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Learning languages

What is it about?

The Barcelona European Councilpdf (March 2002) called for action "to improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age", and for an indicator of language competence. Ever since, the Commission has supported efforts to develop language learning policy and result indicators.

The 2011-12 EU survey on language skillspdf (held in 14 EU countries) showed that:

  • 42% of 15 year-old pupils tested had attained "independent user" level (B1/B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) in their first foreign language.
  • 25% had reached this level in a second foreign language.
  • 14% of pupils lacked even a basic knowledge of one.

A more recent report confirms that foreign language teaching in many countries remains inadequate.

In the 2014 Council Conclusions on multilingualism and the development of language competencespdf, the EU countries made a strong commitment to improving the efficiency of language teaching in schools.

What has been done?

Between 2011 and 2013 the thematic working group on languages in education and training focused on possible ways of improving language learning outcomes. It conducted a comparative analysis, subsequently drawing up a report on innovative, scientifically proven methods of speeding up language learningpdf(1.34 Mb) Choose translations of the previous link  . The report's two main topics are:

  • content and language integrated learning (CLIL).
  • computer-assisted language learning (CALL).

The report includes findings from the ICT-Rev project on innovative methods in language teaching.

Efforts to improve language teaching must go hand in hand with efforts to develop modern methods of assessment. Many education systems lack such methods.

The ability to communicate in several languages is among the key skills needed to meet labour market demands. Like other transferable skills, it makes both individuals and the economy more competitive. Building on the experience with the Common European Framework of References, language teaching experts have been taking part in the ET2020 working group since September 2014 and will help develop frameworks for digital and entrepreneurial skills.

We need hard evidence of the type of language skills in demand on the labour market to make sure that teaching, learning and assessment take account of these needs and focus on appropriate outcomes.

What will happen next?