A tower of Babel?
The diversity of languages spoken across the EU is both an object of pride and a challenge. While each language helps its speakers establish an identity, the need for European citizens to communicate with one another means that they often need to learn other languages than their own. But motivation can be a real barrier.
The EU-funded Lingo study (which ran between August 2004 and August 2005) has identified 50 good practices that promote language learning, for both major and minor languages. The highly motivating practices derive from EU-funded, national, regional, local and private initiatives. Lingo draws on ideas from 20 countries and various sectors: not just formal education, but ranging from business to non-profit organisations, and from tourism to gastronomy. Armed with this, the project has developed a highly visible European and cross-sectoral dimension.
The main means of dissemination for the project is through its website and the circulation of 5 000 brochures. But the key to its dissemination success lies in the fact that most of the identified practices also have a website and publications, so the main project has an in-built mechanism for linking to the key outputs. Furthermore, the company heading the project, Lingua Connections, is actively collecting tools and methods for the successful dissemination of language products and creating a forum for all Lingua promoters to meet online and exchange ideas and experiences.
Exploitation of the results is truly exciting for anybody keen to find ways of motivating learners. The project promoters show teachers and learners how innovative settings and a dynamic classroom environment help motivate people to take up another language. The practices have been chosen because they can be transferred easily to other countries and contexts. They also reflect language learning as an activity for all age groups: some practices help motivate the very young through nursery rhymes, for example, and one actually brings grandparents and grandchildren together to learn.
And for those who believe that language learning is beyond the reach of many categories of people, some of the practices identified by Lingo prove just how wrong that attitude is. An example is the ALLEGRO project (Access to Language Learning by Extending to Groups Outside). This addresses groups in the community who do not usually have opportunities to learn a new language for reasons of social or economic disadvantage, geographical isolation, or physical or learning disabilities.
Some 30 projects have been set up and the partners have worked with people recovering from addiction (the UK), the long-term unemployed (France), groups of children with Down’s Syndrome and autism (Spain), people with severe learning disabilities in residential care (Germany), prisoners (Slovenia and the UK), senior citizens with disabilities (Denmark, Slovenia) and those with long-term mental health problems (France).
More information: Lingo