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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 Covid pandemic affected language education in Europe and looks at ways in which the experience, skills and insights gained may bring about beneficial lasting changes in the teaching and learning of languages.
Colloquium 2021

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


During the Covid pandemic of 2020-2021, language education, like all education, changed markedly as new ways had to be found to ensure that teaching and learning could 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 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 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 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. Spring 2022: preparation and piloting of classroom activities and twin questionnaires for groups of learners and for their teachers. These were designed to elicit learners’ views of their experiences of language learning during the Covid emergency.
  7. May-June 2022: running of the survey and collection of ‘learners’ voices’ from 109 groups of learners involving nearly 1,100 learners in seven countries, as well as accompanying questionnaires from 43 teachers working with these groups.
  8. June-August 2022: analysis of the results of the survey, including corpus analysis and categorised selections of open text comments submitted by learners and by their teachers.
  9. Planned for October 2022: a contribution to a meeting of ECML Bureau and Governing Board Members to consider the results of the surveys and the work of the initiative, and to contribute policy recommendations based on national experience
  10. Planned for early 2023: a publication containing an overview of the results of the initiative, summaries of case studies, guidelines for language teachers and language education professionals relating to four key aspects of language education and a summary of policy recommendations.

Some issues that have been highlighted 

  • The impact of national lockdowns on (language) learning, for example:
    • How much learning was lost? How can the loss of learning be made up? 
    • What was the impact on learners’ and teachers’ wellbeing?
    • Are there areas where learning proved more efficient than previously? 
    • Did autonomous / distance learning play a bigger role than previously? What was the effect?
    • What kinds of learning can best be done remotely? 
  • Changes in classroom methodology that may be needed in classrooms lessons 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 overcoming the challenges of reduced socialisation due to the pandemic
  • Teacher competences that needed to be (further) developed during the pandemic, and implications for teacher education and continuing professional development.

Rethinking language education after the experience of Covid - Final report

Available in English and French

This new publication from April 2023 offers both a timely reflection on the challenges faced and the approaches developed over the course of the pandemic and a look into the future at ways in which the skills and insights gained may bring about beneficial lasting changes in the teaching and learning of languages. 

View publication page

Collecting learners' voices survey- overview report

Download the report

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"?

This webinar provided an overview of the initiative, presented the initial findings from a pilot project based on classroom activities to elicit learners’ voices and invited participating teachers to take part in the main survey in May-June 2022..

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

Overview of the initiative

(click to expand)

The Professional Network Forum

Find out more

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