.

In Inner London primary schools, children with English as their first language are also in the minority. One primary school – Newbury Park in East London – teaches children who speak more than 40 languages, including Tamil, Swahili, Bengali, Cantonese, Spanish, Japanese and Russian.

Teachers warn that large concentrations of pupils coming from immigrant families with insufficient or poor levels of English are hampering their capacity to provide all children with a decent standard of education. Similarly, as in November 2007, they call for extra funds to meet extra educational demands on schools suffering from the recent influx of children of migrant background.

According to official figures, the number of pupils speaking other languages has increased by a third since the main expansion of the European Union in 2004, going from 10.5 percent to 14.4 percent. It was also disclosed that increasing numbers of pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Source: The Telegraph online, News, April 30, 2008 by Graeme Paton

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Language; April 2008


The European Commission hosted a public hearing on the place and role of languages within the EU on April 15th. The event ended a wide-ranging public consultation on multilingualism launched at the end of 2007 that had gathered the opinions of individuals, businesses, expert organizations and policy makers on the Commission's policies and activities regarding multilingualism.

The consultation, which was carried out online between September and November 2007, proved to be one of the most popular public surveys ever accomplished on EU policies. The Commission is now seeking to adapt its policies and actions in the area of languages in order to reflect the reality of a European Union with over 450 million citizens and around 60 different mother tongues.

With regard to the consultation process, Leonard Orban, European Commissioner for Multilingualism, said that this was the first time that citizens from all EU member states have been invited to discuss multilingualism. He affirmed that regional or minority languages should "not be neglected just because they don't have official status" and that the Commission's multilingualism policy is "able to create a structure for all to participate in."

The results of the online consultation were presented at a public hearing, which included some debate with the Commission on issues of multilingualism.

Most respondents to the online survey shared the views that:

  • The linguistic diversity of the EU is an asset to be safeguarded;
  • The media should promote an intercultural society model, focusing on tolerance, not on confrontation; and that
  • The costs related to working in 23 official languages (along with some use of Basque, Catalan, Galician and Welsh) are worth paying.

Participants of the public hearing welcomed the opportunity to discuss the consultation's findings and expressed their support for linguistic diversity and in particular for less widely used languages, including suggesting that the EU be able to sanction Member States that infringe linguistic rights.

Although a lot of encouraging points had been made by the Commission, around one third of delegates voiced their concerns over some of these lesser-used European languages. It was pointed out that while regional or national minority languages are spoken by over 10 percent of the EU's population, they receive less than 1 percent of EU funding and this should be increased.

Jacques De Decker, the permanent secretary of the Belgian Royal Academy of French Language and Literature, said that regional or minority languages are "an example of plurality" and that the EU "should not let any languages die out", adding that "we have the ability to save all languages."

In the end, Commissioner Orban reiterated his strong support for the promotion of less widely used languages, outlined current support, and underlined that they would be prioritized again in forthcoming funding proposals.

The outcome of the discussions will feed into a new Commission Communication to be adopted in September this year, the purpose of which will be to discuss and help define the role of language in an increasingly multilingual Europe.

Source: Eurolang News, April 18, 2008 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; April 2008


Fifty MEPs and representatives of eighteen European regions sent a petition to Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban calling for German to remain on an equal footing with English and French as an EU procedural language.

The petition says that all documents, websites and publications by EU institutions should be in German. It calls for recruitment to the institutions to reflect linguistic diversity better; and requests that more funding be made available to promote the use of German, which is claimed to be spoken in many European countries.

The three procedural languages of the EU are English, French and German. French has historically enjoyed a privileged position in the EU institutions but its prevalence has been steadily undermined by English.

The Commission welcomed the move, as it would "any other initiative to promote languages," highlighting the "privileged nature" of German as one of the three EU procedural languages. The Commission did not therefore see that extra consideration was needed.

Expressing his support for the initiative, Martin Kotthaus, a spokesperson of the German Permanent Representation to the EU, said that the range of countries and regions in which German is spoken made it "the EU's most widely-spoken mother tongue." He felt it was therefore highly important that it was used adequately within the EU institutions. Similarly, German Foreign Ministry officials strongly welcomed the initiative, stating: "The Federal Government often and actively campaigns for the position and the use of German within the EU institutions to be strengthened and in general supports the concept of multilingualism in the EU."

The Commission is set to present a new strategy for multilingualism in September this year. Nevertheless, German MEP Michael Gahler, a member of the delegation that presented the petition to the Commissioner, noted that the implementation of a multilingualism policy would not be an easy task, as its success would depend on how the member states react.

Meanwhile, the Commission is speaking to the German and other EU governments about how to improve translation results and guarantee the sustainability of its language regime within budgetary limits.

Source:, News – Languages and Culture, April 11, 2008

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Language; March 2008


A new language initiative has taken effect in Kent – an interpreting service is helping firefighters tackle language problems encountered in their work.

All Fire and Rescue Service appliances now carry a special Language Identification Card, which allows limited-English speakers to identify their native tongue. Then through a free-phone telephone number, crews are able to use the Telephone Interpreting Service (an interpreter is available in less than 60 seconds) to communicate with them.

The service can interpret in over 170 languages and can be accessed via a homeowner's telephone line.

The primary aim of this service is to help in circumstances when crews and community safety staff are facing difficulties talking to people with a limited knowledge of the English language.

Source: Your Canterbury online, Local News, March 25, 2008

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Language; February 2008


The Ministerial conference held on 15 February 2008 concluded that the basis of the EU's multilingualism strategy is to encourage European citizens to learn two foreign languages. The conference gathered government ministers from all EU member states under the joint chairmanship of the European Commission and the Slovenian EU Presidency. It was the first time ministers have convened specifically to discuss multilingual policy at EU level.

