Language education policy across Europe is encountering difficulties on many levels. The ability of Europeans to hold a conversion in a second or third language is still modest: about half of young people manage to speak a second language to this level and only a quarter can achieve it in a third language. This proficiency may even have receded over the last ten years, according to the Eurobarometer surveys. But there is a striking lack of political will to remedy this, with the partial exception of the case of English, and funding available to maintain high-quality language learning and teaching is in increasingly short supply. The articles in this issue of the journal address different aspects of language education policy in Luxembourg, Greece and Ireland.
Joseph Reisdoerfer presents the outlines of a language in education policy in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It is based on the use of languages, on official state policy on language use and on language teaching methodology. He sees the main characteristics of a language education policy in Luxembourg as comprising pluri- and multilingualism, the allocation of priorities in the language teaching curriculum and a global didactic approach that attempts to include all of the main features and functions of language. He compares these characteristics to the agendas set by political discourse and concludes by briefly discussing the difficulties in implementing policy in this area.
Marianna Karatsiori examines how student teachers of English as a Foreign Language perceive their initial teacher education and the contribution it makes to their future professional life. Taking the European Profile for Language Teacher Education as a framework, she studies the views of student teachers in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. They feel that the academic curriculum should place more emphasis on school-based teaching practice, on active learning and on ways of reinforcing communication with other universities and research institutes. She concludes by proposing ways of improving the existing curriculum of initial language teacher education.
Emma Riordan analyses the policy and practice of teacher target language use in post-primary foreign language classrooms in Ireland. She notes that theory and practice are not always aligned and that best practice recommended as policy does not necessarily transfer into the classroom. She uses a mixed methods approach to empirically investigate the use of the target language [End Page 113] as prescribed by policy makers, reported by teachers and observed in the classroom. She finds discrepancies between the prescribed, self-reported and observed use of the target language in second-level German classes and suggests that teachers need guidelines that more consistently promote communicative competence as a learning aim.
As usual, the ‘Interventions’ section includes a number of reports and policy statements. It begins with the Final Country Comparative Analysis of Languages in Education and Training, prepared for the European Commission, DG Education and Culture. Although the report was published in June 2014, it has not been widely commented on. It compares the inputs, ambitions and outcomes for language teaching in schools, finding considerable differences in the effectiveness and quality of teaching and learning foreign languages and in the motivation of learners. It makes recommendations for improving the situation.
It includes an advice report on Bildts, a minority language spoken by around 6,000 people in the municipality of Het Bildt in the Netherlands. It was written by Paulus van Sluis and published in July 2015 by Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning hosted at the Fryske Akademy in Leeuwarden. It makes the case for Bildts to be regarded as a distinct language under the terms of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
It provides the results of two significant Erasmus projects. The MAGICC project (Modularisation des compétences de communication académique multilingue et multiculturelle pour les niveaux BA et MA) has produced a final report, which is presented by the project coordinator, Brigitte Forster Vosicki (Université de Lausanne). She outlines the project’s outcomes, which include a transnational reference document for the multilingual and multicultural competences required in higher education, and a range of related tools.
The IntlUni Principles are part of the final outcomes of the three-year...