It should first be recalled that the very notion of plurilingualism includes that of linguistic and cultural diversity.
How do language and plurilingualism relate to development?
To ask the question is almost a provocation, insofar as one could say that if one does not understand that there can be a relationship between language and development, it is because one does not know what language is.
Axis 1 - Language
Unlike what linguists have taught for generations, before being a means of communication, language is an instrument of thought. Without entering into the sterile debate of whether thought exists independently of language, it has become evident that language and thought are so closely related that one does not exist without the other. According to Vygotski's very precise formula, thought is not expressed in the word, it is accomplished there.
Having said this, the result will be a whole chain of consequences that are considerable enough to lead to the conclusion that language is a fundamental dimension of the modern reformulation of development that is sustainable development.
It is therefore by travelling around a whole series of issues, not exhaustive, that we invite future speakers to bring out a dimension generally omitted from sustainable development which is its linguistic dimension.
Axis 2 - Education
It makes sense to start with learning the language and mother tongue.
The first stages of the child's socialization are carried out through bodily expression and through the mother tongue, but since the mother tongue can be quite distant from the language the child will learn later, especially at school, the articulation between the mother tongue, or the language spoken in the family, and the language of school is a sensitive point in the child's evolution, and this in a very wide variety of contexts. It is very important to make this variety appear, because the question raised here is not a new one, we know that it has crossed centuries and societies.
The individual dimension is strong, but so is the social dimension. Indeed language will play an important role in social cohesion, but also in the capacity of society to evolve and in the speed of change that a society in motion is capable of assuming. Language is a determining factor in the understanding and circulation of ideas, images and information. Without the language, the exchange is not done or it is much slower. For example, fighting an epidemic without language is problematic. Without language, it would be inconceivable to fight and react against disasters.
Because when we say language, we mean understanding and everything that is carried by language. We're only reactive if we understand what's going on.
Axis 3 - Languages and linguistic diversity in the knowledge society
Culture without language does not exist, it is impossible.
We are obliged to recall this, because of the recent transformations that have shaken notions that were underground because they represented a state of the world that went without saying and that it was therefore not necessary to question.
These changes may have taken several centuries before we appeared, because of the communication society, as novelties. There must be contact between many languages if we are to ask ourselves the question of linguistic diversity and what a language really is. But reflection on language and language is almost absent from what is called general culture.
Writing is not new, but civilization has so far been able to function with largely illiterate masses. You could live without being able to read or write, as long as you were able to speak. Orality was omnipresent.
Today that is not possible.
Mechanization and tertiarization mean that all trades, even the most manual ones, are written down at one time or another.
It is therefore necessary to question the scope of these profound changes in societies at a time when, paradoxically, the quality of language is tending to decline, perhaps because of the unjustified belief that the image is replacing the text.
Axis 4 - Languages and globalisation: contacts between languages and discovery of diversity
But other large-scale phenomena accompany globalization.
Globalisation goes back a long way, but never as far as in recent decades have people with their particular languages been in contact with each other, whether through trade, which covers all stages of the economic cycle from raw materials to the final consumer; whether in work, an ever-increasing proportion of workers are in direct or indirect contact with correspondents of other distant or nearby nationalities, even within companies, multinationals or not, at the same place of work or at distant locations. Business management therefore has a linguistic dimension that is becoming increasingly important, and remains very underestimated in management schools. The development of tourism is also a revolution linked to the revolution in transport and lifestyles, whose linguistic and cultural dimension is all too obvious. The development of digital technology, a revolution comparable to the advent of printing, facilitates and accelerates the circulation of ideas, while reinforcing the weight of writing, language and translation, with sometimes very severe effects on the most fragile populations.
But the approach of relations between populations through trade, tourism and digital gives an irenic vision of things, very incomplete.
Not all population movements are driven by tourism and economic and political migration present new challenges to those who experience them and to the societies that host them. Contact between strong and weak languages can lead to the death of the latter, destroying a form of biodiversity.
Axis 5 - Plurilingualism and the Nation-State
The so-called nationalities movement developed during the 19th century. In short, this movement was driven by the emancipation of the peoples who belonged to the great multinational empires that were notably the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Ottoman empire. The result has been an exacerbation of the principle of the nation-state, which would like to see the people, the state and the language coincide, in other words, to bring together within a single state a people identified by language.
The case is complex because the history of languages and political history do not exactly overlap, even if they are very intertwined. Languages do not always know borders and states are more often multilingual than monolingual. However, the idea that democracy exists only through the will of the people and the expression of citizens and that language is an essential means of expressing citizenship leads us to see language as the foundation of all democratic expression as well as a condition of social cohesion.
It is easy to understand that the application of these principles, whose legitimacy is not in question, comes up against the complexities of historical experiences and therefore that language, without being neither the only nor the main cause of conflicts in general, is almost always an issue. So plurilingualism has a strong relationship with war and peace and with identity tensions. And it is quite clear that war and peace also have a strong relationship with sustainable development, as with development itself.
Axis 6 - Plurilingualism, a philosophical issue
But the contact between languages comes to rest fundamental philosophical questions whose linguistic aspect was maintained as on the edge, a dormant aspect in a way. Languages are all the product of diverse historical experiences. And they can all claim to a certain reading of the world. But none of them can claim to be reality on their own. This raises the question of the philosophical foundations of monolingualism and the hegemonic claims that accompany it, most often without the very knowledge of those who are its actors. It is therefore very useful to ask ourselves the question of the philosophical underpinnings of language diversity and plurilingualism. We must also ask ourselves the question of the weight of the commodification of knowledge in research and higher education and its implications in terms of sustainable development and linguistic and cultural diversity.
Obviously, language policies, when they exist, are not neutral. We must therefore try to answer the question: how can language policies contribute to sustainable development?
The fields opened by the relationship between plurilingualism and development are immense and diverse. We therefore expect a great diversity of inspiration, stressing that speakers are expected to reflect theoretically on specific questions to which we must provide some answers.
Attached is a thematic list which does not pretend to be exhaustive but which is displayed as so many tracks by which everyone can perhaps find his way.