The conference was set up to "identify areas where further action on languages is needed at both national and EU levels" and aimed to define common actions to be taken over the next three to five years. The Commission expects to use the results of the conference as the basis for its Communication to the Parliament and the Council proposing a comprehensive language policy to be published during 2008.

The new strategy would address the sustainability of EU language policy following the 2004 enlargement. It would also attempt to bring national identity, cultural and business issues - as well as those related to the integration of migrants - together into a comprehensive policy.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Orban supported a 'personal adoptive' language proposal contained in the report of the Group of Experts and reiterated that speaking two foreign languages in addition to the mother tongue should be the goal for all EU citizens.

A second, 'personal adoptive' foreign language could be a means of discovering the culture, history and literature of the country in which the language is spoken, he said. The second foreign language would complement a first one most likely acquired for professional reasons.

Ministers emphasized the central role played by the mother tongue in preserving the cultural identity of national minorities and immigrants, and that of the host language in promoting societal integration. Commissioner Orban said that preserving the mother tongue "enhances the self-image" of young immigrants in the host country.

The ideas put forward at the conference will be included in the conclusions on multilingualism to be adopted by ministers during May's Council meeting.

Source: Eurolang News, February 24, 2008 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; January 2008


The European Commission (EC) has recently made its 'Translation Memory' available to the public online. Containing more than a million terms and phrases and including sentences and terminology from legal documents covering technical, political and social issues, the data is available in 22 of the 23 official languages within the EU (for the 23rd official EU language, Irish, documents are not translated on a regular basis).

It was made publicly accessible shortly after Eur-Lex and IATE, the EU's documentary and terminological databases, were made freely available in 2007.

According to Leonard Orban, the European Commissioner for Multilingualism, this move shows that the EC intends to develop language technology, support multilingualism and make computer-assisted translation easier, cheaper and more accessible. It should be noted, however, that this service is limited to official EU languages and excludes minority tongues such as Catalan, Galician and Breton, among a great many others.

It is also worth noting that the EU is one of the most multilingual international bodies, due to the requirement that EU laws be written in each of its 23 official languages. Its translation services work with 253 possible language pair combinations and generate over 1.5 million translated pages a year.

Source: Linguamón, News, January 25, 2008

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Language; January 2008


The debate on the political crisis in Belgium and the unlikely, yet much discussed, possibility of the country splitting, has focused exclusively on the disagreements between the two main linguistic areas, French-speaking Wallonia and Flemish-speaking Flanders.

However, since the early 1960's, Belgium has in fact been divided into four linguistic regions; not only Wallonia and Flanders but also the bilingual Brussels-capital region and the German-speaking area in the East Cantons.

While Brussels is sometimes left out of the debate over the Belgium's future due to its bilingualism and its status as an international city, the East Cantons inhabited by the German minority seem to be ignored altogether when it comes to discussing the linguistic and cultural divide.

Since 1973, the region has had its own parliament in its capital city, Eupen, and control over linguistic and cultural matters. The parliament organizes elections, supervises the regional government, and adopts decrees for the German-speaking community. The East Cantons also have committees charged with governing areas such as education, social policy, health and employment. The region remains part of French Wallonia and is, therefore, supervised by the Walloon parliament. Nevertheless, the position of the German-speaking community in the Belgian federal state and its culture are protected by constitutional law.

It is not surprising that there are some in the East Cantons who have themselves expressed a desire for the kind of autonomy favored by the more extreme elements on either side of the main linguistic divide. A small but growing number have been voicing their support for an independent mini-state.

As is the case in the rest of the country, however, this is not a view shared by the whole German-speaking minority.

Source: Deutsche Welle, News - Europe, January 28, 2008 by Nick Amies

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Language; December 2007


Native Germans fear that a new variant of the German language, which has evolved with its own grammar and rhythm in multicultural urban areas, might pose a threat to the standard language. Dubbed an "ethnolect" and used primarily amongst teenagers, particularly those of immigrant background, it is frequently described in the media as a social problem. Linguists, however, say that fears in Germany that it might have a negative impact on standard German are unfounded.

Professor Heike Wiese, a linguist at the University of Potsdam, says this phenomenon has been observed not only in Berlin, the capital, but also in other German cities, from Regensburg to Hamburg.

Wiese also describes this German as characterized, amongst other things, by the omission of particles and prepositions in certain contexts and a certain grammatical economy. For example, instead of saying 'Ich gehe in die Schule' (I go to school), they would say 'Isch geh Schule' (I go school).

It's also sprinkled with Arabic and Turkish. Words such as Yalla (Arabic for let's go), Wallah (a compressed form of the Arabic for by Allah which is used to mean "really") and lan (short for Turkish "ulan" and used to mean "guy" or "dude") are frequently featured.

It is also important to note that some of these teenagers can only speak this ethnolect. As Heike Wiese points out, this is not a threat to the German language, but a problem for the young people in question and German society at large. "For the young people themselves and for the society that loses them because they cannot participate in society and have fewer chances professionally it is a huge problem," she said.

Just how enduring this phenomenon is likely to be is hard to predict. Wiese believes that, like most language variants spoken by teenagers, it will probably die out fairly quickly. Inken Keim, Professor at the University of Mannheim and a researcher at the Institute for German language, believes that it could establish itself, but only if people from ethnic minority backgrounds remained in areas with a high concentration of non-native speakers for the next thirty years or so.

Similar phenomena have been noted elsewhere in Europe. Whereas in Britain no single overarching multilingual ethnolect appears to exist, they have been detected in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, in areas with a high density of migrants. According to Inken Keim, these European ethnolects even seem to share some common features - despite differences because of variations in the languages involved. But it is not yet possible to say for sure. Academic research into this whole area is still in its early days - both in Germany and abroad.

Source: Deutsche Welle, News, December 8, 2007 by Julie Gregson

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Language; December 2007


The Irish Government is reportedly planning to make immigrants sit English language tests if they want to become Irish citizens.

Legislation setting minimum standards of English, as a requirement for gaining citizenship, should be published in 2008. At present, immigrants can apply for citizenship without any language requirement if they have been living in Ireland for five years.

Source: The Belfast Telegraph, December 17, 2007

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Language; December 2007


At the end of October, Hounslow City Council recognized Sinhala as one of its official languages.

This is the first time that Sinhala has been recognized outside Sri Lanka by any country or city. Around one million Sinhala people living in Hounslow may now use their mother tongue in official business.

The responsibility of the City Council is to provide translators and interpreters for the benefit of Sinhalese living in the city of Hounslow. Hounslow Urban Council must now take responsibility also to supply Sinhala-language books to libraries.

Hounslow is recognized internationally as one of the cities in which the greatest number of Sinhalese live outside Sri Lanka.

Source: The Sunday Observer, December 9, 2007 by Panchamee Hewavissenti

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Language; December 2007


In compliance with the Swiss law, all foreigners wanting to obtain Swiss citizenship have to take a German language course as part of the process.

A ridiculous instance has arisen in the Swiss town of Dielsdorf, where 70-year-old Ulrich Kring, a German national who has lived in Switzerland his entire life, has applied for a Swiss passport, only to be ordered to take a language course. Despite being German and speaking German, he must pay 250 Swiss francs (152 euros, $222) to attend a German-language course before he can be considered for a passport.

The Dielsdorf authorities are standing firm, saying that the class is obligatory and that the town will not make an exception for the German national.

Kring, on the other hand, has lodged an appeal against the decision with a higher local authority, as he did not count on the inflexibility of the Swiss bureaucratic system.

Source: Deutsche Welle, News – From the Fringe, November 15, 2007

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Language; November 2007


With no government since the June election, the Belgium political crisis has recently worsened over the debate on splitting up the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde electoral region. Flemish members of Parliament have voted in favor of a law that prevents French speakers from voting in the Flemish-speaking periphery of Brussels. Francophone commentators say this will block some 120,000 Francophone votes.

The vote prompted French-speaking delegates to walk out of the coalition negotiations, which were being led by Yves Leterme (Flemish Christian Democrat), the election winner. Didier Reynders, leader of the French-speaking Liberal Reform Movement, stated that the so-called "Belgian pact" - which calls for mutual respect amongst the different communities and minorities of this three-part Federal state - had been smashed.

On 13 November 2007, the Belgian King Albert II gave his two Parliamentary Presidents a week in which to come up with proposals on how to organize a dialogue between the Flemings and Francophones on preparing state reforms.

The King met with the President of the Chamber of Representatives, Herman Van Rompuy (Flemish Christian democrat) and the Senate President, Armand De Decker (Francophone liberal), hoping that some kind of trust could be established between the two language communities.

The King also asked Mr. Leterme to continue his mandate and strive to form a government coalition, on the basis of the so-called "Blue Orange coalition" (Christian Democrat and Liberal).

Furthermore, the King is also considering the possibility of setting up a "committee of wise men" to re-establish a dialogue between the two linguistic communities. The main problem for French-speaking Wallonia is the Flemish demand for more regional powers in areas such as justice, transport, employment and social security, which if granted the Francophone parties say would render the Belgian State meaningless.

Further fuel has been added to the fire by an opinion poll published in Liberation that shows a majority in France in favor of Wallonia joining France, whereas, according to Flemish VRT News, 45 percent of Dutch favor a Flemish merger with the Netherlands.

Source: Eurolang News, November 14, 2007 by Davyth Hicks

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Language; November 2007


A research paper entitled 'The role of ethnic discrimination in migration from Eastern Europe', conducted by the Global Economic Policy Center (GEP) at the University of Nottingham, has been released recently. The research used Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia as a case study.

The research results have shown that Russian speakers are more likely to emigrate to Britain or other Western European countries because their mother tongue is not officially recognized by the state.

Dr. Tom Ivlevs, a GEP economist and an author of the paper, said that research in Latvia revealed that rather than being forced to learn the state language, many Russian-speaking Latvians would prefer to move to another country offering better prospects — and learn a language like English instead.

He also added that to a large extent, the example of Latvia could be generalized over other A8 countries1 with significant minority communities. Even minor discrimination of any character, be it ethnic, linguistic, racial or religious, may lead to higher rates of emigration amongst minority representatives and in certain cases amongst the most skilled members.

This is also the case in Latvia - the problem is that only one language is recognized in the labor market, especially in the public sector, and that is Latvian. Dr. Ivlevs said that when minority students graduate, they are highly skilled but also highly motivated to move elsewhere because their mother tongue is not recognized in the workplace.

For instance, a study conducted in 2005 found that ten percent of Latvia's estimated 2.3 million residents expected to emigrate from the country. According to Ivlevs, among those studied in the productive 35-44 year age group, Russian speakers were more than twice as likely to want to emigrate as native Latvians.

Ivlevs believes that if the A8 countries do not want to suffer a "minority brain-drain" and if they want to limit migration, they should introduce more efficient minority integration policies for their ethnic and linguistic minorities so that these people feel less discriminated against.

1The A8 countries are those Eastern European nations that joined the EU in 2004: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Source:, November 30, 2007

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Language; November 2007


The Bar Council, a representative body of lawyers in England and Wales, has released a report that suggests, among other points, that more rigorous English language testing should be brought in for overseas students who apply for the bar vocational course (BVC) in the UK. The Bar Council said most course providers admit students with a poor knowledge of English.

