The current challenges for minority languages in today’s complex societies

Addressing current "hot topics": migration and mobility for minority languages; languages and the economy; and languages and education.

Events / Thu 09 Nov 2017 09:00

Challenges that minority languages face in today’s complex societies are many and varied. Among these challenges, three broad ideas, which are hot topics in the current European debates, can be highlighted: (1) the challenge of migration and mobility in minority languages; (2) the role of languages as catalyzers for the economy; and (3) languages and education.

In immigrant/integration debates, the relevance of languages has become most evident in the proliferation of language measures applied by nation-states, placing upon prospective immigrants increasingly complex formal demands on the knowledge of the national language in order for them to enter, reside, reunite or naturalize.

These debates, however, have often overlooked the existence of minority languages apart from the majority language spoken at state level. These languages co-exist with some degree of (co)officialdom with the state language.

While the idea of promotion, protection and respect of linguistic diversity remains in the current EU political rhetoric on languages, the actual policies adopt a market-oriented approach, which considers languages as mere commodities for economic growth, competitiveness jobs. Over the last few years, the European Commission has fully embraced linguistic neoliberalism as its policy on multilingualism –defined as the exclusive focus on language skills for market-oriented purposes.

In the education field, English is becoming the vehicular language in higher education in an increasing number of non-anglophone countries. To this concept of EMI -English Medium of Instruction- we must add the increase of secondary schools adopting English not only as a subject in schooling but also as a vehicular language, the so-called CLIL methodology (Content and Language Integrated Learning). These concepts tend to replace the local languages in both compulsory and higher education. The predominance of English has major political, economic and cultural implications for all languages in general, and more so for regional and minority languages, as science is increasingly becoming a monolingual domain in English.

The core idea of this high-level Conference, co-organised by the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity and the Centre Maurits Coppieters, is to identify those elements around which public policy intervention is needed in order to ensure that a minority language is revitalized and that their speakers use it on a daily basis. The conference shall focus on the balance between the roles of national governments and the awareness and regulations at European levels to take more into account smaller state and regional languages in their policy planning.


9 of November 2017

09:00 - 09:30
Welcome words
  • Sietske Poepjes, Chair of Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity
  • Michael Teutsch, DG Education, Culture, Youth and Sports. European Commission
09:30 - 10:30
Key note speech "New challenges for language policies ahead, but old ones not solved"
  • Jarmo Lainio, Stockholm University
11:00 - 12:15
Panel I: The challenge of migration and mobility in minority languages
  • Catrin Wyn Edwards, Aberystwyth University – “The integration of migrants in Wales: challenges and opportunities”
  • Håkan Casares Berg, Galician Culture Council – “Vitality of the Galician language and migration”
  • Marta Fuxà Vidal, Government of Balearic Islands – “Language policy in the context of a great demographic transformation”
  • Moderated by Vicent Climent-Ferrando, Government of Catalonia
13:15 - 14:45
Panel II: The role of languages as a catalyzer of the economy
  • Sabrina Rasom, General Commune of Fassa – “Regions with minority languages as an added value for tourism: a proposal of collaboration”
  • Ester Franquesa i Bonet, Government of Catalonia – “Language policy in the socio-economic field: the case of Catalonia”
  • Estíbaliz Alkorta, Government of the Basque Country – “The impact of Basque language on the cultural industry”
  • Dafydd Trystan, Welsh National College – “The value of the Welsh pound?”
  • Moderated by Antonia Luciani, Centre Maurits Coppieters
15:00 - 16:45
Panel III: Languages and education
  • Sabine Ehrhart, Luxembourg University – “Teaching languages in contact: the case of Luxembourg and Catalonia”
  • Cor van der Meer, Fryske Academy – “Frisian language revitalization through education”
  • Markus Österlund, Folktinget – “Revitalization of Swedish Language in the Finnish Education system”
  • Robert Phillipson, Copenhagen Business School – “The use of English in higher education in Europe and the implications for local languages”
Closing remarks
  • Gregorio Ferreiro, Vice-Chair of the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity
  • Antonia Luciani, Centre Maurits Coppieters

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When: Thursday 9th November 2017, from 9:00 to 17:00
Where: Bergen Theatre at Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre, Avenue du Boulevard 17, Brussels


This event is invitation-only.


There will be interpretation in French and Spanish.

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This conference is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conference or the opinions of the speakers.

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This conference is a joint initiative of Centre Maurits Coppieters and the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity.

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