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    Language learning

Let's think about your language learning

Being able to communicate in the neighbour language(s) is a huge asset in the labour market, but often students are not aware of this fact or consider the neighbour language(s) as being too 'difficult'. Our findings from the participating border regions and from the survey (“Cross-border vocational education”) also revealed that students and trainees often do not feel competent enough to communicate in the neighbour language(s). This, in turn, hinders them in speaking and using the language. 

In this context, reflecting about language learning can help to build up self-confidence for language use. General questions about language learning can initiate reflection processes and make already existing language (learning) skills visible: What am I already good at? Where do I need to improve? Why do I perceive this as difficult? How can I change this? On this basis, reflection on language learning can be further developed, as it is suggested in the following.

  • Learn why thinking about (our) language learning is important. 
  • Get to know strategies for language reflection for teachers and learners.

Why is reflecting on language learning important?

Raising (Multilingual) Language Learning Awareness includes – at a general level – the ability and willingness of learners to reflect on and to organize their language learning (cf. Gnutzmann2016: 145). It helps to trace individual paths of (language) learning, makes them visible and usable for further (language) learning. Learners recognize independently what they have already learned and develop strategies and techniques to make their (language) learning easier and more effective. Hence, the focus is on the language learning process.

The promotion of (Multilingual) Language Learning Awareness requires knowledge about language(s) and language learning in general as well as about the respective strategies (savoir). The ability to use language learning strategies plays an essential role as does reflecting on learning processes (savoir-faire). Furthermore, attitudes towards language learning are of special importance. They affect, for example, the motivation for language learning, emotions that are connected with language learning or the willingness to gain new (language) experiences (savoir-être). In this context, (Multilingual) Language Learning Awareness also requires being able to reflect on and evaluate one's own language learning and to be able to work on it consequently (cf. Martinez et al. 2017).

One way to document (language) learning processes is using a portfolio. For example, students may write short reflections or answer special tasks during and after teaching sessions and, in this way, actively think about how they are (language) learning. Reflective writing is not an easy task at the beginning and it is helpful to use questions like the ones above to start. After some time, students can reconstruct their (language) learning process, retrace their developments and identify strategies and techniques that are relevant for them (cf. Reissner 2020). In the guide, we suggest using a portfolio, you can find more information here.

Further, including the whole linguistic and cultural repertoire and making similarities and differences visible and usable for language learning supports fostering (Multilingual) Language Learning Awareness (see also Understanding languages through other languages – Intercomprehension). In this way, language comparison activities or reflection tasks can lead to deep insights into (language) learning processes.

But how can we promote (Multilingual) Language Learning Awareness?

Reflection processes can initiate and further develop (Multilingual) Language Learning Awareness. Teachers and their learners can ask themselves questions like the following to start (self-)reflection (cf. Fredriksson 2019: 321). 

  • How has my language learning progressed?
  • What strategies do I use when learning a language?
  • How, when and where do I learn best?
  • What is easy/difficult for me? Why? How can I work on this?
  • Which tasks and exercises are particularly efficient for me?
  • What techniques do I use to memorize something?
  • What do I enjoy most about language learning?
  • What do I do if I feel like I'm not getting anywhere?
  • Did the lessons motivate me to study the language outside of the classroom?
  • etc.
Take 15 minutes to think about your language learning. Write down your thoughts, strategies, ideas, etc. You may use the sample questions from above. When you have finished, read your notes and add aspects if applicable. 

For the future: Try to implement such a short reflection activity once a month. This will help you to learn more about your language learning processes and how you can make your language learning more effective. 

Tip for teachers: Initiate such ‘reflection sessions’ in your class. You can start using reflection questions like the ones we provide. Support your students in thinking about their language learning and in developing further. After a while, you may observe changes in their self-awareness for their language learning, which may lead to improvements and further developments.


Take away

  • Reflecting on language learning helps to improve it. 
  • Language reflection is essential for the development and promotion of (Multilingual) Language Learning Awareness. 
  • The use of a portfolio helps to organise, document and evaluate language learning processes.
  • Implementing ‘reflection sessions’ can support the consequent documentation of further development of language learning processes.