The BVC is highly regarded in many countries, and a large number of overseas students travel to the UK complete it, but the Bar Council said students with poor English are holding up progress in seminars and small group teaching sessions. They believe that the introduction of a tougher and more effective language test would solve the problem.

Source: BBC News, November 27, 2007

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SWEDEN Language; October 2007


Whilst in many countries there is a wide range of options for foreigners to learn the local language, the system in Sweden is very much focused on the free, public, "Swedish for Immigrants" (SFI) course.

The SFI course has been around in Sweden for more than 40 years. It is funded by the state and administered by local municipalities. Consequently, the quality of the education varies very significantly among different municipalities.

In general, the primary aim of the course is to promote a basic understanding of the Swedish language and society. Nima Sanandaji1, however, says that it does not reach its goals satisfactorily.

Only around half of the immigrants entitled to attend SFI actually start the course, he finds. Of these, only a third actually finish the course the same year. A number of international studies have revealed, moreover, that although language skills are very good among native Swedes, they are poor among many Swedish immigrants. The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions concludes that even students who pass the higher levels of SFI do not necessarily have adequate language skills for further education or for the labor market.

Studies have also shown that poor Swedish language skills are hindering immigrants from entering the labor market – immigrants need to have at least basic language skills before they can find a job.

And when it comes to promoting a basic understanding of Swedish society, Sanandaji says, the SFI does so in a very politicized way. Many books used as course literature by SFI are full of references to the wonders of socialism, Swedish social democracy and the benefits of having strong labor unions.

According to him, there is a lot to improve in the SFI if the course is to reach its goals of teaching basic language skills to newcomers and promoting understanding of the Swedish society from an apolitical perspective. Today many foreign professionals are able to learn Swedish at work, but the situation for the many immigrants from developing countries is much bleaker.

Source: The Local, Opinions and Analysis, October 17, 2007

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Language; October 2007


The UK Government has launched a new, work-focused, English language course for migrant workers. The new "English for Speakers of Other Languages for Work Qualifications" courses are intended to give learners practical English skills in key workplace matters, such as a customer service, health and safety. Their primary aim is to help migrant workers to integrate into the workforce and the community as quickly as possible.

The launch of these work-focused qualifications comes in the wake of a government decision to end the right to free classes for migrants, which came into force last month. Ministers want to focus language provision on people who have been given permanent leave to remain in the UK and who can contribute to the economy.

The cost of courses will be part-funded by the Government - the students or their employers will have to pay £330 and the remaining £550 will be subsided by the Government.

Source: The Times Online, October 17, 2007 by Alexandra Frean

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Language; October 2007


In the last four years, the number of students in primary and secondary state schools learning English as an additional language (EAL) has rapidly increased to just under 800,000. It means that about twelve percent of the school population now requires EAL teaching, rising to 50 percent in inner London.

As a result, schools are looking for novel approaches – this year Resource Education has launched "Talk-to-Talk" educational software that allows pupils to learn Math and Music in Gujarati, Polish, Punjabi, and Urdu, and compare it with English tuition.

While the Government recommends that schools get children learning English as quickly as possible, developing their mother tongues has also shown positive results in developing their English. For instance, several schools in the UK with large Pakistani community have included Urdu in their curricula as a modern foreign language, instead of French or German. These courses are aimed at fluent English speakers with social, cultural and family links to Pakistan and Muslim India, but teachers say that it has also helped new arrivals from the subcontinent.

The Feversham College in Bradford also takes new arrivals with poor English out of class to provide them with EAL tuition, but increasingly, the Government is looking to integrate EAL at least at primary level.

Between 2004 and 2006, 20 schools took part in a pilot scheme that integrated EAL teaching into regular classes. Under the scheme, consultants taught standard primary-school teachers how to integrate EAL into lessons. It has had some success; English skills improved significantly, and not just for EAL children, also for their native peers. On the other hand, the scheme has failed to help children with poor English improve in Math and Science.

Many schools continue to give EAL lessons to students. Whether the schools' best course is EAL delivered through regular lessons or through specialist teaching, everyone agrees on its importance.

Source: The Independent, October 4, 2007 by Nick Jackson

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Language; September 2007


The Junior Minister responsible for integration issues has said he wants to see fluency in English influencing any application for Northern Irish citizenship.

Conor Lenihan was speaking following calls by the Immigrant Council for more English courses to help immigrants overcome language barriers.

Whilst accepting such calls, he seeks to introduce a new system where competence in English would have greater influence in citizenship or residency applications.

Source: The Belfast Telegraph, September 11, 2007

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Language; September 2007


This month the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has announced new rules under which thousands of migrant workers from outside the EU will have to pass English tests before they can enter Britain.

The new English language requirement was revealed at the annual Trade Union Congress conference as part of a range of measures intended to overcome fears that cheap foreign labor is undermining job security for the British workforce.

This policy will make it more difficult for non-EU migrants to enter the British labor force by tightening language requirements.

Under the Government's new points scheme, migrant workers are split into three categories – highly skilled, skilled and low skilled. Of these, only the highly skilled and skilled categories are permitted to seek permanent residence in Britain.

Currently, highly skilled immigrants - those that come to Britain under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) - must show that they can speak proficient English. The new rule, if implemented, would extend that requirement to skilled workers seeking work permits under the new system. The requirement, however, cannot be imposed on EU citizens, who enjoy freedom of movement.

Applicants will be required either to pass an internationally recognized English test or prove that they have learned English from a recognized institution in order to qualify for a work permit.

The government estimates that 35,000 of the 95,000 skilled migrants who entered Britain last year would not have been able to show they could speak the language.

