The European Commission's language learning schemes are set for a multi-million-euro funding boost under the upcoming 'Erasmus for All' programme due to be unveiled today (23 November).
Across the board, the Commission says it is spending around €50 million per year for language programmes, providing roughly 100,000 individuals with classes or training.
"The majority of these beneficiaries are young people in initial vocational training" and are aimed at helping their professional mobility, said Dennis Abbott, spokesperson for EU Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.
In future, the Commission wants language schemes integrated into the wider Erasmus for All programme for which it has proposed a 70% funding increase under the EU's budget for 2014-2020, from €8.76 billion to €15.2 billion.
Details of the new Erasmus scheme is due to be unveiled by Vassiliou, building on the success and brand name of the celebrated student mobility programme.
It is unclear yet how much extra funding will be available for languages under Erasmus for All, as the proposed budget increase still has to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament.
But the amount should be substantial, Abbott said, "from an estimated €50 million per year for language actions to around €85 million per year".
This, he added, is "great news for language learning".
Language policy review
The proposed new language schemes will come ahead of a broader review of the EU's multilingualism policy, due in 2012, which will build on the assumption that multilingualism is good for business.
"The EU can't afford not to have a multilingualism strategy," Abbott stressed, saying there is "ample evidence that multilingual companies can increase their turnover by using languages as a competitive advantage".
"As there is such a clear link between language skills, mobility and employability, multilingualism also has a central role to play" in enhancing skills for employability, he said, especially for young people and students.
A Commission communication on 'Rethinking Skills' is due for the second half of 2012, and is expected to address language learning as a separate issue.
The European Commission's Communication on Multilingualism, which set out a cross-cutting policy framework for the EU's multilingualism policy, dates back to 2008 and is up for review in 2012.
The importance of multilingualism at European level was underlined by the appointment of a commissioner, Leonard Orban, to manage the portfolio for the very first time at the beginning of 2007.
A reshuffle of portfolios under José Manuel Barroso's second term at the EU executive's helm saw the dossier become part of the remit of a commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, held by Cypriot Androulla Vassiliou.
- 2012: New Eurobarometer poll on language competence.
- May 2012: First survey on language competence among 15-17-year-old school children in 14 European countries.
- Second half of 2012: Communication on Rethinking Skills, including language aspects.
- By end 2012: EU member states and Parliament expected to close EU budget negotiations for the 2014-2020 period.