India, EU sign joint declaration to promote multilingualism

March 7th, 2009 - 12:46 am ICT by IANS  

Brussels, March 6 (IANS) The European Union (EU) and India Friday signed a joint declaration to strengthen cooperation and dialogue on linguistic diversity and inter-cultural dialogue, EuAsiaNews reported.
D. Purandeswari, India’s minister of state for human resource development, said after the signing ceremony here: “We need to send a clear message that all our languages are equally important.”

Both India and the EU have over 20 official languages.

India, she noted, “is essentially a multilingual country, where linguistic diversity is a part of our historical and cultural heritage, and an integral feature of its nation-building philosophy.

“This provides a challenge and an opportunity for the education planners who want to treat societal multilingualism as a dynamic resource shared across numerous interacting communities.

“Our culture has always understood the importance of language studies,” she added.

EU Commissioner in charge of multilingualism Leonard Orban said the declaration renews “our commitment for closer cooperation in the field of multilingualism. The promotion of language skills would allow us to engage in deeper exchanges”.

“It (the declaration) would allow us to learn from each other. I can tell you we have to learn a lot from your (India’s) experience. Your experience in coping with linguistic diversity is unique in the world,” Orban said.

The declaration also aims to reinforce EU-India cooperation on impact of languages on employability, social cohesion, lifelong language learning, new technologies for language learning and terminology, he noted.

The declaration is a follow-up to the EU-India Summit in Marseille, France Sep 29, 2008, where EU and Indian leaders committed themselves to developing a dialogue on the promotion of languages, intercultural dialogue and multilingualism.

A first step towards this dialogue was achieved in December 2008 with the conference on “Multilingualism and Cultural Dialogue in Globalisation” held in New Delhi, coinciding the 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

Orban said the declaration would allow mutual learning through seminars and conferences, and build administrative links between the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, and India’s human resource development ministry, as well as other Indian authorities.

With a population of approximately 1.1 billion people, India represents a unique example of ethnic, socio-cultural and religious diversity that brings with it a very rich linguistic diversity, noted a statement released here by the European Commission.

According to the 2001 Census Report, there are 29 languages spoken in India by more than a million native speakers, 122 languages with at least 10,000 speakers and another 234 languages spoken by a smaller number. In addition, India has 22 official regional languages, besides Hindi and English as the main official languages.

This rich linguistic diversity has been a fact of life throughout India’s history and it is considered locally to be quite natural. This similarity in the linguistic landscape with the European Union makes India a privileged interlocutor for Europe in the field of multilingualism, the statement noted.

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