On the other hand, Owen Tudor of the Trades Union Congress has said this language requirement is discriminatory, because it only applies to workers from outside the European Union. He says it is important for all foreign workers to learn English so they can integrate into society and understand health and safety signs at work. In his view, keeping some people out and letting some people in on the basis of their knowledge of English will not contribute to the development of community cohesion.

Tudor would rather see the government restore funding for teaching English to foreigners, which has been cut by the Government.

The British Government is also reviewing whether the new restrictions should be extended to low-skilled workers, such as fruit pickers, even though they are not allowed to settle permanently in Britain. The new rules have a handful of exemptions, including for international soccer players signed by Premier League clubs, who will be exempted for "practical reasons".

Source: The Guardian, September 21, 2007 by Max de Lotbiniere

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Language; September 2007


The Government has announced more than forty measures to improve the foreigners' integration into Swiss society; they have highlighted languages and education as a priority.

According to the Government, linguistic skills are the basis for success at school and in work; therefore, they have decided to invest an additional 2.6 million SFR in this area. Christoph Blocher, Justice Minister and a member of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, said that language is the key to integration and in this respect the Government, cantons and communities have to work together to achieve improved integration of foreigners into society.

The People's Party has been pointing out that an ability to speak one of the national languages (German, French or Italian) should be linked to the grant of a person's residency permit - if they fail to improve their language skills by a certain date, it should result in their permit being withdrawn.

The Government have emphasized that immigrants have a personal responsibility to get to know Swiss habits and norms as well as to learn a national language.

The political reaction to the government's announcement was less welcoming.

The center-right Radical Party said the measures were not sufficient to cope with future integration policies. They would like to see a "potential approach" – that takes into consideration the potential of every individual - instead of the current "reactive and selective" strategies.

The center-right Christian Democratic Party said the proposal provided no way to tackle discrimination against immigrants in the hunt for jobs and housing.

The Social Democrats said the measures did not bring anything new to the table. In their opinion, the central principle should be "integration from the very beginning", involving not only language courses but also events set up by the authorities to provide information and contacts.

Source: Swiss Info, News, August 22 and September 11, 2007

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Language; September 2007


The European Commission has launched a Have Your Say corner and an on-line consultation on multilingualism.

Over the past three years, the number of languages spoken in the European Union has more than doubled: 23 are recognized as official languages, and there are over 40 more spoken by regional/national or ethnic minorities. This linguistic diversity is one of the most characteristic features of the Union, affecting the social, cultural and professional lives of its citizens.

The Commissioner for Multilingualism, Leonard Orban, said that in order to define the best way forward for the EU policy on multilingualism, the Commission must understand the needs and expectations of EU citizens, stakeholders, companies and member states.

So far, the consultation on multilingualism has included dialogue with governments and authorities from member states, and also with multilingualism experts, intellectuals and corporations. It asks 16 questions and runs to November 15 2007. The results will be made available in the first half of 2008.

It explores issues such as:

  1. What means exist to safeguard the place of lesser-spoken languages against a trend towards a "lingua franca"?
  2. What role can language play in integrating migrants into society?
  3. Are the costs of a multilingual EU administration worth paying?

On the European Day of Languages (26 September), Commissioner Orban also opened a "Have your say corner" on his commission website, thus allowing European citizens to contribute their views to the Commission and to debate questions related to languages.

Source: European Commission website, Press Releases, September 26, 2007

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Language; August 2007


At the end of July, the Commissioner for Multilingualism, Leonard Orban, visited France to lay the groundwork for establishing co-operation on multilingualism ahead of the French EU Presidency, which begins in June 2008.

Commissioner Orban highlighted three key policy areas for 2007-2008, namely to support competitiveness, growth and employment with multilingualism. For him, it is important to promote foreign-language education in all EU member-states so that each European citizen speaks at least two languages apart from their mother tongue. At present, about 56 percent of Europeans speak only one language.

Bearing in mind the year 2008 already designated as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, Orban also said that he was aware of France's dissatisfaction with the "growing prevalence of English as an official working language to the detriment of French".

Source:, July 27, 2007

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Language; July 2007


A study by the Regional Language Network West Midlands (RLN WM), which helps companies to overcome language barriers, has revealed that Polish is now the most common language after English in West Midlands companies.

At companies where English is not the first language for all staff, 35 percent employ Polish speakers. This compares to 16 percent of companies with French-speaking employees or speakers of Asian languages, and 11 percent with Spanish speakers.

The research highlights the growing number of foreign language-speakers across the West Midlands and, in particular, the high number of Polish speakers. This has given rise to a variety of potential language and cultural barriers within the workplace. 15 percent of the companies surveyed identified problems caused by language barriers, such as delays in operations, understanding of the needs of customers and miscommunication.

To overcome such obstacles, the RLN MW provides free help to find language-related products and services, hosts regular seminars and courses, and can enable firms to get the best out of their migrant employees.

Source: Regional Language Network West Midlands, News, February 21, 2007

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Language; July 2007


The European Parliament held a public hearing on the socio-economic and political effects of linguistic discrimination at the beginning of July, with calls for language legislation, policy and planning at Union and member-state level.

Several expert speakers, academics, journalists and representatives active in promoting both lesser-used and major languages met to discuss the topic.

The sociolinguist and economist, François Grin, showed that 23 official languages mean up to 506 theoretical language combinations for interpretation and translation. He illustrated that, if there were a language policy and plan, various mechanisms could facilitate the practical implementation of multilingualism at EU level whilst keeping overall costs within 1 percent of the total EU budget.

Davyth Hicks, Eurolang's Editor-in-Chief, pointed out that the EU language rules and regulations in force are insufficient – a more coherent and legally binding language policy for the EU at institutional and member-state level is needed if linguistic rights are to be secured and if the principle that Europe respects its linguistic diversity is to be upheld.

