Programa de educación, formación, juventud y deporte de la UE

Erasmus+ 30 anniversary logo

En portada: Deporte e idiomas, fundamentales en los intercambios interculturales de Erasmus+

¿Sabías que 9 de cada 10 participantes en Erasmus+ dicen que la experiencia les ayudó a mejorar sus conocimientos de idiomas? ¿Y que en 2016 hubo más de 140 proyectos sobre deportes financiados por Erasmus+? Dentro del programa Erasmus+, el aprendizaje de idiomas y las actividades deportivas son aspectos clave a la hora de fomentar los intercambios interculturales. Al aprender idiomas, las personas aprecian los matices culturales, y para romper el hielo no hay nada como hacer actividades físicas y trabajar por objetivos comunes.

¿Quién no ha vivido algún momento de mala comunicación transcultural? Pero, con tiempo y práctica, los participantes en Erasmus+ consiguen mejorar sus conocimientos de idiomas. Como dice Svetlana Rashkov-Ninova, "aprender un idioma no es solo una cosa teórica, también te ayuda a conocer mejor la cultura de un país."

Erasmus+ contribuye de muchas maneras al aprendizaje de idiomas. El apoyo lingüístico en línea brinda a los usuarios la oportunidad de poner a prueba sus conocimientos de idiomas y seguir un curso online para perfeccionarlos. Ya lo ha utilizado alrededor de un millón de estudiantes, voluntarios, becarios y refugiados.

En 2014, el deporte se incorporó a la familia Erasmus+. Los proyectos deportivos reúnen a entrenadores, deportistas y aficionados de todas las procedencias, tanto durante como después del acontecimiento. Formar parte de un equipo no solo favorece la actividad física, sino también el voluntariado. Además de fomentar las "carreras duales" para los deportistas, los proyectos de Erasmus+ están pensados para afrontar las amenazas a la integridad del deporte (partidos apañados, dopaje, etc.), mejorar la buena gobernanza, animar a la tolerancia e impulsar la inclusión social de los participantes.

Son temas apoyados por Erasmus+ que, entre otros, forman parte de la tercera edición de la Semana Europea del Deporte (23-30 de septiembre). Recuerda: el deporte, como los idiomas, es para todos sin límite de edad o procedencia. Así que ya sabes: para disfrutar de una vida sana y completa, #Beactive y aprende idiomas con Erasmus+.

Read our spotlight stories from Erasmus+ participants

Luis Morais – 37 – Portugal

Luis Morais – 37 – Portugal

Vocational Education and Training – Paris, France, 2001

‘Sharing the love of sports or doing sports together is yet another platform for people to identify with each other and to be united.’

At 37, Luis is still making the most of his Erasmus+ experience in Paris. After selling his successful business, he moved to the United States to work for a top sporting club.

Educated as a marketing specialist, Luis worked in the car industry, wine distribution and tourism. But at 27, he wanted more from his career: ‘I already felt like I want to do something on my own: start my own business. When you are capable of doing something it’s not a question of age.’ So he started a football academy for children. After 3 years, Luis was running 3 academies that trained 1,000 children and employed 50 coaches.

While growing his business, Luis also became a coach and completed a physical education training. He decided to sell the company: ‘Erasmus has taught me to be open minded and mobile. I wasn’t afraid to change industries and places.’

In the US, Luis has trained young players from several age groups, but he says sports has a unique effect on all players: ‘You have to become a team player. You have to think collectively to work in sports and that naturally creates unity.’

Luis’ next move? We’ll have to wait and see, because: ‘doing sports professionally is definitely an international career, you always have to be prepared, to have your bags ready.’

Rosemarie Albrecht – 29 – Germany

Rosemarie Albrecht – 29 – Germany

School Education – Portugal, 2012-13

‘Speaking languages makes me feel European because it enables me to communicate with people, to create bonds with them. We deal with similar problems, we dream about similar things, even if our daily realities are very different.’

Rosemarie loves learning languages because it enables her to better understand how others think and see the world. She believes, ‘languages are not only communication tools; they are also a way how we shape reality. If you really want to get to know someone, learn his or her language’.

