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The European Language Monitor: ELM

A major project of EFNIL

In order to create an instrument to provide an empirical basis for national and European language policies, EFNIL has been conducting as a major project the design and construction of a European Language Monitor (ELM). The motive for this project is that EFNIL realized in the course of its activities the lack of a satisfactory empirical basis for national and European language policy concepts and measures. The available data on the present linguistic situation of the various countries are rather heterogeneous, incomplete, and in part outdated. The valuable results of some national projects and of European surveys such as Eurobarometer and Eurydice are only a partial remedy because they are limited to foreign language learning and foreign language competence. Politicians on the national and the European level, language planners, educationalists, linguists, and the general public are obviously in need of a reliable and up-to-date linguistic picture of all the member states, that is, of the European Union as a whole and, if possible, also of the associated countries.

What is the European Language Monitor (ELM)?

The ELM intends to provide a rich and complex empirical basis for the development and evaluation of national and European language policies. It is conceived as an online system to collect data and provide detailed up-to-date information on the linguistic situation and its development in the various member states of the European Union and possibly, also, of other European countries. As a long-term aim, ELM should provide longitudinal information on the linguistic development of Europe and its member states. The data to be collected and presented by the ELM address domains that relate directly or indirectly to linguistic status planning, acquisition planning, and corpus planning in the individual countries. The following domains and aspects are considered:

  • Official national language(s) vs. regional and minority languages;
  • Language legislation and administrative language regulations of the country and its regions including regulations for immigration and citizenship;
  • Instruction in and use of national and other language(s) in primary and secondary education and in vocational training;
  • Instruction in and use of national and other language(s) in tertiary education and research;
  • Use of language(s) in national and regional politics, public administration, and judiciary institutions;
  • Use of language(s) in mass media and cultural institutions within the country;
  • Use of national language(s) in national and international industries and commerce;
  • Use of national language(s) for dubbing and/or subtitling of imported films and TV broadcasts;
  • Use of national language(s) as official language(s) in other countries and/or regions;
  • Instruction in and use of the national language(s) as foreign language(s) in other countries and regions;
  • Use of national language(s) in international institutions;
  • Official and/or publicly financed language institutions;
  • Private organizations for the national and/or other language(s)

Not all of these domains and aspects were covered in the beginning of the project. At present, the ELM focuses on those languages that are used in their respective countries and within the institutions of the EU as official languages. In a later phase, it will also consider in more detail regional and minority languages. Since the European linguistic situation is not static, but changes along political, economic, social, and cultural developments, the ELM is not conceived as a one-time survey, but as a continuous monitoring process; that is, the relevant data will have to be up-dated and analyzed in three- or five-year intervals.

For whom is the ELM?

Target groups of the ELM are primarily policy makers at the national and the European level. ELM should also be of use for linguists, sociologists, publishers, journalists, and other persons who are more or less involved or interested in language development and language policy. Although a core of data types will have to be kept constant to allow comparisons and the description of changes, some questions of the repeated surveys may have to be adapted to the changing needs of the users of the ELM after the exploratory phase.

Feasibility study (ELM1)

In 2004, EFNIL already conducted a one-year feasibility study to explore the possibility of language monitoring on a European scale. The countries that were covered by that limited study were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden, that is, five dominantly monolingual countries. A pilot monitor was successfully developed and can be viewed at (user name: efnil, password: efnil). As a result of recent developments in the participating countries, part of the information given by the pilot monitor is outdated, which is one of the arguments for a monitoring system that will have to be updated at short intervals.

Questionnaire 2009 (ELM2)

After the evaluation of ELM1, the General Assembly of EFNIL constituted in 2007 a project group to conceive an improved questionnaire and set up the ELM. In August 2009, the ELM group sent out the first questionnaires concerning the European Language Monitor to the EFNIL members. The questionnaire was also put online. Member institutions from 19 European countries cooperated and sent in the completed questionnaires. After some changes in its composition the ELM group started in 2011 to evaluate the collected data. First results were presented at the annual conference of EFNIL in London in October 2011 and at a meeting with the Director of the DG Interpretation of the European Commission in January 2012. See the following two papers for more detailed results:

Sabine Kirchmeier-Andersen / Cecilia Robustelli / Jennie Spetz /
Gerhard Stickel / Nina Teigland: European Language Monitor (ELM)

Dimitris Kokoroskos: European Language Monitor (ELM), Interim Report


The project group finished the collection of data for ELM3 by the end of 2013. In September 2014, the on-line version of ELM was launched presenting the ELM3 data in various formats which allow browsing and comparing the data from different views.

The future of ELM

ELM has now reached its final form and in the future only minor updates of the questionnaire will take place. The next round (ELM4) will be carried out in 2017 and the focus will be on adding facilities for comparing the data over time.


The member institutions of EFNIL are willing and prepared to cooperate in the sociolinguistic development of ELM and the collection of the data on the linguistic situation of their individual countries. However, the considerable costs of coordination, technical development, and permanent operation of the ELM cannot be financed in the long run from the limited budgets of the participating language planning and research institutions. Sufficient funding by the European Union is needed and will be applied for.


Composition of the ELM group

Sabine Kirchmeier-Anderson (Denmark)
Cecilia Robustelli (Italy)
Jennie Spetz (Sweden)
erhard Stickel (Germany)
Nina Teigland (Norway)


Coordination: Sabine Kirchmeier-Anderson (


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