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Plurilingualism and sustainable development

Last Updated: 4 Jan 2016

In our troubled times, marked by a serious economic crisis, climate change and terrorism, it could legitimately be said that linguistic issues have become of secondary importance.
Speaking about language, languages and linguistic issues to all is no easy task.
The coarse approach reveals in our contemporaries a great reductionism that is being contradicted only by a vague intuition.
The prevailing idea, which is quite ancient, is that of a tool language.
But a tool cannot create. Could we say that pictorial art is made out of brushes, colours and a surface ? To believe that a language is made out of a vocabulary and a grammar is just the same. A language is of course much more. Writing, speaking, singing are creative acts that can only happen through languages. In his time Leibniz saw it as a medium conditioning thoughts and not as a vehicle of thought. This is no minor nuance.
Actually language ensures our presence in the world at once collectively and individually.

That does not mean that languages isolate us, on the contrary. They open up the world for us. The world being plurilingual,the circulation of knowledge, ideas and imaginaries happens through languages. This is what plurilingualism and translation are about.
The present time is favourable to a growing awareness of linguistic issues.
It is no coincidence that the notions of secularism, identity, border and citizenship resurface in our linguistic landscape and are subject to an intense collective deliberation in all forms of cultural expression, and in families. The multi-secular historical experience confronted to topical issues enriches and distorts these terms whose meaning changes as the play of colours on the rainbow from one country to another, one language to another, one individual to another.
In 2008, in the context of the UNESCO “International Year of Languages”, the OEP had sent an appeal to artists and intellectuals for plurilingualism and linguistic and cultural diversity.
In 2012 in Rome, the theme of the European Conference on Plurilingualism was “Languages without frontiers : plurilingualisme”. A frontier can either be open or closed and languages, meaning the speakers of these languages, are open to other languages through plurilingualism and translation.
As a continuation of the former ones, the theme of the Conference that will be held in Brussels on 18, 19 and 20 May 2016 will be “Plurilingualism and creativity : languages at the heart of Europe”. Language is a great wealth that cannot be made sacred as such. However, language is at the heart of considerable political and geopolitical, economical and social, cultural and educational issues that all decision-makers and citizens should be able to take into account.

The aim of the European Conference on Plurilingualism is to generate debate and to favour this awareness. The aim is to promote at the European and world level a true ecology of languages and cultures.
The linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, while giving an exceptional wealth of visions and views on the world, poses unprecedented challenges that cannot be solved by any form of monolingualism.
This is the reason why, if plurilingualism remains overriding in its principle and forms one of the cornerstones of the European treaties,the question remains of how to organise it, support it politically by concrete and operational solutions concerning :

L- the daily functioning of European institutions and their relationships with the citizens of member States,
- education where a diversification of linguistic programs should be organised, from nursery school to further education,
- businesses where the assets created by an adequate treatment of languages should be taken into account as a resource and integral part of management,
- culture where plurilingualism and cultural diversity appear as a wonderful reserve of creativity and development.
These will be the matters under discussion during the three days of the Conference, where researchers, decision-makers of national administrations, European institutions and of the public and private sectors, as well as representatives of the civil society will be present.