Education Begins with Language

European Day of Languages was celebrated with the launch of a new report: Education Begins with Language

At the Council of Europe’s initiative, the European Day of Languages has been celebrated every year since 2001 on September 26 with the European Commission.

This year, many of the celebrations moved online, including an online conference streamed live in English and interpreted into French, German, and Italian.

A new European Commission report, Education Begins with Language, was also officially launched, which seeks to support the implementation of the recommendation of the Council of the European Union (EU) on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages. The report is based on research and a series of seminars produced by the commission.

According to the report, “Mastering multiple languages is key to enhancing the life and work of all individuals. In addition to promoting mobility, lifelong and innovative learning, and removing barriers to social inclusion, improving language learning was identified by the EU as a key enabler to achieving the EU’s vision for a European Education Area by 2025 in which ‘learning, studying, and doing research would not be hampered by borders.’

“The Council’s 2019 ‘Recommendation on a Comprehensive Approach to the Teaching and Learning of Languages’ supports this vision and sets the ambitious goal of ensuring that, by the time young people leave upper secondary education, they can speak at least three languages. In addition to this, by introducing the concepts of ‘literacy’ and ‘language awareness,’ the recommendation aims to change the mindset of policymakers and teachers, inspiring them to adopt comprehensive language education policies, as well as innovative and inclusive language teaching methods.”

The key recommendations of the report are:
• Expose children as early as possible to multiple foreign languages and promote mobility. Becoming proficient at speaking multiple languages is most effective when learning starts at a young age and studying two foreign languages is made compulsory at school. Immersion through mobility, both actual and virtual, is also one of the most effective ways to become fully fluent in a foreign language.

• Discard monolingual policies in favor of multilingual school policies, which support the development of the language of schooling, foreign languages, and home languages. Functional literacy transcends linguistic boundaries and is a basic foundational skill for learning. This is why literacy policies should target all pupils, not only pupils with a migrant background, as the cognitive and psycho-social benefits of language learning extend to all learners.

• Promote the adoption of whole-school approaches for language learning. Every teacher has a role to play in developing their pupils’ literacy in the language of schooling, foreign languages, and home languages. Parents and the wider community also play a key role in this.

• Promote specific language policies for vocational education and training (VET) and long-term VET mobility. Language capability is often neglected in the context of VET. However, VET students can and should learn multiple languages. This not only gives them important additional employability skills, but it is also a prerequisite for long-term VET mobility. Develop teacher education, mobility, and collaborative teaching. Language and subject teachers need training on how to adopt inclusive and linguistically sensitive pedagogies and to manage diversity in the classroom. Strengthened opportunities for mobility in initial teacher education and for in-service teachers as well as collaborative teaching are effective ways to help teachers to upskill and become more language aware.

• Support international school partnerships. Strong school partnerships are key to continuously developing and innovating teacher education, as they provide a basis for the exchange of good practices and the development of mobility programs. Teacher buy-in to the concept of language awareness is important and could be enhanced through exchange of practice with schools in different countries.

To download the complete report, visit https://ec.europa.eu/education/events/european-day-of-languages-2020_en.

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