Encouraging EU citizens to speak at least two "adoptive languages" - languages other than their mother tongue and used on a lifelong basis at work or at home - is a key focus of a High-Level Group report due to be presented today (31 January) by Commissioner for Multilingualism Leonard Orban.
The report – entitled "A Rewarding Challenge: How the Multiplicity of Languages could strengthen Europe" - says the Commission must do more to promote language learning outside of schools and universities, stressing in particular that more effort must be made to target adult learners. It suggests that language learning be made part of leisure activities such as sports.
However, Orban's spokesman Pietro Petrucci told EurActiv that education remains a national competence and the EU executive could only circulate best practice and give guidelines.
Among the other measures that can be promoted at EU level, the report specifically calls for EU-wide programmes such as "Youth in Action", "Europe for Citizens" and "Lifelong Learning" be further developed to encourage foreign language learning and widen contact between speakers of different languages.
Moreover, it calls on the Commission to convene a meeting of experts from higher education, relevant organisations and member-state authorities to consider the translation and interpretation issues that should be addressed at EU level.
The Slovenian EU presidency is preparing to host a ministerial conference entitled "Promoting multilingualism: A shared commitment" on 15 February 2008. The conference will present the Council's views on the Adult Learning Action Plan and conclude with an inter-institutional declaration designating 2009 the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, Petrucci said.