The Future of Language Education in Europe: Summary and Key Questions

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Le Pichon-Vorstman, E., Siarova, H., & Szőnyi, E. (2021). The future of language education in Europe: case studies of innovative practices. European Journal of Language Policy, 13(1), 114-120.

Aim of the report: 

  1. What are the new developments in teaching and learning languages in Europe?
  2. How can we open spaces in pedagogy that support the activation of the languages that students bring with them  into the classroom? And how do these innovative language teaching practices promote plurilingualism?
  3. What are the key drivers, barriers and possible ways forward towards the transformation of language teaching and learning approaches across Europe?

Key findings:

The key innovation inherent in innovative practice involves creating a shift in perception in relation to the languages and their role in the process of learning:

  1. Students’ first languages are not perceived as a problem or deficit, but as an asset for learning and as an enrichment of students’ linguistic repertoires.
  2. Linguistic considerations and language learning are relevant in and for all subjects.
  3. All languages have equal value.
  4. Existing competencies and talents support the acquisition of competences in other language(s)

Students’ language repertoires can consist of multiple languages, with varying levels of proficiency in each. Competences in these languages are interconnected, and are important for the development of plurilingual competences

Key enablers for innovation:

System Level: 

  • Policies and practices that promote plurilingalism
  • Support for teachers to design and implement innovative, student-centred pedagogies and practices
  • Financial resources to modernise language education
  • Investment in human resources for the implementation of innovative plurilingual pedagogies and practices
  • Enable bottom-up innovation

Institutional or Local Factors:

  • Teachers work in collaboration 
  • Language-aware school climate where teachers nad staff have positive attitudes towards languages and plurilingualism
  • School leadership supports innovation in language teaching
  • Continuous professiona development for teachers 
  • Opportunity for networking
  • Professional support for teachers 
  • Engagement  of public and private sector stakeholders

Questions to Ask Ourselves:

  1. How are we preserving linguistic heritage, addressing monolingual ideologies, and responding to the outdatedness of some language teaching practices?
  2. How can we make language learning more meaningful for children?
  3. How can we shift language learning to being more student-centred?
  4. How can we actively practice flexibility in the use of different languages?
  5. How can we use technology to support language learning?
  6. How can we deconstruct any existing hierarchy between languages?
  7. How can we support children to use their languages as resources for learning?
  8. How can we promote the active use of all languages?

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