She already speaks four – German, English, Spanish and Portuguese. After time abroad in Spain, Rosemarie used an Erasmus+ opportunity to teach German as a foreign language in a Portuguese vocational education and training school. This was the first time she taught German as a foreign language and the experience deepened her interest to work with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She fell in love with Portugal and decided to stay. Rosemarie recalls it was ‘much easier to find a job since I already had work experience in Portugal. Erasmus+ was a starting point for my professional development here.’ It is possible her pupils – who were excited to ‘find out about another country, its culture [and] language’ – taught her just as much as she’s taught them. They made her realise, ‘if I open up to people, open up for cooperation, we can do much more than what we could do separately’.

Becoming involved in Erasmus+ broadened Rosemarie’s understanding of the opportunities Europe has to offer. In her own words, ‘knowing languages enables us to exercise our rights as EU citizens to freely move across the EU and choose a place to live and work.’

Contracteranto - Belgium

Contracteranto - Belgium

Vocational Education and Training in 5 countries, 2011-13

‘When you don’t understand one another, accidents happen.’

On 27 March 2001, 8 people lost their lives and scores more were injured in a train crash near the Belgian city of Pécrot. The language barrier between the station signalmen at Wavre and Leuven was one of the causes. This is just one example of a work-related accident that can occur when workers speak different languages. 

Contracteranto is an online tool of work-related terminology that helps prevent such accidents from happening. Funded by Erasmus+, the online database in 7 languages covers 4 high-risk safety sectors: care, chemical, construction and steel.  It contains a voiceover feature and offers also a printable Word version.

‘The main aim was to improve safety communication among foreign contractors working in Belgium,’ says Contracteranto project coordinator Kristien De Ro. Partner organisations came from Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal and Turkey, in addition to several in Belgium.

And today, the system is needed more than ever before. The ever-increasing geographical mobility within Europe means that there are higher safety risks at work due to the language gap between workers from different nationalities. Contracteranto is therefore well placed to help protect these workers.

Kirstien notes that unlike online translation apps, Contracteranto’s content was selected and revised by experts in each sector, ensuring all of its terminology is accurate and ready to use.

Even though the project finished, the service is still available online and ‘a lot of people still use it’ - including many different stakeholders such as risk prevention departments. More investment is required to add new languages and sectors that would help the many foreign workers starting work in Belgium – and in other countries.

Kristien also thinks the model could expand globally: ‘With an ever increasing number of immigrants arriving [ ] looking for work from all corners of the world, I think that Contracterento could play a crucial role in helping them adjust to work life.’

Arkadiusz Mierkowski – 32 – Poland

Arkadiusz Mierkowski – 32 – Poland

Youth projects in several European countries – 2016-18

‘Sport can be used as an amazing tool for social inclusion and integration, especially if the values of fair play and respect are emphasised more than just sporting prowess.’

Arkadiusz learnt that ‘sport is not only about competition’ during his first Erasmus experience. A sports enthusiast, he volunteered at an organisation aimed at social integration and inclusion through athletics.

As a project assistant, he helped organise big events like ‘Football for Tolerance’ which uses street football as a non-formal education tool. The most important part of the game is the dialogue in which teams need to ‘communicate effectively and work out consensus,’ to agree on the rules of the game. Fair play, inclusion and respect all earn a team points, in addition to actual goals.

Inspired by this method and full of enthusiasm, Arkadiusz wrote a letter to the mayor of his hometown, Mragowo, saying that he’d love to run similar projects there. It worked, and he took up a sports animator position at a local football pitch. He led award-winning volunteer projects for young people that promote active citizenship.

From 2008 onwards, he took part in more Erasmus+ volunteer exchanges to Slovakia and Iceland and cooperation projects with many countries. Then in 2013, he joined the foundation for physical culture development under Poland’s Ministry of Sports and Tourism for 3 years. He credits Erasmus+ as being ‘a springboard to my further career. All other exchanges and [volunteer] training helped me to deepen my professional skills and improve intercultural competence.’

Today he works at the City Hall in Mrągowo and, along with his friends, runs his own NGO – MSIS - Youth Association for Sport Initiatives. They are currently taking part in two big Erasmus+ funded projects, all aimed at encouraging people to take action to make their city a better place. ‘Sport is a perfect tool for that’ – he sums up.

Beyond Signs in the City – Bulgaria

Beyond Signs in the City – Bulgaria

Multilingualism project – 9 countries, 2008-10

‘Protecting languages – and learning new ones – is very important for any part of life. National and regional/minority languages play a key role in maintaining the character of the place and [its] culture. This diversity has to be kept.’

