Cambridge English Southern Europe

Experts in Language Assessment

Cambridge English delivers keynote presentation at the “Why languages matter: European and national perspectives on multilingualism” conference in Florence

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Last week saw Florence’s historic Piazza Ognissanti become the setting for an open-air gathering to promote EU-funded initiatives in support of language learning, such as Erasmus+, and as part of the Europe-wide celebrations of the European Day of Languages. The gathering was held concurrently with a multitude of events planned in various locations across Europe, ranging from a European-themed cocktail bar in Budapest to a travelling exhibition in Paris featuring translations of Homer’s Odyssey, aimed at celebrating linguistic diversity.

Florence was also the venue for a major conference in the Palazzo Vecchio, organised by the European Commission under the auspices of the Italian Presidency of the EU and in collaboration with Accademia della Crusca, entitled Why languages matter: European and national perspectives on multilingualism. Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Stefania Giannini, Italian Minister of Education, were among the participants at the event, where experts discussed how to increase the quality and efficiency of language teaching, as well as how to promote language education in broader skills strategies. Nick Saville, Director of the Research and Validation Group for Cambridge English Language Assessment, was featured amongst the event’s keynote speakers, delivering the presentation “Languages as a key competence and a transversal skill for the labour market – new challenges for assessment and testing”. Cambridge English’s Sarah Ellis, Head of Assessment Southern Europe, CIE’s Martin Nuttall and ALTE’s Esther Gutierrez Eugenio attended the event, which proved to be a great opportunity for thought-provoking discussions and exchanges of ideas on the future of multilingualism with colleagues and experts in the field.

“Multilingualism and linguistic diversity are deeply rooted in the DNA of the European Union. Our languages are inseparable from our cultural heritage and what makes us who we are. The European Day of Languages is an opportunity for the public to discover that languages are fun – and it’s never too late to learn. Multilingualism can open doors to job opportunities and new adventures. Erasmus+, the European Union’s new programme for education, training, youth and sport, will enable four million people to study, train, teach or volunteer abroad – and improved language skills are one of the big benefits,” said Commissioner Vassiliou.

Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, which jointly organises the European Day of Languages with the Commission, added: “On 26 September we celebrate Europe’s rich linguistic diversity. Let us take a moment to remember the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery – that language is often the source of misunderstandings. Language can be used as a weapon, as an excuse to discriminate and humiliate. Together we can ensure that languages, rather than being the source of misunderstanding, become the key to intercultural dialogue and mutual respect. To do this, we must challenge existing mindsets and embrace diversity.”

The events that marked the European Day of Languages also included professional seminars for teachers and translators in cities including Athens, Berlin, Bratislava, Copenhagen, Dublin, Gdansk, Helsinki, Lisbon, Nicosia, Riga, Stockholm, Tallinn and Vienna.

Background

The European Day of Languages was first organised by the Council of Europe (CoE) in 2001 as part of the European Year of Languages. The European Commission and the CoE’s European Centre for Modern Languages take an active part in organising language-related events on and around the day.

The aim of the European Day of Languages is to raise awareness of the languages used in Europe, promote cultural and linguistic diversity and encourage life-long language learning. In the European Union there are 24 official languages, about 60 regional and minority languages, and more than 175 migrant languages.

At least half of the world’s population are bilingual or multilingual, i.e. they speak or understand two or more languages. The European Commission is committed to developing language learning policies across Europe as part of its aim to improve the mastery of language skills in Europe, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age.

Erasmus+ will have a budget of nearly €15 billion, a 40% increase compared to previous spending levels. For the first time, linguistic support for mobility will be made available online free of charge for all participants in long-term mobility (at least two months abroad). The online support will cover English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. These are the languages of instruction or work for more than 90% of all students, trainees, youth volunteers and others who study or train abroad. Participants will be requested to assess their language competences before and after their stay abroad.

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