Session 586


Language is fundamental to national identity and an important contributor to social cohesion in modern pluralistic societies. Learning a foreign language helps you to know that country and language skills can be very valuable. However, language policy decisions can also impact detrimentally on students’ life chances.  All of this raises critical questions for researchers, policy makers and practitioners about the role of language learning and testing for two public good objectives: to ‘untap’ and optimize individual talents and to foster social cohesion and dynamic inclusive economies.

This session focused on the pivotal role of language policy and language learning for refugees and migrants, for international relations and for the full utilization of talent and economic dynamism across populations.

Research suggests that multiple language acquisition can have an important positive impact on children’s abilities to develop complex cognitive skills, and that children regularly exposed to bilingual or multilingual environments are more likely to be empathetic with an understanding of divergent beliefs. Recent studies indicate that such children are better able to control executive functions like attention span, focus, and organization of complex tasks better able to develop “theory of mind” skills, and less likely to develop dementia later in life.

Language skills and language learning are fundamental for refugees. There is an increasing amount of research looking at the important relationship between language policy and refugee and host communities.  Language can enhance protection and reduce vulnerability. Language policies are also fundamental to helping newly arrived people integrate into new communities.   Language is critical to national identity.

Research, rigor and creativity are also needed to translate research into policy and practice at scale. There are major quality and equity implications in how language teaching, learning and testing systems are designed, and what lessons are drawn from those systems for public policy purposes. From an assessment perspective, testing raises specific challenges as migrant populations and marginalized communities run the highest risk of poor-quality language education. Conversely, bilingualism or multilingualism is often highest in these populations and evidence suggests it brings strong economic benefits for labor mobility. Technology and innovation have the potential to revolutionize and democratize the language teaching and learning fields, paving the way to fairer access to the job market. This will require new cross-sector initiatives to integrate the science of learning into accessible high-quality tools and solutions that can reveal and foster talent development and social equity.

This meeting explored the importance of language policy and practice from three perspectives -  the individual, the state and market and society.

  • The individual - language policy and refugees. Looking at language and resilience, language programs in refugee camps and the programs that help refugees and migrants integrate into their new host countries.
  • The state – the role of language and soft power, the role of languages and diplomacy, national security and cross-cultural understanding.
  • Market and society – language learning for dynamic economies, the importance of language of instruction and multilingual policies in terms of access to opportunities after basic education, the current state of languages in the curriculum, the economic value of language learning (real and perceived) and the connection between languages and employability.

Key Questions

  • How can we better communicate the complexity of research around language policy and learning? Languages are often valued less than STEM subjects in the curriculum, despite the fact this goes against the latest thinking in neuroscience. Practice and policy often go against the evidence in terms when decisions are being made about language of instruction. How can the research community get more traction with policy makers, practitioners and the public?
  • Language is critical to national identity – how can more be done to help newly arrived refugees and migrants learn the host country language?
  • What role might disruptive technology play in shaping future decisions about language policy?
  • What research and policy gaps exist and how can these be addressed in mono and multi-lingual contexts?

Salzburg Statement

The Salzburg Statement for a Multilingual World

In today’s interconnected world, the ability to speak multiple languages and communicate across linguistic divides is a critical skill. Even partial knowledge of more than one language is beneficial. Proficiency in additional languages is a new kind of global literacy. Language learning needs to be expanded for all – young and old.

However, millions of people across the globe are denied the inherent right to maintain, enjoy and develop their languages of identity and community. This injustice needs to be corrected in language policies that support multilingual societies and individuals. 

We, the participants of Salzburg Global Seminar’s session on Springboard for Talent: Language Learning and Integration in a Globalized World (December 12-17, 2017), call for policies that value and uphold multilingualism and language rights.

Full Statement in English (PDF)



The Salzburg Statement for a Multilingual World was jointly drafted in English by Salzburg Global Fellows. All translations have been provided through the goodwill and voluntary efforts of the Fellows and their colleagues.

PDFs of individual translations are available here

Full Statement in all languages (PDF)


Session Summary Report

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Multi-Year Series


This series addresses radical changes ahead, recognizing that the way we learn and the future of work will be transformed by the “4th” Industrial Revolution. It focuses on strategies, innovations and institutional changes that can meet societies’ future need and help all learners flourish. The series tackles root causes that undermine societies as well as individuals such as educational systems blockages, failure to tap into the full range of talents; and the exclusion or unfair access to educational opportunities faced by many. Its outcomes connect to Salzburg Global’s health, urban and early childhood programs, supporting collaborative partnerships for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Education for Tomorrow's World series focuses on strategies, innovations, and institutional changes that can meet societies' future needs and help all learners flourish. It draws on cross-sector expertise from education, neuro- and cognitive science, health, technology, and business to explore root causes and blockages in educational systems, and identify breakthrough collaborations and ideas to move forward along the lifelong learning continuum.

This series, launched in 2015, directly supports action to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and takes forward Salzburg Global's commitment to bridge divides and accelerate human transformation. Its topics and outcomes directly connect to Salzburg Global's health, urban and early childhood programs.

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Session Photos

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All photos are available to publish under the Creative Commons license - Attribution/Non-commercial. Photos should be credited to Salzburg Global Seminar/Herman Seidl

Hi-res, non-watermarked photos are available from the Communications Team,


Resource List

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Dixon, Kerryn. “Making Space for Literacy Learning: The Impact of Spatial and Temporal Organization in Constructing a Writing Subject in the Early Years.” 2014.

Dixon K. and B. Mendelowitz B. “Giving Voice to the Citizen Scholar: Generating Critical Thinking by Combining Traditional and Non-Traditional Genres in a First-Year English Course.” In Universities, the Citizen Scholar and the Future of Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, London. 2017.

Dixon, K. and K. Peake. “‘Straight for English’: Using school language policy to resist multilingualism.” English Teaching: Practice and Critique.  7(1): 73-90, 2008.

Dornback, J. and K. Dixon. “Towards a More Explicit Writing Pedagogy: The Complexity of Teaching Argumentative Writing.” Reading & Writing. 5(1). 2014.

Erling, Elizabeth. “Language Planning, English Language ,Education and Development Aid in Bangladesh.” Current Issues in Language Planning. 2017.

Erling, Elizabeth. Role of English in Skills Development in South Asia. British Council India. 2017.

Erling, Elizabeth. The Relationship Between English and Employability in the Middle East and North AfricaBritish Council. 2017.

Erling, Elizabeth, Lina Adinolfi, Anna Kristina Hultgren, Alison Buckler &

Mark Mukorera. “Medium of Instruction Policies in Ghanaian and Indian Primary Schools: An Overview of Key Issues and Recommendations.” Comparative Education. 52(3): 294-310, 2016.

Hogan-Brun, Gabrielle. Linguanomics. What is the Market Potential of Multilingualism?(Bloomsbury Academic, 2017).

Hamid, M. Obaidul, and Arifa Rahman. “Language in Education Policy in Bangladesh: A Neoliberal Turn?”

Hashimoto, Kayoko. Japanese Language and Soft Power in Asia. Brisbane, Queensland, Australia: Springer Nature, 2018.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. "Accent on the Positive: Revisiting the ‘Language as Resource’ Orientation for Bolstering Multilingualism in Contemporary Urban Europe. In Dynamics of Linguistic Diversity, 31-48. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2017.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. “Conflict, Language Rights, and Education: Building Peace by Solving Language Problems in Southeast Asia.” LPREN Brief (Language Policy Research Network) 2016.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. "Resolving Ethnolinguistic Conflict in Multi-Ethnic Societies." Nature Human Behaviour. 5(1): 2017.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. Synthesis Report. Thailand: UNICEF, 2014.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. "Using Education to Create Cohesion from Conflict". Pursuit. 2017.

Mendelowitz, Belinda and Kerryn Dixon. “Risky Writing: Working with a Heteroglossic Pedagogy to Deepen Pre-service Teachers' Learning.” Perspectives in Education. 34(1): 120-134. 2016.

Pataki, Zsolt G., and Bianca A. Schranz. "Multilingualism in the Digital Age: The Need for a ‘European Language Programme’." Blog. European Parliamentary Research Service Blog, 2017.

Tinsley, Teresa, and Kathryn Board. Languages for the Future. British Council, 2017.