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Document 31998Y0103(01)

Council Resolution of 16 December 1997 on the early teaching of European Union languages

OJ C 1, 3.1.1998, p. 2–3 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

In force


Council Resolution of 16 December 1997 on the early teaching of European Union languages

Official Journal C 001 , 03/01/1998 P. 0002 - 0003

COUNCIL RESOLUTION of 16 December 1997 on the early teaching of European Union languages (98/C 1/02)


Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 126 (2) first indent,

(1) Whereas the European Union is distinguished first and foremost by its cultural diversity; whereas its construction has always been founded on respect for such diversity, which finds expression in, among other things, its great linguistic wealth;

(2) Whereas the promotion of linguistic diversity thus becomes one of the objectives of education;

(3) Whereas various European measures undertaken since 1976 reveal a desire to make the protection of linguistic and cultural heritage one of the cornerstones of European construction;

(4) Whereas several Member States have carried out pilot schemes at national level which need to be assessed in order to derive maximum benefit from early language teaching;

(5) Whereas other Member States begin teaching a foreign language at the end of primary schooling and whereas this has also proved to be satisfactory in terms of results;

(6) Whereas the Lingua programme was adopted in 1989 and partially integrated and reinforced in 1995 in the context of the horizontal measures contained in the Socrates programme; whereas the aim of the Lingua programme is to promote a quantitative and qualitative improvement in knowledge of the languages of the Union, with particular emphasis on the less widely spoken and taught languages, and whereas this has contributed to greater understanding and solidarity between the peoples of the Union;

(7) Whereas the Member States, in the conclusions of the Council and the Ministers for Education, meeting within the Council on 4 June 1984, agreed to promote all appropriate measures to enable the maximum number of pupils to acquire, before the end of compulsory schooling, a working knowledge of two languages in addition to the mother tongue;

(8) Whereas the resolution adopted by the Council on 31 March 1995 emphasized the need to develop and improve the language skills of the Union's citizens by stating that school pupils should, as a rule, have the opportunity to learn two languages of the Union in addition to their mother tongue(s); whereas the Council states in this resolution that it would be desirable to establish or develop the early teaching of modern languages in primary schools;

(9) Whereas the White Paper 'Teaching and learning: towards the learning society` presented by the Commission in 1995 starts from the premise that 'proficiency in several Community languages has become a precondition if citizens of the European Union are to benefit from the occupational and personal opportunities open to them in the border-free Single Market` and advocates proficiency in three Union languages;

(10) Whereas an improvement in the language and cross-cultural skills of the citizens is a necessary condition for the development of European citizenship.


While reaffirming the principle of equal status for each of the languages of the Union, thought should therefore be given to the tools required to fulfil the dual aim of maintaining cultural and linguistic diversity and promoting European multilingualism. Learning at an early age may be a significant factor in language learning and may thus contribute towards achieving these objectives. It may, in the medium term, enable each citizen to have access to the cultural wealth rooted in the linguistic diversity of the Union.

The early learning of one or more languages in addition to one's mother tongue(s) and increasing awareness of languages, particularly through a recreational approach, at the most flexible and receptive stage of intellectual development may pave the way for learning foreign languages in later life and may thus contribute to achieving the objective of learning two Union languages in addition to one's mother tongue(s). Integrating learning and increased awareness of this kind into compulsory schooling would also enable all pupils to have access to it. Furthermore, learning languages at an early age may foster greater understanding, mutual respect among young people through the knowledge which they could gain of one another and openness to Europe's cultural wealth.


within the framework and limits of their respective political, legal, budgetary, educational and training systems, to:

- encourage, wherever possible, the early teaching of languages and diversification in the languages taught at an early age, while taking into account the availability of resources and building on existing schemes,

- encourage European cooperation between schools which provide early teaching of at least one Union language in addition in the mother tongue(s), and foster pupils' virtual mobility and, if possible, their physical mobility,

- promote the continuous provision of teaching in several languages,

- increase awareness among all those involved, particularly parents, of the benefits of teaching languages at an early age,

- encourage measures to develop and distribute the most suitable teaching materials and multimedia resources for teaching Union languages at an early age,

- encourage measures to prepare teachers working in the field of early language learning to meet new needs;


support measures taken by Member States to achieve the objectives referred to in point II, and encourage, within the framework of existing Community programmes, the early learning of Union languages by:

- providing support for measures aimed at strengthening European cooperation and sharing or exchanging experience and examples of good practice in this field,

- endorsing transnational cooperation in the development of teaching methods and materials (including multimedia products) and means of evaluation in the field of early language learning,

- supporting the distribution of suitable, high-quality teaching materials via European networks,

- supporting measures aimed, on the one hand, at increasing teacher mobility and, on the other hand, at updating and improving the skills required to teach languages at an early age,

- fostering cooperation between teacher training institutions, for example by encouraging the creation of European credit transfer systems,

- encouraging contacts between pupils, particularly by means of virtual mobility,

- bearing in mind early language teaching when considering future cooperation in the field of education.