Study on the Contribution
of Multilingualism to Creativity
Public Services Contract n° EACEA/2007/3995/2
16 July 2009
Avenue Emile De Mot 8, box 4
The views expressed in this work are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission.
This study has been commissioned by the European Commission, Directorate General Education and Culture.
Table of Contents: Executive Summary
What does science reveal?
What does public opinion suggest?
The Online Survey
The Telephone Survey
The Case Studies
The Overall Implications
Summary of Recommendations
Multilingualism: realising our creative potential
This study was conducted during the period May 2008-June 2009. It comprised an analysis of scientific literature (European and international), an online survey, a telephone survey, and the identification of case studies. It had the support of thirty Country Experts, a Core Scientific Research Team (CSRT), a Core Field Research Team (CFRT), and a central secretariat and communications desk.
Creativity and innovation have been a key focus of attention around the globe in recent years. This is partly due to the need to develop human capital to adjust to the Information Age and strengthen economic performance. Human capital includes skills such as innovation and knowledge, which contribute to economic performance and social cohesion. The European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 places creativity, innovation and multilingualism under the spotlight. It recognises the need to better understand how multilingualism enhances knowledge-based economies and societies. Multilingualism is one of the cornerstones of European identity, and is now firmly in the spotlight. An ability to use more than one language is termed ‘multilingualism’, while creativity is viewed as ‘imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value’.
There is considerable anecdotal evidence that the ability to use more than one language leads to creativity in individuals and thus for the societies in which they live. At issue: do people with more than one language have certain advantages over monolinguals? This study indirectly addresses such questions by looking at the possible connections between knowledge of languages and creativity. It offers insights from international science and public opinion from across the European Union. First, it summarises existing scientific evidence. Secondly, it fuses this with anecdotal opinions of people with ‘handson’ experience. Finally, it presents case studies where multilingualism brings added value to everyday life.
The result is a description of what science reveals about the contribution of multilingualism to creativity, what people think about any possible connection, and how multilingualism can be found to support creativity in social and working life. What does science reveal?
The available evidence shows that we are at a very early stage of understanding the impact of multilingualism on the brain, and on any form of resulting outcome such as creativity. There may not yet be any direct causal link between multilingualism and creativity, but knowledge of another language is considered as more likely to increase cognitive functioning, including creativity, than the reverse. The scientific findings reveal that there is no definitive single causal link between multilingualism and creativity. There is no ground-breaking “eureka” moment of research which proves that knowledge of additional languages leads directly to enhanced creativity. This is normal in any research cycle in a field of such complexity. In addition, relatively little work has been done which specifically examines the impact of language...
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