This week we are privileged to host the annual EFNIL conference at Spring Gardens, the British Council headquarters off Trafalgar Square.
EFNIL is the European Federation of National Institutes of Language – the institutions which promote and protect the use of national languages in the European Union. These organisations, such as the Institut für Deutsche Sprache, Dansk Sprognævn, Foras na Gaeilge and Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France, work hard to support teachers and learners in their countries, creating new research, publishing and disseminating new theory and practice, providing educational resources etc.
EFNIL ‘s mission is to provide “a forum for these institutions to exchange information about their work and to gather and publish information about language use and language policy within the European Union. In addition, the Federation encourages the study of the official European languages and a coordinated approach towards mother-tongue and foreign-language learning, as a means of promoting linguistic and cultural diversity within the European Union.”
In promoting linguistic diversity, EFNIL members are often concerned about the effects of the growth of English usage in their countries or in EU-wide institutions – in Brussels, in business, in Higher Education courses, and are naturally focused on ensuring that the use and development of their national languages are not negatively impacted by the use of a global lingua franca.
We share their concerns about the over-dominance of one language – even though we of course support the learning and teaching of English – because we share our colleagues’ belief in a multilingual and multicultural Europe, where national and local languages thrive and all citizens have the opportunity to become plurilingual.
To support that aim, I chaired a panel discussion on ‘Multilingualism in the UK’ looking at how we can encourage more learning of modern languages in the UK. We heard some ground for optimism as language enrolments are starting to creep back up again after the drop in MFL study that followed the decision to make languages at secondary school optional.
More information and previous conference proceedings from www.efnil.org