The first regional event of the new project, Language for Work – Tools for professional development, took place in France and involved all four members of the project team. The event was supported by the ECML and hosted by the Centre International d’Études Pédagogiques (CIEP). Thanks to cooperation with Délégation Générale à la langue française et aux langues de France, Université Sorbonne Paris Cité (Sociétés Plurielles) and the provider Accentonic, the event attracted some 80 participants involved in research, policy and practice around the learning of work-related French as second language.
The event brought together three audiences who rarely meet: practitioners (training organizations), researchers (especially in language teaching and learning) and policy makers. The first day focused on international and national networks devoted to work-related second language development. The second day was dedicated to the discussion of recent institutional developments in the country with regards to legislation on vocational education and training, basic and vocational skills and work on integration, including accounts of practice.
The LfW team opened the event: Matilde Grünhage-Monetti introduced the ECML highlighting its present focus on quality language education as key to quality education and its continuous contribution to improving language education across Europe. She illustrated the LfW rationale: the integrative potential of work for (young) adult migrants and the central role of communication and second language in present-day’s work practices. She reviewed the complexity of the field of work-related L2, sitting as it does at the crossroads of different disciplines and fields of action. Making the case for cooperation across Europe, Ms Grünhage-Monetti presented the LfW projects and network, the achievements of LfW1 and the envisaged result of LfW2. Alex Braddell then gave a brief overview of the LfW web site, explaining its functionality and role as a vehicle for communication and dissemination. Kerstin Sjösvärd presented the ArbetSam approach developed in Sweden to support workplace L2 development in the context of adult social care. This approach makes use of non-formal and informal mechanisms – areas Alex Braddell then explored in a presentation that investigated the potential of work activity itself as a vehicle for language development. This opening session closed with a presentation from the team’s other member, Christophe Portefin, on legislative developments in France and their impact on work-related language learning.
A lively discussion followed not only in plenary, but also in the breaks and at lunch. In particular issues of non-formal and informal L2 learning must be further explored in particular in view of the influx of migrants and the urgent needs to integrate them.
The LfW team profited from the contributions of and exchange with colleagues from France (including Florence Mourlhon-Dallies, team member of LfW 1) and abroad, who presented other networks (including SKiBB in Germany and Langage, Travail et Formation in France) and their reflections on research and practice in the field. The issue of liaising effectively with the various networks e.g. through a platform to achieve synergy, emerged.
The LfW team profited also from the institutional contributions regarding practice relative to the development of French as L2 in France in the context of vocational integration. Some presentations were concerned with policy changes and new legislation on vocational training and education and their implications for the language provision set up by various public bodies (Conseil Régional d’Île-de-France, Ville de Paris, Ministère de l’Intérieur). Further the results of working groups on the evaluation of competences generic to vocational contexts were presented within the European Agenda for Adult Education. Various training programmes and pilots were presented to illustrate practice, including language training programmes for female cleaners, labour market integration programmes for migrants, a programme for construction workers employed by the Bâtiment et Travaux Publics BTP (Public Buildings and Works) taking into consideration the current political changes. The cleaning sector presented its language training programme, the mastery of key cleaning competences and its adaptation to the new knowledge and skills standards (CléA) implemented in France since January 2016. Finally various supporting activities initiated by companies gave the LfW team a glimpse of encouraging social initiatives around the language in the workplace, both as part of the fight against illiteracy in the workplace (through the association Ba’ba’s work to link staff from client companies with migrant staff from supply-chain companies) and part of diversity management through a survey undertaken in the department of Hérault, in the south of France.
In conclusion, the day gave evidence of the complexity of the contexts, in which the language of the receiving country is being learnt for vocational purposes, in particular the necessity to understand learning both from a formal and an informal point of view.
Informal feedback from participants affirmed the value of the Language-for-Work network for practitioners in this field, particularly in the context of today’s urgent challenge around refugee integration.