2015 | 6(37) | 107-121
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What policy of multilingualism can foster European identity formation?

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By the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, European policies on languages were in a situation of flux. Between roughly 1985 and 2005 there was a relatively smooth development characterized by an implicit and explicit commitment to multilingualism. More recently, however, things have appeared rather less clear cut, both internationally and in individual countries. This paper problematizes the interplay between language and identity, which although not a new issue, takes on particular significance in the mobile, interconnected world of the 21st century. Drawing on the data collected in three major surveys in 2012, it touches upon two major issues: 1) the reality of individual multilingualism in fostering the sense of community among Europeans and as a factor for European identity formation; and 2) broadening of the traditional concept of language policy – from its narrow content as language planning of the national or official language to a broader concept including a wider range of agents, types of activities, level of explicitness and concreteness of application. Is there a need to develop specific language policies “beyond the state” in regions or more commonly in multilingual cities as its natural locus? The paper argues that the essentially liberal world view of multilingualism creating mutual understanding is rather more nuanced when it comes to reflections on the impact of language on identity and on European identity in particular. It also argues for re‑scoping and re‑thinking of the European model of multilingualism.
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