Academic journal article European Studies

Teachers of Italian, Spanish and French: Limitations and Possibilities of Their Education towards Multilingualism

Academic journal article European Studies

Teachers of Italian, Spanish and French: Limitations and Possibilities of Their Education towards Multilingualism

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper investigates multilingualism as a new paradigm established within EU language policy. It is argued that if multilingualism is not to be merely a scientific research area and a topic of language policy discussions, but is to become reality in modern language teaching, then initial teacher education and continuing professional development for language teachers is addressed as well. While language policy developments have been signaling a pressure for reform for years, and research on learning multiple languages has yielded results which are relevant for language teaching, a paradigm shift in teaching practice is still facing a number of obstacles. Formulating guidelines for improved teacher education and development derived from the European discourse and criticizing the 'circuit of monolingualism', the article eventually arrives at three principles to be observed if teachers are to be qualified as experts for multilingualism as well: taking up multilingualism as a topic, making general didactic developments like differentiation and learner autonomy exploitable for multilingualism, and enabling positive learning experiences across languages during the language teacher education. All three principles call for breaking with the monolingual habitus of education.

Introduction

This paper establishes multilingualism as a paradigm established within EU language policy, which is also to be accounted for in initial teacher education and continuing professional development. While language policy developments have been signaling a pressure for reform for years, and research on multiple language acquisition and learning has yielded results which are relevant for language teaching, a paradigm shift in teaching practice is still facing a number of obstacles. Formulating guidelines for improved teacher education and professional development derived from the European discourse and criticizing the 'circuit of monolingualism', the article eventually arrives at three principles to be observed if teachers are to be qualified as experts for multilingualism as well.

Multilingualism as a European key term

Nowadays, multilingualism is a key term in the self-conception of the European Union. Due to the Community Regulation determining official languages, in effect since 15 April 1958, the EU proves to be officially multilingual outwardly. All state languages of the member states are automatically official languages and working languages of the European institutions. More recent developments have shown an increasing awareness that the Europe's language diversity is manifest not only in the official languages, but also in the multitude of regional and minority languages, as well as, albeit rather hesitandy, in the migrant languages (see Fleming 2009, COM(2008), 566 final, COM(2007), 554 final, Commission of the European Communities (2007), COM (2005), 596 final, COM(2003), 449 final). Particularly since the turn of the millennium, Europe's commitment to the inclusive approach, integrating foreign, migrant and minority languages, has formed a vital guiding principle of language policy developments (see Orban 2006, 4).

Behind these concrete parameters and developments of language policy is the perception of diversity - and here in particular of language diversity - as wealth, as the official EU-website illustrates. Precisely this diversity makes the European Union what it is: no 'melting pot' in which the differences are neutralized, but a society that acknowledges differences as 'enrichment' (see europa.eu/languages/de/chapter/5, 5.10.2007). Such commitments suggest an allusion to the counter concept USA.

From 2007 to 201 0 the cultivation of the linguistic diversity in Europe has been administered by the Commissioner for Multilingualism, whose duties comprise defining the contribution of multilingualism to the following three domains: 1. competitiveness, growth and employment; 2. advancement of lifelong learning and of intercultural dialogue; and 3. …

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