How to rebuild Europe based on new linguistic order and multilingualism? Impressions from #IWmultilingVLC

News / 10.11.16

On 4 November 2016, experts from around Europe gathered in Valencia to discuss the challenges of multilingualism in Europe with the aim of starting a conversation about how to rebuild Europe based on a new linguistic order, respect for diversity and European identity?

Vicent Climent-Ferrando (European Network for Linguistic Diversity – NPLD) noted that the European environment is increasingly hostile to non-hegemonic languages, since the neo-liberal economic model dismisses minority or minoritised languages as “less useful” in terms of economic growth, competition and progress.

Instead, minority/minoritised languages are often viewed from a folkloric or identity perspective rather than a core faculty of humans that can also boost innovation, flexibility and opportunity. As Vicent argued, “a language is a vital warehouse for cultural memory and a space for co-existence”.


Kaisa Kepsu-Lescelius (Magma think tank), Bernat Joan i Marí (former MEP and Secretary of Language Policy of the Catalan Government), Anselm Bodoque (Universitat de València) and Patrick Carlin (Cardiff University) discussed the rising hostility towards linguistic diversity in Europe, and in particular, Finland, Catalonia, Valencia and Wales, as a result of austerity cuts and pressures on already limited resources, as well as changes in political discourse towards minorities and migrants. “We have not given enough visibility to the banal discrimination that happens to us every day,” added Miquel Strubell (Linguapax International).

Paul Bilbao (Kontseilua Secretary General and European Language Equality Network Vice-President) poignantly noted: “When I remember the motto of the European Union – united in diversity – I always ask myself: what diversity? Whose diversity?”. Eva Pons (Universitat de Barcelona) and Miquel Strubell attempted to elaborate further on current EU policy and spoke about how to see linguistic pluralism beyond national language diversity.

The recognition of a language is a question of power and depends on demographic considerations and attitudes. Without political imperative, language use will continue to be understood as a voluntary act, rather than a question of social and legal equality.

“We do not have a right to expect that a language community will survive, but we do have a right to protect it from external pressures,” concluded Branchadell Albert (Autonomous University of Barcelona). The foundation of all language rights is the idea that speakers have the right to linguistic security; the sense of security in expressing oneself in the language of choice and the ability to protect oneself from unfair or coercive pressures.

“We try to create speakers, spaces, tools and demands, not just in the Basque country, but elsewhere in Europe,” said Paul Bilbao. Non-hegemonic languages require special support, resources and initiatives, and should not be left to the mercy of the market. Experts also proposed concrete tools to counteract growing pressures, such as positive discrimination measures, early education, e-courses, integrating new migrants via multilingual courses, as well as working with political parties, trade unions, volunteers, civil society and the elderly.