Where policy doesn't meet life-world practice - the difficulty of creating the multilingual European

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


This article examines language education in Europe and is particularly interested in the gap between policy and life-world practice. Language education is a field of language policy where in pursuing the ‘Mother Tongue + 2’ policy, Europe has developed a unique profile. Its conceptual basis, however, is characterized by inconsistencies and discrepancies. One outcome of European language education policy is the monitoring system that provides data on where, how and to which proficiency level Europeans ‘accumulate’ languages, and that pretends to measure the progress with regard to reaching the ‘Mother Tongue + 2’ goal. In this contribution, it is argued that a creation of ‘multilingual’ Europeans planned (and monitored) in this manner disregards the characteristics of post-modern societies and central aspects of language. This calls for a closer examination of the underlying concept of language and, derived from the former, a common understanding concerning a flexible approach to multilingualism. Using the examples of life-world multilingual pupils and of minority language education in Brittany (France), the paper illustrates how the traditional view of multilingualism ignores or marginalizes existing multilingualism. Future-oriented European language education policy, it is argued, should be based on a rapprochement between policy and multilingual realities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-102
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 602007 Applied linguistics
  • 503006 Educational research

Cite this