WP74 Standardisation, diversity and enlightenment in the contemporary crisis of EU language policy



Contemporary EU multilingualism policy is in something of a crisis at the moment. The 2008 Final Report of the High-Level Group on Multilingualism, a group of eleven senior European academics convened in 2006, spells out some of the reasons (these are their bullet-points):
? the enlargements in 2004 and 2007, whereby the number of Member States has increased from 15 to 27;
? increasing recognition and seizure, by individuals and organisations, of opportunities provided by the Single Market, notably increasing trans-European trade, and mobility of workers;
? globalisation and internationalisation in many fields of human activity;
? revitalisation of regions within Member States, and of cross-border regions;
? migration into the Union?to the extent that practically all the Member States are now migration countries;
? rampant developments in ICT, facilitating, among other things, instant communication from any place in the world to any other;
? creation of a European higher education and research area, including increasing student mobility;
? changing job profiles and increasing mobility between jobs;
? advent of global tourism.
For the authors of the Report, these developments ?partly reflect contradictory trends?for example, globalization vs. decentralization.? But, they argue, the ?trends in language learning and language use reveal contradictory patterns? in an even more heightened way: ?preference for English as a lingua franca vs. revival of regional or minority languages; emphasis on the world-wide value of specific languages (Bengali, English, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish) vs. emphasis on the community value of ?small? languages? (8).
I will argue here that these contradictions are only apparent?that a preference for English as a lingua franca in fact goes together with an interest in the revival of regional or minority languages, that awareness of the world-wide value of languages like Bengali, English, Hindi, Japanese, etc., in fact goes together with an appreciation of the ?community value of ?small? languages.? Why the High Level Group on Multilingualism ultimately failed to articulate something so blindingly obvious now becomes the interesting fact in need of an explanation.