Many speakers drew attention to the impact of globalization on language use and the increasing use of English in diplomacy, business, and entertainment. In regard to this matter, French trade unionist, Jean Loup Cuisiniez, spoke about the problems facing many French and Belgian firms where, after the takeover or merger of a company, the entire workforce was usually obliged to learn and speak English or to face redundancy. Ms Ina Druviete (Latvian MP and Professor in Linguistics) highlighted how smaller state languages have their own set of problems, neither having the rights afforded to regional or minority languages nor the numbers of speakers and consequent profile of the larger state languages.

After the event, Henrik Lax (MEP from Finland) said: "Some 50 million citizens in the EU speak a language other than the majority in their country of residence. Today these national linguistic minorities are still represented by a handful of MEPs. After the elections in 2009, however, they run the substantial risk of having no one to represent them because existing national list numbers are reduced to allow for MEPs from the new accession countries. It is not acceptable that ten percent of the Union's citizens are excluded from representation in the European Parliament due to inappropriate electoral provisions that favor a dominant linguistic group."

Source: Eurolang News, July 6, 2007 by Katriina Kilpi

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Language; July 2007


A new European database that holds all the terminology EU institutions generate was launched on 28 June 2007; anyone can access it online. The database, called IATE (Inter-Active Terminology for Europe), contains 8,700,000 terms, 500,000 abbreviations and 100,000 phrases in the 23 official languages of the EU.

At the opening ceremony, the European Commissioner for Multilingualism, Leonard Orban, highlighted that "the development of IATE is the laudable result of successful institutional cooperation and shows the EU institutions working for European citizens". Meanwhile, the Vice-President of the European Parliament stressed the great value of the database and stated that IATE represents "a tangible expression of the institutions' genuine commitment to full multilingualism".

Source: Linguamón, June 26, 2007

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Language; June 2007


The Welsh language broadcaster S4C has broadcast for the first time ever a program with Polish subtitles. The subtitles were used in a documentary on Polish immigrants in Wales, with the title: "O Flaen dy Lygaid: Polska Cymru" (Before Your Eyes: Polish Wales).

The program focused not only on the stories of Polish immigrants who have moved to Wales in recent years but also the Poles who came after World War II, and who have made Wales their home. It showed marked differences between the first wave of Polish migrants, who were escaping from Poland, and those who arrive now voluntarily.

Source: Mercator Newsletter No.31, Mercator Media, June 2007

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Language; June 2007


Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has been heard saying that she believes translations hinder the integration of migrants into British society, as translating official publications makes it easier for non-English speaking migrants to delay learning English. She has pointed to research showing that immigrants who fail to learn English in their first six months in Britain are unlikely to do so later.

Her claims are disputed by Sir Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain, who believes providing translated material "frequently helps newly-arrived immigrants become better citizens and less of a burden on society".

David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary, on the other hand, has proposed shifting money currently spent on translation into additional English classes. According to him, people coming into the country "should have basic language skills so that they can play a full part in British life".

Source:, Political News, June 10, 2007

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Language; May 2007


Almost 9,000 ethnic Vietnamese live legally in the Czech Republic but, compared to other foreigners, only a fraction of them (700 since 1993) succeed in gaining Czech citizenship. Applicants from Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Greece have been far more successful.

To acquire Czech citizenship, foreigners must have a clean criminal record, at least five years' residence in the Republic and knowledge of the Czech language. It is the last that often poses an insurmountable problem for the immigrant Vietnamese. Interestingly, Vietnamese born in the Czech Republic have no problem speaking Czech, so the number of successful applications for Czech citizenship can be expected to rise.

Source: The Prague Monitor

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Language; April 2007


The Flemish Minister for Employment, Frank Vandenboucke, has recently announced that job seekers in the Flemish periphery of Brussels, who are unable to find work because they do not speak Dutch well enough, will now be required to take a language course at the Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Agency (VDAB).

At first, they will be given a chance to find suitable employment without following the course. If they have not managed to find work within 3 to 6 months and learning better Dutch could help them do so, they will be required to follow a course for professional Dutch.

This requirement is being added to the agreement between job seekers and the VDAB. If the job seeker refuses to attend the language course, he or she will be referred to the National Employment Office (RVA), which could reduce or suspend unemployment benefits.

Source: Expatica – Belgian News, April 20, 2007

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Language; April 2007


The supply company "HP Pelzer", from the town of Genk in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region, has set a new requirement for its workers: that all workers of foreign background must speak Dutch, even amongst themselves, on its premises. Three violations could lead to their dismissal.

The business ruled that all 125 workers must use Dutch within the business premises in order to ensure safety and show respect for fellow colleagues. About 70 percent of the company's personnel are of foreign background – all from a variety of nationalities. The Turkish workers, who make up about 35 percent of the company's workforce, felt the rule was targeting them and have asked the trade union to intervene.

Source: Expatica – Belgian News, April 19, 2007

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Language; March 2007


The Nordic Language Treaty, which came into force on 1 March 1987, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The aim of the Treaty is that all Nordic citizens have the right to use their own language when dealing with the public sector in other Nordic countries. This includes hospitals, employment offices, the police and social work authorities, with any interpreting and translating fees being reimbursed from public funds. The languages covered by the Treaty are Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic.

However, according to the Norden Association, people living in these countries are generally not aware of the language treaty and implementing it has proved difficult. At the same time, the use of English has grown as the language of interaction between Nordic people.

Source: Eurolang News, February 26, 2007 by Katriina Kilpi

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Language; March 2007


Migrant workers are being urged to learn both Welsh and English to help them settle in Wales.

