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Conference announcement

13th Annual Conference of EFNIL in Helsinki/Helsingfors on 7-9 October 2015 hosted by the Kotimaisten kielten keskus / Institutet för de inhemska språken (the Institute for the Languages of Finland)

Conference theme: Language use in public administration – theory and practice in the European states

Communication between citizens and the institutions responsible for public administration within a country is essential for the smooth functioning of national life at all levels. The challenges for effective administrative communication are especially great in multilingual countries, especially in those with more than one official language, or with vibrant minority languages alongside the official language or languages. Should everyone be able to communicate with the authorities in their own mother tongue, and how should we facilitate this? What actions can be taken to avoid bureaucratic jargon and gobbledygook in official communication, and especially in official documents and forms? The increasing use of digital media by the authorities causes additional problems for some citizens. The European Union presents an extreme case of a multilingual administration, in which speakers of 24 different official languages are expected to communicate both with each other and with the citizens of the 28 member countries.

Our 2015 conference in Helsinki will provide us with a more detailed picture of the present linguistic situation regarding communication by and with institutions of public administration in various European countries. We would now like to invite members to present reports at our conference on the language use of the administrative institutions of their own countries, including that of the law courts and other judicial authorities. It would be instructive if the linguistic description could also be linked to any significant factors of social change in recent years. Such changes might include, perhaps, increased immigration, or an enhanced awareness of citizen’s rights with relation to communication with the administrative and judicial authorities.

The conference programme will contain general reflections and overview papers by invited experts, and a series of compact 'national' reports by up to 10 of our members. In addition, as the language use of the EU institutions is relevant for the functioning of political, social and economic communication within a multilingual Europe, representatives of the European Commission will be invited to present reports on linguistic rules, practices and problems related to their activities.

Expert guest speakers will be asked, in their contributions, to cover topics such as:

  • legal aspects of language use in public administration and in judicial institutions
  • recent studies in the comprehensibility of administrative and/or judicial texts
  • a comparison of language use within various European countries
  • traditions, regulations and practices of language use in the administration of multilingual societies

Representatives of the European Commission will be invited to discuss the topics:

  • Rules and practices of language use within and between different institutions of the EU
  • Communication by EU institutions with the citizens of member countries

Representatives of EFNIL’s member institutions or specialists of their choice are invited
to give country reports covering a combination of some of the questions below. Some eight or nine reports (20minutes for a presentation and 10 minutes for questions and discussion) will fit into the time frame of the conference programme.

  • How does the general linguistic situation of your country (with regard to the number of official languages, regional, indigenous, and exogenous minority languages) influence the language use of the administration in your country?
  • Are there laws or other national or regional regulations concerning the use of the languages of public administration and/or of the judicial authorities of your country? If so, have they changed significantly in recent years?
  • What are the effects of the increasing use of digital media by the administrative and/or judicial authorities in your country?
  • Were there or are there initiatives to enhance communication between official institutions and the citizens of the country, either on the part of the authorities or of the citizens concerned, or of both?
  • Have the characteristics of communication between institutions of public administration and citizens been studied recently by linguists, sociologists and/or psychologists? What are the main findings?
  • Was there or is there any public discussion of the concept of 'plain language' to be used by the official administration?
  • Are there examples of good practice or general improvement in communication between institutions of public administration and the general public?

We invite members of EFNIL who would like to offer a presentation covering a combination of these topics or to suggest a speaker to contact the EFNIL Secretariat ( as soon as possible.

The thematic part of the conference will be concluded with a panel discussion on the question:

"How can communication between institutions of public administration and the citizens in Europe be improved?"

For budgetary reasons it could not yet been decided what kind of interpretation service can be offered.

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