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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 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.   


  1. February 2021: an international survey of the ways in which the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdowns have affected institutions, language teachers and language learners.
  2. April 2021: a webinar to report on the results of the survey.
  3. May and September 2021: two think tanks focusing on the survey results as a basis for planning future actions, such as a guide 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.
  4. May to October 2021: collection of case studies and preparation of a leaflet.
  5. December 2021: a colloquium to discuss the progress and outcomes of the initiative to date, and to relate these to the work of the European Union and the OECD as well as two ongoing ECML training projects, Supporting Multilingual Classrooms and Relating Language Curricula, Tests and Examinations to the CEFR (RELANG).
  6. Early 2022: production and dissemination of one or more reports on the accounts of good practice, case studies, ideas and proposals which have come out of the think tank meetings and the work of the team coordinating the initiative.

Some issues that have been 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.

Register to participate in the Collecting learners’ voices survey, running until 26 June

Webinar “Language learners’ voices – lessons learned from Covid”

Would you like to find out more about our initiative - "The future of language education in the light of Covid"?  Would you be interested in helping us understand how learners’ experienced language learning and teaching during the pandemic so that together we can build a more promising future for language education? 

This webinar will provide an overview of the initiative, present the initial findings from a pilot project based on classroom activities to elicit learners’ voices and invite participating teachers to take part in the next stage.

Target group: language teachers (all levels)

The initiative is coordinated by the ECML’s Professional Network Forum and takes place in cooperation with the European Commission.

Recorded 17 May 2022

Webinar in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SswVU_3liBs
Download: powerpoint presentation

Outcomes of the initiative

  1. An examination 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 was done by exploring good practice in remote, socially distanced and hybrid language teaching and learning during the health emergency. 
  2. A report on lessons learned from these experiences and on recommendations for the future of language education arising from them.
  3. Two think tanks and a colloquium that provided 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.

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

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 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 continued the series of  ECML webinars on Covid 19 and language education, focused on preliminary findings from this Europe-wide survey, including key statistical data and a  review of the major themes, challenges and lessons learnt. 

Recorded 27 April 2021

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