The advice comes from the Social Justice Minister, Edwina Hart, in her introduction to a new information pack called "A Welcome to Wales". The packs - which are available in 19 languages, including Welsh and English - provide information on workers' rights, health and education.

The new brochures, which also cover housing, transport and community activities, will be launched at the Polish Welsh Mutual Association in Llanelli.

The introduction to the pack reads, inter alia: "The Welsh language is spoken across the length and breadth of the country and you will see publications and signs in both Welsh and English. We would certainly encourage you to learn Welsh as well as English and this pack provides you with details of how you can learn and improve your knowledge of both languages, which will help you settle in Wales."

The Minister said the aim was to ensure migrant workers were aware of their rights and responsibilities as well as of the laws and customs of Wales. The pack should help newcomers to better settle down in a new society.

The packs will be distributed by the Citizens Advice Bureaus, advice agencies, local authorities, libraries, employers, and trade unions. The information will also be available online.

Source: BBC News, March 21, 2007

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Langauge; March 2007


The first Polish-language newspaper in the UK has started publishing to the growing migrant community in Nottingham. The first edition of Nottingham in Polish has been funded by HSBC and Signpost to Polish Success, a community group based in the city.

Its editor, Dr Beata Polanowska, said that it was set up primarily to communicate with new arrivals, who speak little English. The publication would inform them of cultural events in the city as well as about political and social issues, there being no other source to cater for their needs. She added that people from this community listen to Polish radio online and they watch Polish satellite television but they do not know much about what is happening locally. The newspaper will help them get in touch with the environment they live in.

Source: BBC News on-line, March 20, 2007

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Language; February 2007


French pressure groups have demanded an end to the dominance of the English language in business in France.

A group of trade unions and language lobbyists say the French language is being reduced to a local dialect. They have organized a press conference in parliament to demand the right to work solely in French.

Albert Salon, president of the French-speaking campaigning group Forum Francophone International, has said: "We are not against influences of one language by another, or the occasional borrowing of words, but now there is a wholesale substitution of the French language for English. We simply cannot accept that our language is reduced to a local dialect – we are protesting against this linguistic hegemony." He said that in many companies, it had become standard practice for native French speakers to use English even among themselves and French scientists were forced to publish their research in English, in leading US journals.

A recent survey has revealed that seven percent of French firms already used English as their main language, while multinational companies often sent e-mails to their French employees in English regardless of whether they understand them. Jean-Loup Cuisiniez of the CFTC trade union says the trend towards using English in the workplace is both dangerous and insulting to French workers. "They might not want to confess that they do not understand instructions, and that could be very dangerous," he says, "especially if workers fear that they could be sidelined if management discovered their lack of English." He himself refused to use English-language software for his computer at work, eventually forcing his company to back down and provide it in French.

Furthermore, President Jacques Chirac is one of the most ardent supporters of those who wish to protect the French language - he once walked out of a meeting in Brussels when a Frenchman began his speech in English.

Source: BBC News, February 8, 2007

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Language; February 2007


English schools may be allowed to teach Mandarin and Arabic instead of EU languages if the proposals set by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to update curriculum are accepted by ministers.

Under current curriculum guidelines, every secondary school must teach its students one foreign language, such as French, Italian, German or Spanish. Under the new plans, schools will be able to extend the range of languages they offer their students.

Source:, Political News/Education, February 4, 2007

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Language; February 2007


Education secretary, Alan Johnson, has accepted the recommendations of a new report written by a former head teacher, Keith Ajegbo, into breaking down barriers between ethnic groups in the UK. The report says that children can be taught core British values such as tolerance, freedom of speech and justice. Furthermore, they should study more contemporary history to better understand modern Britain and look at the impact of immigration, the Commonwealth, the EU and the Empire on the UK.

The lessons will be part of the citizenship curriculum for 11 to 16-year-olds. History is already a mandatory subject up until the age of 14. Teaching unions welcomed the proposals and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said Sir Keith's report was "very sensible and very measured".

In fact, promoting Britishness is a pet project of Chancellor Gordon Brown, driven in part by concerns about community integration after race riots in northern towns in 2001 and the London bombings in 2005. Last year he told the Fabian Society: "British patriotism is, in my view, founded neither on ethnicity nor race, not just on institutions we share and respect, but on enduring ideals which shape our view of ourselves and our communities." He added that it is important to have a clear view of what being British means, what a particular person values about being British and what gives us purpose as a nation."

Source:, Political News/Education, January 25, 2007

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Language; February 2007


Unemployed people who refuse to learn English risk losing their benefits under the new proposals outlined by the government.

Welfare minister Jim Murphy has said that 40,000 individuals unable to speak English are struggling to find work as a result; costing job centers £4.5 million in translator fees. He insists that the high proportion of people from ethnic minorities that cannot find work is "unacceptable", as well as the fact that they routinely earn a third less than other workers.

Murphy has also outlined plans to encourage job-seekers to take advantage of the language learning opportunities available. Wherever possible, they should participate in a work-focused language course; they will be able and expected to look for work while they undertake any training, and in many cases there will be also provision to carry on with the training course after they have got a job.

Source: The Guardian Unlimited, February 12, 2007 by Matthew Tempest

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Language; February 2007


Following a recent government warning on the proposed cuts to subsidized English language classes for immigrants, Omega Resource Group (recruitment specialists) has announced plans to set up a training division to provide English as a foreign language (EFL) and associated vocational classes in Poland this year (2007). They think that English language courses are fundamental to the success of new arrivals from Europe and those already settled in Britain. Not only do these classes provide an understanding of the English language, but they also open up a broader range of work opportunities and help people to blend into society more successfully.

