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Action plan on language learning and linguistic diversity

The purpose of this action plan is to promote language learning and linguistic diversity. It defines specific objectives and a set of actions to be implemented between 2004 and 2006.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 24 July 2003 - Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity: an action plan 2004-2006 [COM(2003) 449 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


In the European Union (EU) more than 500 million Europeans come from diverse ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds and it is now more important than ever that citizens have the skills necessary to understand and communicate with their neighbours. All European citizens should be able to communicate in at least two languages other than their mother tongue.

Role of the European Union and the Member States

In accordance with the ‘principle of subsidiarity’ each EU Member State is fully responsible for organising its educational systems as well as the content of the programmes.

The Union's role in this field is not to replace action by Member States, but to support and supplement it. However, the EU has put in place numerous actions designed to promote language education and learning under the framework of Community programmes, particularly in the areas of education, culture, the audiovisual sector, and the media.

Objectives and actions

The action plan identifies three broad areas for action and defines specific objectives for each of them.

The first area of action is life-long language learning. For this area the action plan identifies the following specific objectives:

  • learning a mother tongue plus two other languages from a very early age;
  • continuing language learning in secondary education and vocational training;
  • continuing language learning in higher education;
  • encouraging language learning among adults;
  • developing language learning for persons with special needs;
  • widening the range of languages offered in education.

The second area of action aims at improving language teaching, specifically through a more adaptable school structure. In this context, the action plan identifies the following specific objectives:

  • implementing global language learning policies in schools;
  • disseminating more widely the tools developed for teaching and learning languages;
  • improving the training for language teachers;
  • increasing the supply of language teachers;
  • training teachers so that they can teach their subjects in at least one other foreign language;
  • testing the language skills of citizens using a European Indicator of Language Competence and facilitating comparison between these skills.

The third area of action involves creating a language-friendly environment. To this end, the action plan identifies the following specific objectives:

  • promoting an inclusive approach to linguistic diversity;
  • creating language-friendly communities, through the use of sub-titles in cinemas, for example, or by capitalising on the skills of the many bilingual citizens;
  • improving the supply and take-up of language learning.

In order to achieve these objectives, the action plan proposes actions to be taken at European level for each of them, aimed at supplementing Member States’ initiatives. These actions will be carried out between 2004 and 2006.

The action plan also includes the creation of a framework for achieving these objectives through structures that enable better-informed decisions (a high-level group, undertaking studies, etc.), more effective sharing of information amongst practitioners, and clear procedures for the follow-up of the action plan.

Overall budget and monitoring of action plan

The overall budget for 2004-2006 is EUR 8 200 million to be shared between the Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and MEDIA Plus programmes.

In 2007, Member States will present to the Commission a report on the implementation of the action plan.


The European Year of Languages organised in 2001 highlighted the many ways of promoting language learning and linguistic diversity. The action plan follows a request from the Council and is the result of in a wide public consultation involving the European institutions, relevant national ministries, a wide range of organisations representing civil society, and the general public.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 18 September 2008 – Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment [COM(2008) 566 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Commission report of 25 September 2007 on the implementation of the Action Plan 'Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity' [COM(2007) 554 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. The Commission and the Member States have made substantial progress in implementing this Action Plan. Of the 47 actions, 41 will be completed by the end of 2007. On the basis of the national reports on the monitoring of the Action Plan, the Commission considers that it has influenced the national language policy reforms and made it possible to attach more political importance to promoting language learning, linguistic diversity and multilingualism in general. Seventeen actions aimed at improving the promotion of language learning have been implemented under several European programmes, mainly Socrates and Leonardo. This support will have a lasting effect, as the new generation of programmes for 2007-2013 puts the emphasis on promoting language learning and linguistic diversity. However, the report refers to the additional efforts that need to be made to implement the national reforms from the point of view of the quality of language teaching and teacher training in this field. Emphasis should also be placed on widening the range of languages taught.

See also

Last updated: 13.09.2011