The Beyond Signs in the City project pioneered an immersive and fun method of learning new languages and understanding local cultures. ‘Visual representations of the urban environment provide excellent ready-made material for language learning in “real life” situations,’ explains project coordinator Reneta Palova. ‘We collected photos of symbols, signs and landscapes in 10 cities, and turned these into phrase books, short video clips and teaching tools.’

These tools give visitors and language learners a true flavour of the city. Involving local citizens throughout the project ‘also helped foster a sense of identity and pride in the community’. The legacy of the project lives on; tools are still being used in local schools, and potential new users are continually being identified. ‘The social impact has been very diverse, with benefits for newcomers, language learners and local citizens.’

‘This project is adaptable,’ emphasises Reneta. ‘For example, materials are now being used to promote the social inclusion of migrants and refugees. Knowledge of the language and culture you see on the street provides excellent orientation for new arrivals.’ A new project entitled ‘Signs goes north’, which adapts the SIGNS methodology to the needs of refugees and newly arrived migrants in Northern European countries, is due to begin shortly in Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Iceland.

Rosita Herreros Ossorio – 24 – Spain

Rosita Herreros Ossorio – 24 – Spain

School Education – Finland, 2014

When you play, you see how everyone can help you in different ways. It’s about respect. You realise that differences are just different ways of doing things. This is why I think sport helps so much to open minds.’

A semester studying and playing in a female first division football team in northern Finland provided Rosita with some life-changing inspiration both on and off the pitch. She learnt English and Finnish, met people from all over the world and today she remains as passionate as ever about the benefits of sport to society. ‘[Sport] teaches you that you need others; you cannot do everything alone, just as in business or any other aspect of life,’ Rosita explains.

Sport is also about taking responsibility, says Rosita. ‘It teaches you how to perform within a group of people, and how to look after your teammates. It’s more than just kicking a ball.’

After having played with an Italian team for 6 months, Rosita is back in Kokkola to perfect her English, take further university courses, and – of course – play football. ‘Long term, my aim is to go back to Majorca and work in tourism,’ she says. ‘My Erasmus+ experience has put me in contact with so many different cultures, and I think this will be really useful in the future.’

Svetlana Rashkov-Ninova – 59 – the Netherlands

Svetlana Rashkov-Ninova – 59 – the Netherlands

School Education – the Netherlands, 2014

Learning a language is not just theoretical; it enables you to understand the culture of a country.’

Svetlana fully understands that learning languages transforms lives. ‘Without language, you simply cannot function in society. It starts with communication with your neighbour and goes to cover your ability to perform tasks like shopping, going to the doctor and finding a job. Everything is connected to language.’

A project manager for a graphic design firm in Rotterdam, Svetlana came to the Netherlands from Bulgaria 30 years ago and now feels fully integrated.

This philosophy is also at the centre of the Erasmus+ Welcomm project, which developed a multimedia learning kit to help migrant children get ready for school and an interactive brochure for parents with basic information about the host country, its traditions and culture.

Produced in 6 languages (Dutch, Bulgarian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek), the kit was issued to more than 88 migrant organisations and language providers. They currently use it to benefit hundreds of migrant children and parents. ‘This is really important as there are so many migrant children in Europe right now,’ she says. ‘It is vital that they learn the local language so that they can go to school. That is the real impact of this project.’

Thanks to Erasmus+, working at the European level with partners coming from different countries added another dimension to the project. It enabled the team to identify common interests and adapt learning tools to each situation. The project website is still running, and the success of Welcomm has led to new ideas. ‘We are currently finishing off a suite of learning tools focused on employment,’ says Svetlana. ‘This is in many ways a continuation of our language learning work for migrants.’

Fidel Corcuera Manso – 66 – Spain

Fidel Corcuera Manso – 66 – Spain

Higher Education – Spain, active in Erasmus+ since 1987

'Through communication, Erasmus+ increases tolerance and an understanding of others.'

Fidel’s whole university career has been connected to Erasmus, and now to Erasmus+, so he understands better than most people the contribution Erasmus+ has in strengthening language learning and building a common European identity. Currently the Director of French Studies at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, he has been involved in Erasmus since the very beginning in 1987. He notes that ‘the benefits to language learning and international relations have been huge’.

‘Erasmus+ has allowed a large number of young people to leave their daily lives in order to study abroad and realise another reality, in another language.’ He believes the programme ‘has helped to internalise the concept of freedom.’ 

Erasmus+ has also enriched Fidel’s professional life, enabling him to bring researchers from abroad and improve the knowledge, linguistic skills and cultural competences of the academic staff he works with.

