"Multilingualism is a cross-cutting policy, involving people at every level of society. It is my intention to be the catalyst of this policy," European Commissioner for Multilingualism Leonard Orban told a public hearing on April 15 on multilingualism.
The event, attended by over 200 participants, resumed the conclusions of a wide-ranging public hearing on multilingualism launched in late 2007. According to Orban, this is the first time that citizens have been invited to discuss language policy and to feel involved in the final result.
The outcomes of Tuesday’s discussions will feed into a new Commission policy document to be adopted in September of this year, the purpose of which will be to discuss and help define the role of languages in an increasingly multilingual Europe.
According to Orban, preserving linguistic diversity as the number of languages spoken in the EU increases will be the fundamental principle of the Commission’s multilingualism strategy. The strategy will also emphasise the economic dimensions of multilingualism, its importance to companies for boosting competitiveness, and an external dimension given by the promotion of European languages in the world and learning third languages, Orban explained.
The Commission’s strategy will also include the concept of " personal adoptive language", suggested by the Group of Intellectuals for Intercultural Dialogue set up at the initiative of the European Commission. The idea is that every European should be encouraged to freely choose a distinctive language, different from his or her language of identity, and also different from his or her language of international communication.
There were over 200 participants, representatives of local and regional administrative bodies, youth, educational and cultural NGOs, educational establishments and EU Institutions.
An online consultation initiated in September 2007 sparked off an exceptional response both within and beyond the EU’s borders with nearly 2,500 contributions received using all 23 official languages. Respondents came from 58 countries.
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, focussing on tolerance, not on confrontation, and the costs related to working in 23 official languages are worth paying.