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Multilingual resources in professional practice

After having discovered in the previous section the importance of multilingualism in companies in contexts of border regions and beyond, we will now consider its implementation in vocational learning and teaching settings (cf. the overview “Mehrsprachigkeit und Arbeitswelt” made by Coray and Duchêne 2017 about new approaches of co-construction between professional and language competences). We are following the idea that acquisition and expansion of language skills must be integrated into vocational education and training. This approach follows the understanding that language is usually best learned where it is needed (cf. Cehak-Behrmann 2018 a/b).  

The role of the teacher/trainer 

In order to make teachers linguistically sensitive while doing vocational training, there is a need to „train-the-trainer“. For the German context, you can find Can Do-descriptors in the SpraSiBeQ framework („Sprachsensibilisierung für Fachlehrende in der beruflichen Qualifizierung“): „The aim of this SpraSiBeQ framework curriculum is to develop the competencies of the two model educators who are necessary in order to be linguistically sensitive to the respective participants“ (translated from Kimmelmann et al. 2014, 8). Declarative knowledge in the field of teaching methodology is the following: 

  • The teacher knows linguistic structures that can cause difficulties to the participants/learners.
  • The teacher has basic knowledge of the levels of the CEFR and the levels of the CEFR written competences. 
  • The teacher knows that, within individual language competences, linguistic-communicative activities (reception, production, interaction, language mediation) have to be evaluated differently (ibid., 13). 

At the same time, the teacher knows the importance of multilingual resources, which can support subject-specific learning. 

What does this mean in practice and how to benefit from these multilingual resources? Let’s have a look at two approaches: 

1. The tandem approach 

One tool may be the tandem approach: „Learning/teaching tandems of speakers teaching their first language to a learner of that language, and vice versa, are often an efficient instrument for acquiring and reciprocal teaching of the neighbour’s language to a practicable degree“ (Roche 2019, 13). 

The origins of the tandem method lie in the audio-visual learning method, mainly applied to German-French youth encounters (for the first time in 1968). Nowadays you can find plenty of school projects (mostly in the German-French context) using Tele-tandems: https://www.tele-tandem.net/de/was-ist-tele-tandem/ 

2. The polyglot dialogue 

When everyone speaks their own language(s) and understands that of the other, we are talking about polyglot dialogue (Posner 1991). The idea of using one's own language(s) in a „polyglot dialogue“, especially in multilingual professional settings like Luxemburg, can assure authentic input that a speaker with a lower language level than his/her partner needs to name things properly. This mainly perceptive approach from foreign language learning can also be adopted for vocational training, but the teacher should be aware of the social asymmetry (language of the majority vs. language of the minority) in multilingual groups and his own role as a teacher. 

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How can I use learning scenarios in practice? 

“The starting point for a scenario is a work task that the learners solve in several successive action steps until they have achieved a justifiable result. The tasks in the individual steps of the process chain are designed to be as interactive as possible” (translated from Sheytanova 2021). 

For the teachers, the preparation steps for using this method are the following: 

  • Language needs analysis: Language proficiency assessment 
  • Analysis of work processes, identification of communication situations 

In contrast to a role-playing game, the learning scenario always consists of several communication situations that build on each other. e.g. Step 1: Phone call (order from a customer), Step 2: E-mail (confirmation) and Step 3: Interview (information to the supervisor) 

For other scenarios, it could be a chain of speech acts in 3 steps: 1. e-mail, 2. answer a phone call and 3. holding a meeting (see the diagram on the right hand side taken from Sass and Eilert-Ebke 2015, 12 available online https://www.deutsch-am-arbeitsplatz.de/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF/Szenarien_web_2015.pdf

(1) Have once again a look at the prototypical authentic situations listed above. Choose the one that seems to be the less/the most complicated regarding the language level. At the same time think about intercultural challenges that could appear, for example by treating older persons in a retirement home/residence. Make a checklist of the aspects that must be considered in these appropriate situations. 

(2) After a successful application, a person's first day of work is imminent. He or she will receive a letter with information about the start of work. However, he/she still has two questions about this. What could they be? (e.g. Who is my contact person on the first day? Do I need to bring work clothes?, etc.). 

The scenario didactic includes 3 steps! Please think of these steps and about the way of communication (telephone call, e-mail or others). Think about the register (formal/informal, direct/indirect) of the situation! 

Your students should then perform the 3 situations!

You can find some more answers here: