The Brussels Multilingualism Day is an annual event held in September to celebrate the multilingualism of Brussels. The initiator is Brussels Minister Sven Gatz, who for the first time has the promotion of multilingualism in his remit. In 2019, Sven Gatz submitted his orientation paper to the Brussels Parliament. Last year, a Council for Multilingualism was set up under the chairmanship of Philippe Van Parijs.
Today, more than 180 nationalities live in Brussels and more than 100 languages are spoken there. Brussels is therefore a truly multilingual city and this multilingualism is increasing. The 4th language barometer of BRIO (VUB) shows that 90% of Brussels residents are in favour of multilingual education in Brussels.
In order to get more involved in multilingual education, Minister Gatz and the Brussels Council for Multilingualism launched the bilingual brochure "Meer taal in het onderwijs in Brussel" - "Grandir en multilingue à Bruxelles, à l'école et en dehors". Teachers who already want to start working with linguistic diversity in their class will find tips and tricks in it. The brochure provides useful information and an overview of methodologies and projects related to multilingualism in an educational context. Four thousand copies of this brochure will be distributed among all French- and Dutch-speaking primary and secondary schools in Brussels. This roadmap towards more multilingualism in Brussels education is a first.
During a workshop, academics, teachers and Council experts such as Philippe Van Parijs and Nadia Fadil exchanged views on the role of home languages in education. During a debate with Sven Gatz, Philippe Close, the mayor of the City of Brussels, and Caroline Pauwels, the rector of the VUB, on the challenges of multilingual education in Brussels, Minister Gatz said that :
"we need to do more work on exchange and language bathing programmes to give both teachers and pupils more language skills. We must also create new tools to promote language learning and dare to think about a new multilingual education network in Brussels, for example in the framework of a new state reform."
Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels, is also enthusiastic :
"In Brussels today, more and more parents are sending their children to Dutch-speaking and immersion schools. It is interesting to see that so many parents want their children to learn Dutch. In the city of Brussels, we are creating even more Dutch-speaking primary schools on our territory to meet this demand. Our aim is to build bridges through language learning," adds Philippe Close, the Mayor of the City of Brussels.
Caroline Pauwels, the rector of the VUB, called for more attention to multilingualism in education:
"As rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, I advocate multilingualism. The more languages you master, the more worlds will open up to you. Multilingualism is not at all at odds with having a good command of your first language. Everything stands or falls with good language education. That is why I advocate multilingual education. In Brussels. But actually everywhere." - Caroline Pauwels, the rector of VUB.
Brussels pupils were also thought of. The BeTalky Slam Contest was launched for them. Little kids from Brussels between the ages of 10 and 18 who are creative with languages are asked to write a multilingual slam poem about Brussels. The assignment is simple: describe in 10 lines and in different languages how beautiful Brussels is! The winner will be announced next year on World Poetry Day (21 March).
Furthermore, 10 OKAN and DASPA young people (underage newcomers) who followed a preliminary training as social interpreters at Vluchtelingwerk Vlaanderen were symbolically presented with a certificate. Some activities were also organised outside the walls of the Brussels Parliament. For the little ones, a language ball pool was set up at Muntpunt and language games were organised. The House of Dutch Brussels organised a patati apéro and De Foyer held a reflection on the theme "language as cultural heritage".
The second Multilingualism Day could also be followed via livestream.