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Multilingualism is essential for gaining a competitive economic advantage

“Multilingualism and knowledge of languages play an inter-cultural role, giving the European economy a real competitive advantage on the global market,” said Dr Milan Zver, the Slovenian Minister of Education and Sport and current President of the Education, Youth and Culture Council, at today's conference “Promoting Multilingualism: a Shared Commitment”. The conference was co-chaired by Dr Zver and the European Commissioner for Multilingualism, Mr Leonard Orban.

In fruitful discussions, the EU Ministers undertook to develop a new strategy for multilingualism, focusing in particular on lifelong language learning for all, including those with fewer opportunities.

Dr Zver, co-chairing the conference, pointed to the fact that language learning continues to be a priority task, particularly for small countries. “We must continue to give our full attention to language learning in the formal education context, i.e. in schools, but we should also focus on developing forms of informal and occasional learning,” he added.

In their discussion, the Ministers drew attention to the scope of language learning. Alongside mother tongue and foreign language teaching offered to young people and adults, they also particularly emphasised the language learning and education offered to indigenous ethnic communities, the preservation of cultural identity being important not only for ethnic communities but also for immigrants. Commissioner Orban also underlined this point, saying that for immigrants, and in particular for younger generations, preserving their mother tongue was vital to enhancing their self-image, which, as much as knowledge of the language of the host community, would help their integration into society.

At the close of the conference, Dr Zver emphasised that the decisions reached through the discussions would be included in the conclusions on multilingualism to be adopted by the EU Ministers at the meeting of the Education, Youth and Culture Council in May, giving added value to multilingualism in the European Union.


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Date: 15.02.2008