The ECML programme seeks to challenge the continued compartmentalisation of learning provision in educational institutions and, by doing so, it is highlighting the crucial role of languages in all subjects learned in school and out of school in informal/non-formal learning settings. Such a transversal perspective on the role of languages in education does not replace the teaching and learning of particular languages but rather complements and broadens their scope. Consequently, development projects carried out in the ECML programme are targeting the foreign language classroom as well as all other subject areas of education taking place in school and in out of school contexts.
Development projects are expected to explore, with the help of practitioners, the respective teaching and learning contexts by focusing on inclusive, plurilingual intercultural pedagogic approaches and develop ways of addressing the resulting needs identified by member states. The development projects are to be seen in the continuum of ECML work and build on expertise gained from ECML publications and other European instruments and tools. Project teams will thus refer to and take advantage of language policies of the Council of Europe.
4.1.1. Foreign language classroom
The ECML has developed significant expertise in the domains of foreign language learning and teaching. It is intended to make use of the expertise and resources developed within the ECML and the work of other related units at the Council of Europe, as well as to build on developments and results of other relevant organisations and institutions, in particular of the European Commission.
The notion of foreign languages experienced some diversification by introducing terms like modern languages, second languages, community languages, migrant languages etc. For the purpose of its programme, the ECML proposes to adopt the following definition:
“Foreign language: designation of a language variety used within a specific geographical area for a language which is not used as a language of communication in that area.” (Council of Europe/Language Policy Division, 2007).
4.1.2. Majority language classroom
In recent years special attention has been paid to the context of teaching and learning of languages taught as subjects in their own right, for example, Polish in Poland, Swedish in Sweden, German in the schools of the German minority in Denmark, etc. Discussions focused on questions like how to ensure the development of relevant language competences of students coming from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds or whether the traditional monolingual approach to teaching the majority language would still be appropriate in this situation. In continuation with initial projects carried out in this domain, the ECML intends to further contribute to quality developments for the benefit of all learners in majority language classrooms.
The notion of majority languages may raise concerns and is subject for intensive discussions as the terminology is emerging and continues to be refined further. In other publications, the term majority language covers such notions as first language, mother tongue, national language, official language, state language, the main language of schooling, etc. The ECML seeks to highlight the high-stake role this language has beyond schooling in society. With this perspective, the ECML addresses the needs of learners in classrooms where these languages are taught as school subjects in their own right. Thus, the following definition is proposed:
“Majority language(s): the language(s) of the majority of the population in (a defined region of) a country. In many cases this/ these will also be the national/ official language(s) of the state and the language(s) of instruction in schools”. (MARILLE project website, 2010).
4.1.3. Classroom for other languages
In addition to foreign and majority languages the ECML caters for other languages available in a school context as resources for communication and learning. Classes and provision for sign languages, regional, minority, migrant, community or non-territorial languages, language training for the blind and visually impaired and possible other areas are targeted here. By looking at these additional languages the ECML seeks to stress that languages other than foreign and majority do belong to mainstream educational institutions make provision for students’ diversity. Students using particular languages for communication with their peers, at home or in any other environment should be given a platform of appreciation of this/these language(s) and space for further development of their skills. At the same time peer students (and their teachers) are invited to explore these languages and the culture their speakers represent.
In this context the ECML seeks to encourage innovative thinking concerning the term classroom. Two people can establish a classroom in the internet, a student can become a teacher, an exhibit wallpaper can be a textbook and attendance can be a voluntary activity possibly involving parents. At the same time the ECML intends to target the more traditional type of a formal school class, integrated in a curriculum with defined standards and assessment procedures for, for example, German as an additional, minority language in Hungary, or sign language instruction at an adult education institution or a Romani classroom in the Czech Republic.
Classroom for other languages: educational platform for acknowledgement and development of the learner’s repertoire of languages other than foreign languages or (the) majority language(s) in a given context.
4.1.4. Subject classroom
Languages play a key role in all subjects even if a particular language is not the subject matter. The successful development of cognitive academic language proficiency in subject areas has been identified as a key factor for educational achievement or, in the negative case, for failure. Therefore, the key to successful education is the ability to use the language in which schooling is offered.
In concrete terms, school subjects like natural science, for example, do not explicitly feature language on the curriculum but they rely to a great extent on the learner’s ability to handle subject-specific instructions, expositions, argumentations, etc. given in the language(s) of schooling. The role of the majority language(s) is unchallenged in this context but there are pressing questions: how to provide access to and appropriate development in the majority language(s) for all in a situation where there are very diverse levels of language competences among the students in this/these language(s)? What is the role of the variety of languages present in the classroom and how can those languages be used for the cognitive academic language proficiency development of all students in the class?
In the area of content and language integrated learning, established as the CLIL approach, significant expertise has been built up to provide consultancy for subject teachers not trained in facilitating language learning.
Subject classroom: Environment for teaching and learning of a subject matter (e.g. natural and social sciences, mathematics, arts, sports, etc.) – in the context of the ECML programme with a focus on the role of the learner’s languages in this classroom.
4.1.5. Informal and non-formal language learning
From a lifelong perspective, learning that takes place in formal educational settings covers only a limited period of time. This means that to a very substantial degree learning takes place in informal situations and in intentionally organised non-formal settings. It can be assumed, though, that formal education is paving the way for motivation and skills for autonomous language learning. Therefore, language educators can have a strong impact on whether language learning takes place outside school and how this may occur.
In this area, the ECML aims to explore provision for learning and settings that provide a low threshold for learners of any age inviting them to become interested, involved and committed to language learning. The effective use of new communication technology, the exploration of pedagogic approaches introduced with the European Language Portfolio are areas to explore in order to impact on the quality of lifelong learning.
Formal learning: Learning typically provided by an education or training institution, structure (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and leading to certification. Formal learning is intentional from the learners’ perspective. (European Commission, 2001).
Informal learning: Learning resulting from daily life activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and typically does not lead to certification. Informal learning may be intentional but in most cases it is non-intentional (or “incidental”/random). (European Commission, 2001).
Non-formal learning: Learning that is not provided by an education or training institution and typically does not lead to certification. It is however, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support). Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective. (European Commission, 2001).
Experts interested in contributing to the development strand of work of the new ECML programme are invited to submit project proposals or tenders and to specify to which of the above specified educational areas they intend to contribute: foreign language classroom – majority language classroom – classroom for other languages – subject classroom – informal/non-formal learning.