Huge debate over multilingualism in Austria

Possible projects for a “multilingual oriented educational concept” have led to a debate in Vienna. The SPÖ, ÖVP and FPÖ are currently discussing the two sides of the issue: “multilingualism as a chance” and “German as a priority”.

The “”, an expert group that has replaced the commission of migration of the city of Vienna, has issued a first document of a “multilingual oriented educational concept”.

The paper suggests that immigrant languages can be upgraded in the case of bilingual classes, continuous first language lessons and corresponding school leaving examination (Matura).

Moreover, the forum is thinking about “district partnerships” for schools and intensified education of multilingual teachers, starting in kindergarten.

The expert group has set themselves the task of becoming an “independent advising committee of the city of Vienna”. They want to “plan proposals for the further development of an international Vienna”.

The document is a “first basis of discussion”. A report will be available in autumn the earliest.

“It is neither an integration concept of the city of Vienna, nor a strategy document that has already been disputed by the forum”, the expert group stated.

State secretary of integration (ÖVP) does not like the proposals. He emphasised that German had priority. He stated that even though multilingualism could be an advantage in business life, it could never replace the official language of Austria.

The FPÖ criticised the proposal even more. Head of the party Johann Gudenus called the responsible SPÖ state councillor Sandra Frauenberger a fanatic of multiculturalism.

Ms Frauenberger emphasised that German would remain the main school language. However, multilingualism in Vienna is a “treasure, which needs to be found and promoted”.

She said that the document was no political concept but contained only “first ideas” of the expert group.