Language Education for Intercultural Communication

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In late twentieth century Europe effective communication has become a fundamental requirement for the success of the individual, of communities, and of nations. For individuals, it is important to be able to participate in democratic and cultural processes, and to gain access to the labour market, without suffering the drawbacks of illiteracy or inadequate knowledge of standardised languages. Language learning and language competence have become matters of vital importance as countries realign, severing former alliances, and reform, creating new groupings. Nations interact on the international scene, and must ensure that their political and economic interests are helped by adequate communication skills on the part of their citizens. Each of these political acts entails a re-evaluation of language policy and practice including the question of language education. The policies and practices of European states vary even when addressing very similar linguistic problems and these different approaches illuminate the area for manoeuvre in each national situation. Variations are related to or explained by several factors at the level of the nation, the community and the individual: national educational systems and priorities, national particularities, national histories, cultural and religious differences, migration, economic pressures, individual characteristics and preferences. These variations and their causes are described and analysed here in parallel studies, leading to assessments of the effectiveness of national educational policies. Comparisons and evaluations of the data enable a reconceptualisation of relations between language learning, education and cross-cultural communication, allowing conclusions to be drawn concerning the efficiency and effectiveness of policies.