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EPALE - Aikuiskoulutuksen eurooppalainen foorumi


EPALE Discussion on European Day of Languages 2016

, EPALE Moderator


In honour of European Day of Languages, we’ll be hosting a day-long discussion which will be moderated by language teacher and polyglot Alex Rawlings and EPALE’s thematic coordinator for Quality, Andrew McCoshan. Don’t miss your chance to share your experience in teaching languages to adults, any tips or challenges you’ve faced, learn about best practices from your peers across Europe, and discuss various topics with the EPALE community! We have also gathered interesting case studies, thought-provoking blog posts and helpful resources on the topic of languages and adult education – click here to check them out.

The discussion will start on 26 September at 10:30 CET and it will be divided in two parts:

  • Morning session (10:30am– 1:00pm CET) – How do we make language learning the best it can be?

  • Afternoon session (1:00pm–4:00pm CET) – How do we best meet the needs of different groups for language learning?

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Käyttäjän Emile ELIE kuva


Could we get the links for the video of those 2 sessions?


  • (10:30am– 1:00pm CET) – How do we make language learning the best it can be?

  • Afternoon session (1:00pm–4:00pm CET) – How do we best meet the needs of different groups for language learning?


Thank you

Käyttäjän Rumen HALACHEV kuva

Hi Emile,

The two sessions were not recorded as a video – they were part of a written discussion which took part in this forum. However, a legacy post will soon be published on EPALE giving you the main highlights from the discussion.

Kind regards,


Käyttäjän Murphy Eily kuva

I am a Business English teacher, teaching mostly in company in France. It was interesting to see that motivation and empowerment(learner autonomy) were highlighted in this morning's thread. I certainly find this true in my context and the CEFR is a useful tool here.

How do we motivate more language learning? : I've found that when the competences in the CEFR can be further contextualised and personalised, the goals become more tangible and motivation increases. This can include referring to local events, or setting a personal job-specific goal and ideally, assessing the learner on these tasks. There is however, increasing pressure to apply other assessment tools such as TOEIC scores. Often, a frank discussion with the learner on the value of both methods of assessment is called for.

A second and related point which I found interesting in Brian North's talk was taking into account the plurilingual aspect of communication. The vast majority of my learners use English to communicate with other L2 speakers. My adults learners are sometimes faced with an internal conflict leftover from their schooldays: they want to speak like a native speaker, and until they can do this, they are reluctant to take chances expressing themselves. Again, open discussion of ELF and NNS can help here.

As a trainer, the overlap between pure language teaching and communicative skills is not always clear. In many ways, the "market" is still stuctured to see trainers as language training providers, despite a clear need for trainers who can deal with cultural and sociolinguistic aspects of communication. The "Strategies" secion of the Eaquals/CEFR desciptors has been of great help to me in evaluating these points. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the "Mediation" descriptors as more and more of my B2+ learners need to simplify their language when working with L2 speakers who have a lower level, and this skill is not always recognised.

To summarise, learners are more motivated when the goals relate directly to them, and when they feel comfortable code-switching and using inter-language. I've found that decision-makers and those who finance training (in business English) are often more open to this interpretation than the learners themselves. Conflicting ideas at decision-maker level about task-based assessment or quantitive testing are, hopefully, stuctural rather than ideological?

Should we do more to promote health and well-being aspects of language learning? Yes :)

How and when are the best places to learn? I seem to spent more and more time on helping learners 'learn to learn'. Language is something you do, rather than knowledge you acquire, so any and all ways of intergrating language into their everyday lives outside of the classroom helps. This can range from switching language preferences on their computer/TV to sharing on online platforms between classes. My students don't live in an English-speaking country but communicate by email or phone everyday in their jobs. Rather than creating extra "work", I think it's better if they can share what they are doing in English anyway with their trainer and other learners in the group.

I don't always dare mention the number of hours of learning (time spent with trainer) which are required to move from one CEFR level to the next - terrifying and unattainable within the constraints of company training budgets. Instead focus on smaller can-dos and examples of other successful learners as role models.

Käyttäjän EPALE Moderator kuva


Thank you to everyone who has taken part in today’s discussion so far! This marks the end of the officially moderated part of our discussion, and EPALE would like to thank our moderators for today, Alex Rawlings and Andrew McCoshan. We will however be leaving comments open so please feel free to continue the discussion this evening.

Käyttäjän Alex Rawlings kuva

Thanks everyone for taking part in today's discussion! It's great to hear from colleagues across the language learning world, and to have learned so much from you. All the best of luck with your work! Thank you for helping to make the world a more multilingual place.

Käyttäjän Andrew McCoshan kuva

Adult language learning is a wide ranging subject and it is fascinating which topics emerged as being a particular focus for our participants. Here is my own list of ‘take aways’ – what’s yours?


  • Motivation and empowerment – these are clearly vital foundation stones for learning and it is important that we find ways not just of motivating people at the start of their learning but also helping to support motivation and empowerment on the whole learning journey.


  • Digital technology – I find it interesting that, while it is not questioned that they have a key role to play, digital technologies move on so quickly that issues like how to achieve the best mix of digital and traditional resources and methods seem to remain much debated!


  • Informal learning has a vital role to play in adult language learning – do we need to give more consideration to the way in which it is used in conjunction with formal learning? Or is this already happening owing to the explosion in "informal" resources available on the Internet?


  • The workplace can provide a highly relevant context in which to learn languages, with employers being part of the package to stimulate and motivate people.


  • Finally, migrants have particularly pressing language learning needs. At the same time, participants emphasised the importance of seeing migrant learning in wider contexts, such as the rich possibilities that multi-national classrooms can offer for mutual learning as well as the need to acknowledge that migrants need opportunities not just to acquire the language of others, but to appropriate features of host languages into their own language repertoires.