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Enhancing language education in cross-border vocational education

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What do you know about language teaching methodologies?

When talking about different teaching methodologies, please keep in mind: No single method can guarantee successful language acquisition.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Council of Europe has been promoting pluriculturalism and plurilingualism focusing on language learning as a priority for Europe’s competitiveness. Open borders mean migration, cross-border communication, education and work opportunities in multiple languages. The aim of the Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR) is to promote methodological innovations and new approaches to teaching languages through a communicative language teaching approach for a plurilingual and pluricultural society. However, despite their efforts, language teaching in many countries/parts of the world is still focusing on grammatical competence over the communicative fluency.

The purpose of this chapter is to overview the old and the new methods of teaching to enrich the teaching repertoire.

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Objectives
  • Provide a comprehensive view of conventional and contemporary language teaching methodologies.
  • Understand the effectiveness of the different methods in advancing plurilingualism and pluriculturalism
  • Equip language instructors with the understanding and resources to aid language acquisition for professionals in various settings. 
  • Raise awareness of teaching techniques and their use in the classroom.
  • Enable you to choose the teaching method that fits best to your needs and purposes.

1. Why are the early basics of language teaching important in cross border vocational training?

Now that you have an understanding of the history of language teaching methodologies, it is important to note that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are many ways in which the principles of the methods can support us in teaching language in cross-border communication.

Let’s have a look at the Grammar approach today

The Grammar approach is old-fashioned and only some elements of its methodologies should be applied in the classrooms today. However, those portions may be very effective in teaching, especially, in plurilingual education.

Even though these teaching methodologies have little theoretical grounding, they are very popular in the classrooms around the world. According to Echevarria (2010) they even dominate the business of language instruction. 

Comparative analysis of the methods used for students studying languages within the same time framework and learning motivation revealed the following advantages and disadvantages of each methodology:

Compared with the Direct- and the Audio-Lingual-Approaches, the Grammar Approach was scored accordingly from 1 (very bad) to 10 (very good):


Source: https://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/what-is-the-best-language-teaching-method/


2. What can we learn from communicative approaches?

The Communicative approach is based on the idea that the most important goal is to communicate a message. If the person is understood, the communication is successful. Also in language learning settings, the language ought to be used in the most authentic context; therefore, drawing attention to the situation, register, speaker's role, and setting. The essence of this approach is to motivate students by selecting age and interest appropriate problem-solving tasks, games, role-plays that could develop communicative competences in all four areas – speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Looking at the basic considerations of this approach, a great potential opens up in cross-border (vocational) language learning contexts, where authentic communication situations can easily be created and sought for real.

For more information: https://ontesol.com/communicative-approach/


3. What can we learn from bilingual and plurilingual methodologies? From bilingual to plurilingual education

Let’s start with bilingual education

The term bilingual education has many definitions and understandings. Generally, it refers to full acquisition of two languages both of them having the same value and status. Typically, it includes teaching of academic content in two languages. However, to what extent, how, or why languages are used may vary significantly around the world. Here are the most common models: 

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Let’s discover Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) for cross-border vocational language education

CLIL is a method based on the principle that two languages are used simultaneously not only to communicate, but to learn subject matter at the same time. It is based on the idea that 'all teachers are teachers of language' (The Bullock Report - A Language for Life, 1975). Besides the language competence needed for work or study, the method focuses on cultural awareness, internationalization, and increased motivation.

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Content-Based Instruction (CBI)

CBI is also known as language across curriculum or immersion instruction. It is built on the premise that it is detrimental to postpone content learning until the learner knows another language well enough. The method focuses on prioritizing content over language by scaffolding complex authentic material and immersing students in practical tasks. 

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The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) 

The SIOP-Model was designed to close the academic achievement gap in the US-American school system. The primary goal is to enable people of all backgrounds to understand linguistic and learning needs of bilingual students for successful academic achievement. The model focuses on how to make academic content more accessible by drawing specific attention to key language features, effective learning strategies, multiple intelligence, differentiated instruction, and culture. The model is based on eight interrelated components:

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Cognitive Academic Language Learning (CALLA)

CALLA is an instructional model designed to increase academic language learning. It is based on three main categories of learning strategies: metacognitive, cognitive, and social /affective. The model is based on four foundational beliefs: 

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Last, but not least!

Today, there is a shift from bilingual to plurilingual teaching and learning methodologies and the whole linguistic and cultural repertoire of learners is ideally included in language education (insert link to Moodle section 2). This is of special importance in cross-border working and learning environments as companies are increasingly multilingual. The more language one understands, the more possibilities exist on the labour market.


4. What if we need non-academic language learning approaches?

What if we need non-academic language learning approaches?

The previous sections focused on language teaching methodologies that have been designed with academic goals in mind. However, academic goals in vocational training are not always desired. This chapter aims at overviewing language teaching approaches used for non-academic language needs. Several terms are used when talking about specialized languages. Let’s discover some concepts.

Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Project-Based learning engages students to learn collaboratively by engaging in real -world tasks. Through authentic projects, learners need to use the knowledge and skills in their foreign languages, learners practice all four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), collaborate and construct knowledge, which promotes autonomy, socialization, cognitive development, and competence. Various PBL project models have been suggested. 

