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Brussels Declaration

Brussels Declaration on Language Learning

Brussels Declaration on Language Learning

“Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen.”
(Those who do not know other languages do not understand their own.) Goethe

The Federation of National Institutions for Language (EFNIL) was founded in Stockholm in 2003 as a network of the major language or­ganisations and other national language bodies of the Member States of the European Union. Each member institution of EFNIL is closely involved and associated with the support and promotion of the langu­age or languages of its country. The members of EFNIL are united in their conviction that the languages they are concerned with are integ­ral components of European linguistic diversity and the basis of Euro­pean cultural diversity and cultural wealth. In order to maintain and further develop their own languages and to promote a sense of shared European identity among the citizens of the states of the Union, the members of EFNIL support not only the learning and use of their nati­onal/official language or languages but also the learning of additional European languages. It is clearly in the interests of all individuals in Europe that they should be plurilingual. The overall aim is a plurilin­gual citizenry in a multilingual Europe. The members of EFNIL are committed to supporting this aim on the basis of the following obser­vations and recommendations.


With European integration, the lowering and eventual fall of ad­ministrative barriers, the opportunities for communication between speakers of different languages are multiplying. To cope with this rising wave of language contacts, it is vital to develop new approa­ches, methods, and environments for multilingual translation, in­terpretation, and mediation as well as for foreign language instruc­tion and learning with a view to reinforcing economic and cultural exchange and the mobility of the citizens for work and education in Europe.


English is used as a working language in certain professional, edu­cational, and other social contexts in Europe, and while the practi­cal value of this is acknowledged, it is considered of the utmost importance to maintain, strengthen, and further develop all na­tional/official languages of the European countries in all their func­tional domains.


All citizens of a European country should have the opportunity to learn those foreign languages that they need most for work, social life, study, and personal development. They should have the right to acquire accredited certification for their level of competence to communicate in languages other than their own and to have their language certificates recognized as qualification for work and study in each member state.


Education in the European member states should foster a multilin­gual ethos of communication and opportunities to learn languages in addition to the first language of the learners. It should motivate the development of communicative competence in a variety of lan­guages along with intercultural awareness.


EFNIL, therefore, appeals to the governments of the European states to strengthen and improve foreign language learning along­side instruction in each country’s national language(s).



Formal and informal education should offer a wide selection of languages, including all official European languages, whe­rever possible.



Communicative competence in 1+2-languages (= first langua­ge plus two other languages) should be the minimum goal within the primary and secondary educational system of each country. If the learner's first language is not an official langua­ge of the country, one of the two additional languages should be an official language.



Besides being able to use at least two other languages, the re­ceptive use of additional languages should be encouraged in order to develop intercomprehension (whereby each speaker uses his or her own language and understands the other’s).



Adults should be encouraged to improve their competence in the national/official language(s) of their countries and to learn foreign languages. Life-long learning should include language learning. Opportunities for adult learning should be increased and improved at formal and informal adult educational set­tings, at the work place, and at other private and public institu­tions.



Alongside foreign language learning at home, opportunities for language learning abroad should be increased. In particu­lar, the administrative conditions for the exchange of pupils, students, teachers, and workers between the Member States of the European Union should be improved.



In each Member State of the European Union, more and better opportunities should be given to non-native speakers (both children and adults) to learn the national language(s) of the state in which they reside and also to maintain and develop competence in their native language.


Both national governments and EU bodies should support the crea­tion and production of more and improved linguistic tools and re­sources to enhance foreign language learning. Such tools and
resources would include monolingual, multilingual, and parallel text corpora, thesauruses, terminology data banks, dictionaries, tools for automatic translation, and materials for language teaching and self-access learning designed according to common European standards. Special attention and support should be given to lan­guages and language pairs that have so far been neglected by the commercial language industries.


As an empirical basis for national and European language policies, including language teaching and learning, a European language monitor (ELM) should be established, possibly as an expansion of the „European Indicator of Language Competence“ that is being prepared by the European Commission. The linguistic situation is in full flow and needs to be carefully monitored. The ELM would be an information system which regularly collects and evaluates data on linguistic conditions and how they are evolving in all states of the Union, including data on foreign language competence and foreign language instruction. The member organisations of EFNIL would be natural partners for such a monitor system.


EFNIL supports the Institutions of the European Union and the Council of Europe in their attempts and projects to maintain and strengthen a multilingual Europe through developing plurilingual­ism among the citizens of the European countries.


The member institutions of EFNIL are committed to extending their mutual collaboration in order to gain a deeper knowledge of the European languages and the linguistic situation in the European countries. Thus, they will be better equipped to spread understand­ing and acceptance of European multilingualism in their respective countries.

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