The Omega Training Center will be based in Warsaw, Poland, where the group has pioneered the successful recruitment of candidates through a variety of skill tests at assessment centers. The Group director explains that their plan will overcome language barriers and will produce positive improvements not just socially but also legally. Moreover, improving candidates' reading and understanding of English will assist in the comprehension of health and safety notices, employment rules, contracts, or fire regulations.

Source: OMEGA website, Press release, February 6, 2007

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Language; January 2007


Immigrants wishing to learn the language of their new homeland generally attend language schools, which offer programmes focused on learning specific languages on an academic basis. A progressive alternative to such schools are language clubs: they enable people to spend at least one evening per week in convivial surroundings, conversing in a language other than their own and one in which they may not have much, or any, opportunity to practice locally.

For instance, the Cercle Polyglotte de Waterloo, a club established in Waterloo in 1972, has since welcomed both regular and irregular members of many nationalities every Tuesday evening over the past 34 years.

The Cercle Polyglotte de Waterloo is typical of such clubs in its affiliation to the Linguists' or, which has member clubs all over Europe and the US. The Waterloo club is also affiliated to the Cercle Polyglotte de Bruxelles and to several other language clubs around Belgium.

The club organizes groups around individual tables at which members can chat to each other in the nominated language of that table, which decides which languages are available and what topics to discuss. Members are encouraged to assist each other on the correct use of their chosen language.

Source: Expatica News, January 2007

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Language; January 2007


In Germany, schools often teach German at the cost of immigrants' native languages. It is proven that immigrant children in Germany who master the German language have a better chance of success in school and in the workplace. While everyone recognizes the importance of teaching immigrant students German, there is little agreement on what to do about their native languages.

How to integrate non-native speakers remains a lively and ongoing debate in Germany. In some regions of the country, the emphasis on integration has meant cutting back on native-language instruction; native language classes have recently been reduced or abolished in these regions. On the other hand, the European Union has placed a high priority on promoting linguistic plurality. EU guidelines require schools to provide immigrant children with instruction in their native languages.

Source: Deutsche Welle – World, News, December 24, 2006

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Language; January 2007


The government has changed its attitude towards migrant English courses – English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). These courses have long been considered a key element in helping either newly-arrived migrants, or those already settled in the UK, to gain sufficient knowledge of the language to integrate more fully into society.

However, under current proposals, ESOL classes will no longer be free except for priority groups - the unemployed and those on income support. The changes are due to come into force in the next academic year.

Source: BBC News, January 11, 2007

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Language; January 2007


"United in diversity" is the motto of the European Union and this is never more evident than in the languages it embraces. This year the arrival of Bulgaria and Romania as well as the adoption of Irish sees the number of official languages in the Union rise again. This attitude reflects the cultural heritage of Europe and the principle that all EU citizens must have access to documents and information in their own languages. It also means that debates in the Parliament will be heard in these languages.

At the beginning of what became the European Union in 1957, there were only four languages: Dutch, French, German and Italian. By 1995, there were 11 official languages of the EU. The accession of 10 new countries in 2004 brought in nine new languages and with the latest additions the number today stands at twenty-three, with three separate alphabets (Latin, Greek and now Cyrillic).

An interesting feature is that the number of the languages is less than the number of the EU countries - because some languages are officially used in more than one country.

MEPs can choose their language

An essential part of democracy is the right to use your own language. This is why MEPs have the right to debate in any official language of their choice. In addition, all official documents have to be translated to all the official languages in order to grant them legal status. This has to be taken into account in organizing the work of the Parliament. For example, a parliamentary committee has to calculate the time needed to complete the necessary translations in order to allow all its members to work with content they can understand.

Furthermore, in order to improve the linguistic skills of EU citizens, the EU supports and promotes multilingualism using different programs, of which the best known is the Erasmus program. This year celebrating its 20th anniversary - 1.2 million students have participated since.

Language learning is a priority: according to a recent 'Eurobarometer' survey, only 50% of EU citizens claim they can hold a conversation in a second language beyond their mother tongue. To promote language learning across the EU, September 26 has been nominated "the European Day of Languages" and the year 2001 was the European Year of Languages.

1.3 million pages translated

To provide language diversity and equality, an essential task in permitting the correct function of the EU is the translators' and interpreters' service. In 2005, 1,324,231 pages were translated. The total cost of all the linguistic services of the EU institutions represents only 1 % of the total EU budget. Last September a Parliamentary report on Multilingualism and the consequent interpretation costs, drafted by Finnish People's Party member, Alexander Stubb, highlighted areas in which savings could be made. It also underlined that multilingualism and the ability to understand other speakers in the European Parliament is crucial for European democracy.

In November, MEPs welcomed the European Commission's proposals for a new framework strategy to foster the knowledge of languages and to take cultural advantage of them. An own-initiative report drafted by Bernat Joan i Mari, a Spanish Green MEP, states that it is essential to improve the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of the education and training systems in the EU by promoting foreign language learning.

Source: European Parliament website, News Article, January 8, 2007

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Language; December 2006


A handbook entitled "Diversity and equal opportunities", with an accompanying film "Understanding can heal", have been produced by the Swiss Hospital Association and the Federal Health Office to help Swiss hospitals communicate better with immigrants and deal with their specific needs.

Training from these publications should give staff the necessary information to deal with patients from a variety of social and linguistic backgrounds and religions, thereby avoiding misunderstandings and stress.

Source:, Swiss politics, October 23, 2006

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Language; December 2006


A few months ago, a proposal to translate Norway's national anthem to a language used by many immigrants stirred a controversy. The idea was that an Urdu version of the anthem would allow many immigrants from Pakistan, for example, to more easily express their love for Norway.

Opponents argued that this would be integration in reverse. They said that "the best gift" that immigrants could give to their new homeland was to learn Norwegian.

Source: Aftenposten (News from Norway), May 16, 2006 by Nina Berglund

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