Languages help bridge the cultural gap

Written by Svetoslav Hristov Malinov on 26 September 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

There should be a European solution for ensuring schools recognise and protect all of the EU’s official languages, says Svetoslav Hristov Malinov.

Svetoslav Hristov Malinov | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


The essence of European language policy is to foster linguistic diversity and encourage language learning for reasons of cultural identity and social integration. Languages can be considered as cross-border bridges. Language is the means by which any European citizen living in a foreign member state to discover a new country and easily find their way back home.

Parliament has been dealing with petitions from EU citizens living abroad that are concerned with the lack of provisions for teaching and recognition of language skills in their mother tongue. The objective of these petitions is to encourage European linguistic diversity. 

One such petition, by the Association of Bulgarian Schools Abroad (ABSA), is dedicated to all languages within the EU, particularly the less-spoken ones. The initiative aims to protect these languages and strengthen the bonds between European pupils living in another member state and their home country, family and history.


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We need greater cooperation between member states in the field of language learning. Most of their respective educational systems do not make provisions for language assessment opportunities and the recognition of language exams, diplomas or certificates in official EU languages other than English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. 

They usually teach in schools and recognise exams only in the five languages mentioned above. This discriminates against those pupils that are bearers of the EU’s other official languages. 

Therefore, educational systems need to be more efficient and more flexible. One way to eliminate this inequality would be to mutually recognise competences in all official languages of the EU and developing a common European system for the assessment and attestation of language competences.

The problem of non-recognition of the competences in less spoken languages is one that affects thousands of European families and their children. The issue affects the protection of those young people, pupils and students, whose parent or parents have claimed their fundamental right of free movement. This is why a common European solution is needed.

What is essential here is that the key concept is not the harmonisation of educational systems - since member states can make their own decisions - but rather the recognition. We must strive to have some sort of mechanism for acknowledging language proficiency, irrespective of how pupils acquire their knowledge and competences.

The plenary discussion regarding the ABSA petition, which took place in May this year, was a great victory for multilingualism. It was yet further proof that when you have a cause and appropriate arguments, your voice will be heard in the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Multilingualism and equal treatment of all the EU’s official languages are necessary for the free and smooth movement of our most precious capital - people, particularly our youth. A mother tongue is the bridge connecting at least two cultures - the one you live in and the one you come from. Different cultures and different languages provide the backbone of diversity in the European Union.

 

About the author

Svetoslav Hristov Malinov (EPP, BG) is Parliament’s rapporteur on improving language learning and mutual recognition

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