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Scenario-based learning

The scenario based teaching/learning has been implemented successfully with plurilingual professionals. The strategy is based on the concept of task-based language learning. In this model, students work with different communicative constellations, and scenarios can be created with regard to students’ interests in terms of content and communicative tasks. The following elements are essential in scenario-based learning:

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Theatrical language learning

Theatrical language teaching has roots in a number of different approaches to language teaching and learning. However, the use of drama and theatre techniques in language teaching can be traced back to the 1960s. One of the key figures in the development of theatrical language teaching was Viola Spolin, an American theatre practitioner who developed a number of improvisation techniques. Some of Spolin's techniques, such as the "Yes, and..." rule and the "What Happens Next?" game, have been adapted for use in language learning and are now widely used in theatrical language teaching. Theatrical language teaching has been adapted to professional contexts where students have to play pretend scenes from very real vocational contexts. 

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Language for Specific Purposes (LSP)

LSP is a widely used approach to teach learners with very specific linguistic needs for a job or training. Language is used beyond the usual academic constraints. Typically, the programs go through needs analysis to understand the specific needs of the learners, and then craft the syllabus together with the learners to assure that the learning is the most effective and useful. LSP courses were often viewed as programmes that focus merely on specific linguistic needs, but globalization demands that learners are not only proficient linguistically in their field, but simultaneously develop critical thinking skills and cultural knowledge which are the core values of traditional humanities education. Therefore, today LSP is based on three core principles: language, culture, professional participation in global market. 


Receptive plurilingualism in the neighbouring language

This approach to teaching is based on receptive plurilingualism (Intercomprehension). Several research studies have been performed to discover that teaching plurilingual decoding skills improves metalinguistic awareness and, thus, plurilingual cultural competence (Let’s talk about language(s) and Understanding languages through other languages).

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Gamification

Gamification is an approach to language teaching that involves incorporating game elements and mechanics into language learning activities to make them more engaging and motivating for learners. This approach is based on the idea that games can provide a fun and interactive way for learners to practice language skills and receive immediate feedback on their progress. Gamers of language are given a clear goal or objective to work towards, some of which could be vocabulary acquisition, grammar practice, or conversation skills, and they receive rewards or points for achieving that goal. 

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In this section, you have discovered different approaches; you may also have detected similarities. It’s up to you now to find the method that suits best to your needs and purposes.

References in English


5. An exemplary insight in projects on raising awareness for the neighbouring languages

Kiemų festivalis-Courtyard festival

In May/June, the Courtyard Festival in Kaunas brings neighborhoods and people of all cultures and professions together to share their passions and joys. Making friends with people who grew up in different cultures and live next door is an evaluable asset to increasing multiculturalism. In turn, the Institute of Foreign Languages of Kaunas University has taken part in the festival in the last years to build awareness to the importance of plurilingual repertoire. 

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Kalbų degustacijos - Language tasters

A language taster is a short introductory lesson that enables learners to gain a preliminary understanding of a new language. This type of lesson typically covers basic language features such as sounds, grammar, and vocabulary, and is designed to pique learners’ interest in the language and assist them in deciding whether or not to pursue further study. 

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Now it is your turn:

  • Have you already taken part in such an activity? What experience have you made? 
  • Can you imagine to organize such an activity or even a little festival? Talk with your colleagues or let your students be the organizers. 

Tandeminis mokymas - Tandem learning

During the autumn semester of 2022, students had the opportunity to participate in a Tandem Spanish-English language learning programme. 

Students from Vytautas Magnus University studying Spanish and students from Don Bosco University of El Salvador were among those who attended the programme. Tandem learning is a language learning approach where two individuals with different native languages are paired up to learn from each other. This method involves equal language exchange, where half of the time is dedicated to practicing one language and the other half to practicing the other language.

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Vėlyvieji pusryčiai su kalba - Brunch with languages

 VMU hosted a unique event called ‘Languages for Brunch.’ Participants were invited to create their own language bouquet by learning some phrases in various languages (namely, Bulgarian, Estonian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, German, and Ukrainian). This event not only allowed participants to learn and experience new languages but also provided an opportunity for guests to come together and enjoy a brunch while sharing their experiences. 

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6. Using the project-based approach in cross-border vocational (language) education

The project-based approach and it's potentials in language learning

Let’s have a closer look at the project-based approach and at what it can specifically bring to language learning in cross-border vocational settings. In vocational training, students of different (future) professional backgrounds come together and should be trained according to the needs of their future fields of works. In groups of students with different professional backgrounds, it is thus important to adjust the learning to the individual needs of groups of students and to make it more flexible, choosing e.g. different topics aiming at representing future situations. Working with the project-based approach allows to make students work in groups on different topics, thus allowing each group to focus on aspects that are important and specific to their future field of work.

In which fields of language teaching and learning is it particularly important to take in mind the different needs of the students corresponding to their fields of formation? How can the project-based approach help to improve the specific linguistic skills of different students?

Do you think that the project-based approach improves the learner’s motivation to learn the language? Why (not)?

On which topic could you work (according to your field of formation), if you followed the project-based approach in a language learning class in your school? Find three different topics, which are relevant for your future work. Describe in which way you could work on one of them following the project-based approach!

For additional input, get inspired by our sample lesson plan.

Take away

  • Knowledge of different language teaching methodologies can help making choices that enhance language learning in a specific context.
  • Using the practical examples provided may help you to find ways how to raise (language) awareness and how to build plurilingual repertoire of your learners in cross-border vocational (language) education.