Fidel believes that participating in Erasmus+ not only increases tolerance and understanding of others, it also equips students for life. ‘Students who went abroad and learned a language have more possibilities,’ he says. ‘They can communicate in another language and deal with new situations, which are vital skills in all sectors.’

María Soledad Moreno – 62 – Spain

María Soledad Moreno – 62 – Spain

Secondary Education – disability, special needs & inclusion projects - Wales, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Italy, Netherlands – 2014-present

'[Developing language skills] is important for all students (deaf and hearing)… to really understand, participate in and enjoy all situations.’

Deaf and hearing-impaired people have often been perceived as absent-minded or indifferent. Going against the grain, in 1991, La Rosaleda secondary school in Malaga began offering English courses to deaf students for the first time. Many students have gone on to participate in Erasmus+ Vocational Education and Training programmes with hearing students. Some even participate in a regular baccalaureate programme, in which they study subjects like English, French, philosophy and chemistry.

The first time the school received EU funding for educational programmes, 15 deaf students and 3 teachers were given the chance to go on a 2-week trip to Wales. Not long after, more students participated in EU funded Vocational Education and Training mobility programmes in Latvia, Norway, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands.

Currently, an EU-funded research project is looking at how deaf and hearing-impaired people can better prepare for life after leaving secondary school. Involving both deaf and hearing students, the results, when ready, will be sent to schools across Europe, helping a multitude cope with obstacles they may face.

A second capacity building project is teaching hearing care to special education teachers. Topics include diagnosing deafness, hearing aids, cochlear implant usage and cleaning as well as aural rehabilitation. Project outputs will be disseminated across Europe, enhancing the level of special needs care.

The projects have to-date helped around 50 hearing-impaired students become more independent. ‘Some of our past students now work in hardware maintenance for internet companies.  Others are working in administration, at kindergartens, and one is an expert in developing websites,’ says local teacher María Soledad Moreno.

Christian Goethals – 57 – Belgium

Christian Goethals – 57 – Belgium

Vocational Education and Training – Belgium – 2010-13

‘[Developing a language-learning website] has changed my view on teaching languages. I now think that it should be more practical rather than theoretical. … I have noticed that students [who] take our course are afterwards more open to that language and more secure in it.’

During a training seminar, language teacher Christian and some colleagues realised that catering trainees were unprepared for work abroad because they didn’t possess the necessary basic linguistic skills. The group soon secured funding from the Erasmus+ programme to develop Eurocatering, a free web-based language course for catering staff. Available in 12 languages, the website is considered a vital tool for training staff working in foreign kitchens, restaurants and receptions.

‘After using our website, trainees go abroad and feel more confident. They start speaking with the chef in the foreign language when they arrive. Before, they used to wait 2 weeks before saying a word,’ says Christian.

The experience has also helped Christian in his career. He now feels ‘more motivated’ and wants to ‘help the students get something more out of the language, not just teach them the rules.’

And it’s not just the students who are benefiting from the experience. ‘Many chefs have told us that it’s now so much easier to have trainees that have some confidence in the foreign language.’

The project has won 7 European Language Label Awards. Future plans include developing a tailor-made app together with exchange students from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland.

Elizabeth May – 34 – Luxembourg

Elizabeth May – 34 – Luxembourg

Double Olympian

‘Learning languages is for your brain what sport is for your body. It gives you an energetic boost, wakes you up mentally, speeds up an intellectual process.’

A lawyer who speaks 7 languages, triathlete and double Olympian, artist and coach – Elizabeth has mastered the skill of setting and reaching goals to perfection.

Doing sports from the age of 9, she competed professionally in triathlons from 2000 to 2013 representing Luxembourg at the Summer Olympics twice - in 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing.

‘What I’ve learned from sports was persistency. You have to stick to something if you really want to be good at it,’ says Elizabeth.

Besides having a life filled with sports, she studied law at the University of Copenhagen. She is also a devoted painter, writes books for children and coaches people to help them unleash their own potential.

Well aware that her ‘sporting career would not last forever’, Elizabeth credits her language abilities for helping her become a lawyer-linguist at the European Court of Justice. ‘Languages lift your profile significantly. The more languages you know the more unique on the job market you become.’

According to her, both sport and languages are great tools for integration in an international environment: foreigners who do sports and know the language ‘build social networks much faster than those who don’t’, just by joining local sports activities and being able to communicate freely.