European Journal of Language Policy

Safety in multilingual work settings: Reviewing a neglected subject in European Union policymaking

European Journal of Language Policy (2012), 4, (2), 137–170.

Abstract

The rich diversity in culture and languages in the European Union is embraced. Surely multilingualism is also being promoted for economic reasons. However, only scant attention is paid to the downside of multilingual work settings. Production losses and accidents, related to language issues, appear to be ignored as a common problem requiring risk control. Simply expecting all workers to learn the local language is not feasible. Other ways are needed to avoid economic damage and personal injury. This study identifies the dangers of multilingual work settings and assesses the risks. Activities aiming to control risks are investigated and an inventory of existing best practice in industry and health care is made. Five main ways to control these risks are highlighted. They are: provision of guidance, use of a lingua franca, the reduction of illiteracy, implementing controlled readability and finally the introduction of a range of practical measures. In order to proceed with these risk controls, seven unresolved dilemmas require language-related policy in the EU to be further developed.

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Author details

Lindhout, Paul

Swuste, Paul

Teunissen, Truus

Ale, Ben