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Multilingualism language policy in the EU today: A paradigm shift in language education

The official rhetoric of the European Union (EU) describes the linguistic diversity by which it is characterised as ‘an asset for Europe and a shared commitment’, while it also represents languages as commodities for employability, mobility and economic growth. In the context of the EU embracing institutional multilingualism, promoting foreign language learning and suggesting ways of coping with the ‘new’ multilingual and multicultural classrooms, the management of its complex linguistic diversity is no simple matter. While its language policies reflect consistent efforts to cope with its unique multilingualism, they are often contradictory partly because they are not part of a cohesive overall strategic plan. This paper attempts a review of the EU’s commitment to institutional multilingualism, through policies, decisions, recommendations and actions aiming at the management of its multilingualism, focuses on language education policy in particular, and concludes by suggesting that a new didactic paradigm for language education is needed in Europe and beyond because in today’s interconnected world, the ability to speak multiple languages and communicate across linguistic divides are critical competences.

KEYWORDS: multilingualism, linguistic diversity, language policy, CEFR, plurilingualism, mediation


Bessie Dendrinos. DSc in Education. President of the European Civil Society Platform for Multilingualism. Professor of Sociology of Language and Foreign Language Education in the Dpt of Language and Linguistics, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. Lectures on Applied Linguistics and Sociolinguistics. Former Chair of the Faculty of English Language and Literature. Former member of the University of Athens Senate. More recently served on the board of directors of the Ionian University, Greece. Holds a BA from the Faculty of English Studies of the University of Athens (Greece), an MA in TEFL from the Claremont Graduate School and University Centre (USA), and a PhD in Communication and Education Studies awarded from the Claremont Graduate School, after following a joint postgraduate programme at CGS and the University of California at Los Angeles. Her postdoctoral work was carried out in the UK, supported by Hornby Foundation Grant, as a fellow of the University of Cambridge and a research associate of the Institute of Education of the University of London. Has collaborated, taught and lectured at several universities in Europe and the USA and has been an invited keynote speaker at many international conferences in Greece and abroad. Research interests cover foreign language teaching, learning, and assessment, mainstream foreign language didactics and evaluation systems, discourses of foreign language pedagogy and education planning in the European Union, the cultural politics of English as a ‘global’ language, and the development of mulitilingual literacy for European citizenry.


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