Language Policy
The fribourg resolution

Together we are strong – not only in words
Together we are strong – not only in words | Photo: © Reilika Landen – plainpicture

Language learning cannot be taken for granted. It requires management and commitment to create space for German in the international sphere – and to embark on the right paths for teaching German as a second language. The Fribourg Resolution points teachers in the right direction.

In issuing its language policy resolution, the IDT 2017 (International German Teacher Conference) has sent out an extremely important signal for language policy: the IDV and its 94 member associations from around the world, together with the intermediary organizations and the language and cultural policy institutions of German-speaking countries, have established eleven theses designed to prepare German as a foreign (GFL) and second language (GSL) for the future.

Resolutions were already passed at the conferences in Lucerne (2001) and Graz (2005). The return to this tradition is a testament to the IDT’s relevance to language policy: although the associations of German teachers believe that their main duty is to represent their members, they regularly contribute to language policy discussions on societal, political and economic levels. Rather than addressing only German teachers, intermediary organizations and national associations, the Fribourg Resolution is thus an official set of theses intended for those with political responsibility, that is to say the education, cultural and integration ministries in German-speaking and non-German-speaking countries.
The Fribourg Resolution on Language Policy comprises eleven theses that reflect the reports on eleven GFL- and GSL-specific focal issues that were drawn up ahead of the conference. Five overarching topics can be highlighted: the language and education policy dimension; conceptual and educational policy principles, including curricula and teaching goals; teacher training and continuing education; the role of research, and cooperation through networks and collaborative research projects.

Fribourg Resolution on Language Policy – the theses

Thesis 1: Promoting German in the international context

Thesis 2: Language policy activities of associations

Thesis 3: Intermediary organizations and the foreign language and cultural policy of German-speaking countries

Thesis 4: German in academia

Thesis 5: The DACH principle

Thesis 6: German as a second language and early integration at schools

Thesis 7: German as a second language and vocational training and continuing education in the context of social integration

Thesis 8: Curricular for lessons in German as a foreign and second language

Thesis 9: Training and continuing education of teachers

Thesis 10: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

Thesis 11: Role of research and cooperation

Long and short versions of the theses can be found here.

The Resolution Committee prepared draft versions of these theses and, together with the members of the IDT 2017 International Council, drew up a preliminary final version in readiness for the start of the conference. The theses and recommendations were discussed during language policy panel discussions and workshops involving the eleven working groups on “language policy Monday”; suggested changes were then reviewed by the Resolution Committee. At the IDT’s closing ceremony, the conference participants unanimously voted to adopt the Fribourg Resolution.

Strong support for the Fribourg Resolution Strong support for the Fribourg Resolution | Photo (detail): © Steve Guenat

Contents and demands

Let it be noted that the eleven theses, which contain not only basic principles and recommendations but also demands, are statements of equal value that are not given in any particular order of importance. The Fribourg Resolution emphasizes that German should be strengthened within the framework of multilingualism. A number of its demands are directed explicitly at German-speaking countries: particular attention should be paid to encouraging talented German learners; in addition, measures to promote integration should be implemented not only at schools but also during vocational training and continuing education of migrants. The objective is to foster individual skills. To ensure that language-sensitive teaching can be provided in all subjects in the context of early integration at schools, it is necessary to offer special training and continuing education courses to all subject teachers. The focus here is on combining subject knowledge with pedagogical principles and teaching practice, competence orientation, self-reflection and quality assurance through regular further training opportunities. Furthermore, appropriate working conditions should be created comparable to those in school education institutions.

Multilingualism in the international domain

When drawing up curricula it is important to take into account both the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the DACHL principle – the latter acronym stands for the national abbreviations of Germany (D), Austria (A), Switzerland (CH) and Liechtenstein (L) building a common roof (Dach in German). A relatively new addition is the call for the multilingual approach to be incorporated into the design of GSL and GFL lessons, especially in the international domain. This means integrating the pupils’ knowledge of their first, second or third languages into the lessons. On an education policy level, however, multilingualism also means offering more than one foreign language at schools. It is hoped that this call will help German to evolve worldwide to become an important second or third language – alongside English as a lingua franca – within the curriculum. Besides those with political responsibility, intermediary organizations, teachers and those who develop curricula, it is also up to researchers to conduct empirical research into the aforementioned aspects, to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures and innovations in question and to highlight any successes (or failures). (Successful) results should be presented, discussed and celebrated at future conferences, and especially at the next IDT 2021 in Vienna.

Without doubt, the progress made in the area of GSL and GFL will be measured in part by how many calls and recommendations of the Fribourg Resolution are implemented in German-speaking countries and indeed internationally by the respective national associations and their intermediary organizations. To achieve this goal, the IDV (International German Teacher Association) and its national associations, as well as the intermediary organizations and the language and cultural policy institutions of German-speaking countries, will have to step up their language policy activities. To this end, intensive cooperation between the associations and intermediary organizations is particularly important given that the latter play an essential role in promoting the German language worldwide.

Language policy activities of associations

In practice, language policy activities start with the concept of multilingualism that is mentioned above. To ensure that German remains able to compete with other languages, and to take part in language policy discussions in a unified fashion and with a “single voice”, it is particularly important for the actors concerned to be part of a network. As well as interlinking various initiatives designed to promote the German language – including advertising and public relations work – it is important in my opinion to engage intensively with the Fribourg Resolution within the national associations, to agree on the areas on which to focus work in one’s own country-specific situation with respect to German and language policy, and to actively incorporate these work areas into the association’s planning for the next four years.

At the same time, I believe that the IDV should address the issue of “Language-policy activities of associations” at its next biannual workshop in 2019 and should above all conduct an initial evaluation of the Fribourg Resolution. As well as sharing experiences and gathering together best practice/successful examples, there should also be reflection in particular on the basic principles – including the multilingualism approach. Such reflection serves on the one hand to evaluate the extent to which recommendations and demands can be implemented, and on the other to inspire member associations and the IDV to send out language policy signals ahead of the IDT 2021. After all, issuing resolutions is one thing, but beginning to implement them is another and no less important step.
What is the impact of language policy in the different countries? I Video: ©

Benefits for teachers

I believe that language policy should begin at the grass-roots level, however. German teachers at their schools and institutions around the world are active in terms of language policy even if they would often not put it like that. One good example is when they discuss the status of German with learners. And another is when teachers (have to) stand up for their subject vis-à-vis the head teacher and other colleagues to ensure that German is accorded the necessary priority on the school curriculum. Every German teacher will find theses that are relevant to their own institutional circumstances and that can then also be used as the basis for discussions and difficult conversations. I would like to take this opportunity to wish German teachers worldwide every success in tackling this important language policy challenge!

I would be delighted to receive any feedback, especially about the (successful) implementation of the Fribourg Resolution in different situations. Write to me at: