"More young Europeans learn foreign languages and much earlier than their parents", said Commissioner Leonard Orban, responsible for multilingualism, adding "After three years, national language policies are more consistent: there is a general consensus on basic issues such as the importance of languages as a key competence in a lifelong learning perspective, and the need to teach students two foreign languages during their initial education. Some areas still need more work: to extend language teaching to all educational paths, to increase the variety of languages taught, to promote language-friendly schools."
In 2002, the Barcelona European Council called for further action "to improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age”. The first Commission response was the Action Plan on “Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity 2004-2006”, which set out three strategic areas for intervention: promoting lifelong language learning, improving language teaching, building a language-friendly environment. The report adopted refers to both Commission and Member States' activities. The great challenge remaining is that those who are no longer in initial education, adults in general, still need to improve their language skills. Also, sufficient language teachers and their mobility are lacking.
The report is rich in providing examples of good practices. Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Spain – for instance – are mentioned for having introduced bilingual instruction, including teaching a subject in a different language. Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Norway and Sweden encourage teaching neighbours' languages, sometimes establishing bilingual classes. To stimulate language learning at an adult age some countries, such as Belgium and the Czech Republic have introduced 'vouchers' systems, co-financed by the state, employers and users. In Estonia, Poland and other eastern European countries, a re-qualification of teachers, especially from Russian towards English took place. In Romania, post-graduate distance training in French and English has been introduced for teachers in rural areas.
The report can be found at: