Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Recent European Union Initiatives in Support for Languages

Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Recent European Union Initiatives in Support for Languages

Article excerpt

Council of Europe project: Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants (LIAM)

The Language Policy Unit of the Council of Europe has undertaken an extensive project on the linguistic integration of adult migrants (LIAM), which is reflected in a well populated website.1 This reflects the rapidly changing patterns of migration and the concerns of European countries for the linguistic implications that are being experienced by public institutions. The aim of the project is to support member states in developing language integration policies and practices based on shared fundamental values - respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The project draws findings from three substantial surveys conducted by the Language Policy Unit in 2008, 2010 and 2013.2 The results formed the basis of discussions in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and recommendations in which member states were invited to reappraise their approach to integration tests by evaluating their long-term effectiveness as a tool for efficient, sustainable and user-friendly integration. The issues were discussed at an intergovernmental conference in June 2014, where serious reservations were aired about language tests as a means of promoting integration. The conference report gives a full summary of the deliberations.3

The project has produced two very useful short publications.4 The first, subtitled From one country to another, from one language to another, offers a collection of texts proposing specific measures member states can take to help adult migrants become acquainted with the language of the host country. Its main focus is on organising language courses that meet migrants' real communication needs. The second brochure, subtitled Guide to policy development and implementation, is aimed at policy makers. It provides a range of advice and information about resources that are available to enable public institutions to address the expectations of migrants and of the host society.

The report on the 2013 survey, published in December 2014, builds on the two previous surveys, and provides information on language requirements and course provision in member states. It shows a steady increase in the number of countries enacting legislation to make language proficiency a requirement for residence, citizenship, and, in some cases, entry. It notes 'a disquieting variation in the range of proficiency levels required' and differences in policies for the provision of learning support and for language testing. The editors suggest 'in some cases that language requirements aim at hindering migration and/ or integration rather than facilitating integration'.

The 68-page report outlines the methodology of the survey and gives details of changes in legislation in recent years. It also outlines some of the factors at work. The following is extracted from the Conclusion (pp. 31-32).5

Report on Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants:


The main conclusion is that knowledge of the host country's language is relevant more with regard to residence and citizenship together than to one or other of these two administrative categories. In most cases, knowledge of the language is required for residence, and sometimes even admission, and for acquisition of citizenship. This applies to 19 countries, mostly in western Europe, or over half of the 36 countries which took part in the survey in 2013. Nine of them have extended the obligation to demonstrate knowledge of their language to admission to the country.

Another notable trend is an apparent increase in the amount of legislation concerning language requirements from 2009 to 2013 compared with the previous period (2007-2009). From 2007 to 2009, three new laws were passed concerning admission to countries, five concerning residence and three concerning citizenship, making a total of 11 new laws. The figure rose to 18 for the period from 2009 to 2013, with nine new laws planned after 2013. …

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