Original publication: June 2016
Author: Waldemar Martyniuk : Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Center for Polish Language and Culture and Executive Director at the Language Centre of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland
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Language Teaching and Learning within EU Member States

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This note has been drafted on request of the European Parliament’s Committee on Education and Culture (CULT) as a research briefing on “Language teaching and learning within EU member states” for a workshop on the Implementation of the European Strategy on Multilingualism organised by the Committee in July 2016.


The following four objectives were set for the briefing note:

  • Summarise selected case studies of policies and initiatives taken within individual EU member states to improve language skills, including assessment of their impact.
  • Highlight best practices, including successful efforts to make language acquisition easier, and case studies of sharing best practice in language teaching.
  • Compare different assessment regimes for language knowledge in member states and assess their compatibility.
  • Offer recommendations on which of the Strategy’s objectives need support more urgently in relation to the above findings.

A desktop research and analysis approach has been applied to address the following four questions related to the above objectives:

  • Can case studies of policies and initiatives in individual EU Member States aimed at improvement of language skills be identified to illustrate the efforts related to the implementation of the Strategy in such a way that their impact can be presented in a valid way?
  • Can practices linked to the implementation of the Strategy in the EU Member States be identified to serve as good examples that others have followed successfully?
  • Which studies and other sources can be identified and used to compare language assessment regimes in the EU Member States and to assess their comparability? What are the conclusions?
  • In relation to the above findings, which of the Strategy’s objectives need support more urgently?
Language Teaching and Learning within EU Member States

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Key Findings

Questions 1 and 2:

Several resources with case studies of projects and initiatives on local, national, and transnational level can be identified. Some of these resources are very comprehensive and well organised in the format of easily accessible, searchable databases, like the impressive collection of initiatives awarded with the European Language Label each year. However, their long-term impact is generally difficult to assess or not being explicitly assessed and reported. This corresponds with the conclusions of the Country Comparative Analysis showing no clear relationship between standard national measures like increased input, earlier start and the outcome, at least in a short term. The same goes for the transnational level, like the rich collection of the ECML projects – the long-term impact aspect is usually not taken into account or feasible to look at. Transferability of the vast number of locally successful initiatives awarded each with the European Language Label proves to be considerably limited in terms of transnational partnerships and collaboration stemming from the ELL campaign. It is difficult to estimate the success beyond a singular case – reports on successful transfer are rare.

Question 3:

Several studies and surveys conducted in recent years on European level attempted to offer insights to the issue of language testing and assessment across the countries. The conclusion that can be drawn for all of them is that to compare the very diverse national language assessment regimes is not a straightforward task. This is not only due to the understandable diversification of regimes but also to the quality of language examinations currently in place.

Question 4:

In relation to the above findings, the need to support the following strategic actions appears more urgent:

  1. Make greater use of European tools and initiatives to support and promote good quality in language learning, such as the European Language Label and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
  2. Adopt measures aimed at systematic collection, examination and exploration of the potential, the immediate and (long-term) impact of innovative approaches to language teaching and learning.
  3. Adopt measures to examine the transferability of the most promising initiatives and practices and to exchange experience and practices transnationally.
  4. Encourage implementing measures at both national and European level that would increase the quality of current language examinations, and in turn ensure results are similarly valid and reliable across all jurisdictions
  5. Continue and enhance cooperation with other organisations active in this field, such as the European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe.
Concluding recommendations
  • More systematic impact studies need to be encouraged, assessment of impact (short- and long-term) and transferability need to be included as required part of supported projects and initiatives experimenting with innovative language learning approaches and practices.
  • Targeted dissemination (mediation) initiatives need to be supported to a much larger scale turning promising projects and initiatives, once concluded, to a permanent offer to the Member States to provide on-request services ranging from general professional consultancy to targeted training workshops run in the countries by individual experts or expert teams involved in the project work.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/573-458

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