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    Initiative: The future of language education

The future of language education in the light of Covid
Lessons learned and ways forward

The initiative explores how the ongoing Covid pandemic has affected language education, and looks at ways in which the skills and insights gained may bring about beneficial lasting changes in the teaching and learning of languages.



Shortcut:  https://www.ecml.at/thefutureoflanguageeducation


Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic in early 2020, language education, like all education, has changed markedly as new ways have had to be found to ensure that teaching and learning can continue.

Within the framework of a cooperation action with the European Commission, the ECML and the organisations that are members of its Professional Network Forum have decided to organise a series of events to take stock of the challenges and opportunities that the pandemic has presented for language education. The initial step was to compile and run an in-depth survey across ECML and EU member states. This took place in February 2021 and was completed by 1,735 professionals from 40 countries. The survey not only looked at how methodology, learning aims and assessment had been affected but also asked respondents to give details of the lessons learnt so far during the pandemic, the positive aspects of their experiences and what they considered to be the greatest challenges. 

Work on analysis is still ongoing but a provisional summary of results is available here.

Webinar "The future of language education – learning lessons from the pandemic"

The Covid pandemic has presented challenges for all sectors of education and has led to widespread changes in educational practices. These have greatly affected language teaching and learning across Europe.

In February 2021 a month-long survey developed under the auspices of the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) and its Professional Network Forum was launched to find out how institutions and teachers and learners of languages have responded to the challenges presented by successive lockdowns and social distancing. It also explored how language teaching and assessment methodologies have evolved, and what the impact has been on language learning and motivation. There were over 1700 responses from professionals in 40 countries working at different educational levels. 

These responses have painted a clear and rich picture of the variety of ways in which teachers and learners have coped with the situation. They also provided insights into some of the positive changes in language teaching that the pandemic has generated, as well as challenges that teachers and learners have confronted. 

This webinar, which continues the series of  ECML webinars on Covid 19 and language education, will focus on preliminary findings from this Europe-wide survey, including key statistical data and a  review of the major themes, challenges and lessons learnt. It will also outline next steps. 

Recorded 27 April 2021

Webinar in English: https://youtu.be/V8iAxTYBlAw
Initiative website:  www.ecml.at/future-of-language-education
Download: powerpoint presentation

Intended actions

  1. To run an international survey of the ways in which the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdowns have affected institutions, language teachers and language learners (this was done in February 2021).
  2. To organise one or more webinars to report on the results of the survey.
  3. To use the survey results as a basis for planning two think tank events and a colloquium in 2021.
  4. To create a tool which would enable institutions, their managers and their teachers, as well as national and regional authorities, to review the impacts of the COVID pandemic on their work and to use the results of the review in their planning for the future.
  5. To produce and disseminate one or more reports on the accounts of good practice, ideas and proposals which come out of the think tank meetings.

Some issues that will be highlighted 

  • The impact of national lockdowns on (language) learning, for example:
    • how much learning has been lost? How can the loss of learning be made up? 
    • Are there areas where learning has proved more efficient than previously? 
    • Has autonomous / distance learning played a bigger role? What has the effect been?
    • What kinds of learning can best be done remotely? 
  • Changes in classroom methodology that may be needed in classrooms with social distancing 
  • The effect of lockdowns on the inclusiveness of education, for example on provision for migrant learners, students with special needs etc.
  • The impact of lockdown on the assessment of students’ progress and achievement
  • Student mobility during and after the pandemic 
  • Plurilingual approaches and the overcoming the challenges of increasing nationalism and self-isolation related to the pandemic.
  • Teacher competences that needed to be (further) developed during the pandemic, and implications for teacher education and continuing professional development.

Take part in the ECML colloquium
“The future of language education in the light of Covid – lessons learned and ways forward”

Tuesday, 14 December 2021, 9:30-17:45 (CET) 

More information

Objectives of the initiative

  1. To examine the impact of the COVID pandemic on the current and future shape of language education and the possible impact of the experience gained on the ways languages are taught and learned beyond the pandemic; this will be done by exploring good practice in remote, socially distanced and hybrid language teaching and learning during the health emergency. 
  2. To report on lessons learned from these experiences and on recommendations for the future of language education arising from them.
  3. To organise events that will  provide opportunities for further exploration of the ways in which language education, learning resources and assessment procedures may evolve in the future in the light of the experience gained during the pandemic.


  • reports on the survey results
  • a tool to enable institutions and their staff to review the impacts of pandemic on their work, and to use the results of the review in planning for the future.
  • a publication based on the themes and conclusions of the think tank events 



Dec 2021

Colloquium: The future of language education in the light of Covid: Lessons learned and ways forward

This initiative is carried out within the framework of a cooperation agreement between the European Centre for Modern Languages and the European Commission, entitled 
Innovative methodologies and assessment in language learning

The Professional Network Forum

Find out more