French as a Second Language
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CASLT Goes to Austria!
By Nicole Thibault, CASLT Education Officer
This past February, CASLT was invited by the Department of Canadian Heritage to send a member to participate in a 5-day "Think Tank" workshop at the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) in Graz, Austria. I was most fortunate to be selected to represent the Association..
The Host Organization
The European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) was made a permanent institution in 1998 with the mission of focusing on the support for the implementation of language education policies and innovative approaches in the teaching and learning of languages. The Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe funds its activities, and the Government of Austria and the municipality of Graz fund its facility.
A medium term cycle of programming was adopted, each cycle spanning 4 years in order to optimize the functioning and impact of its activities and to facilitate the planning process.
The Team Leaders - Derk Sassen, Talenakademie in Holland, Gabriela Matei, University of Timisoara in Romania, Merce Bernaus, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain, and behind Merce is project coordinator, Peter Radai, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary.
In June 2000, The ECML organized a 'Think Tank' on the topic of Change in Teacher Education. The participants of this event formulated a number of recommendations for future activities to be undertaken by the ECML. One of the proposed projects would attempt to draw attention to the profession of language education and to the status of language teachers. The European Year of Languages 2001 was an opportune time to raise awareness for professional concerns of language educators.
In December 2001, a 3- day moderated forum and workshop was conducted. The projects included the development of a semi-interactive portrait gallery of language teachers on the ECML Web site entitled, Teachers of the Week. It also involved a group of 25 professionals representing 24 different countries of Europe in a process workshop to envisage the ideal working conditions for language teachers entitled Language Teachers' Wonderland.
In the 5-day workshop in February 2003, the results of the previous activities were shared and discussed. A moderated discussion forum focusing on the key issues of status, role and professional principles which refined the Wonderland activity. The development of a Charter of Principles was begun as a guide to enhance the status of language educators within the world of education and in the wider social context.
The recommendations will be compiled and a publication will follow in the Spring of 2003. The results of the project will be shared at the final conference of the first medium-term programme in October 2003.
The project was coordinated by Peter Radai, Eötvös University, Budapest Hungary. He worked with a team of 3 educators Derk Sassen, Talenakademie in Holland, Gabriela Matei, University of Timisoara in Romania, Merce Bernaus, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain. The keynote speaker was Frank Heyworth, of Fribourg, Switzerland, the Executive Secretary of EAQUALS (European Association of Quality Language Services.
The 29 participants from 28 countries were educators with between 5 and 20 years teaching experience having some experience working with professional bodies. The working languages of the workshop were English and French.
- To help raise awareness of the status of language teachers in different national and international contexts;
- To raise the profile and self-esteem of language educators in national and international contexts;
- To raise a selection of key issues, principles and practices that are believed to contribute positively or negatively to the status of language teaching and teachers;
- To recommend realistic and feasible action in national and international contexts through the identification of areas in which action might be necessary for status improvement.
The process began by examining professional climate (status) and creating a self-definition, then focussed on preparing participants to act and disseminate their understandings in order to yield political results that will ultimately improve professional status.
The experience was very enriching both personally and professionally. I was able to meet with language educators from a variety of situations and get a better understanding of their approaches and views on teaching, outside the Canadian context. I made contacts with key individuals who also represent bilingual countries and was able to discuss with them how their countries approach multiple official languages. Many parallels can be made and yet different perspectives on issues relating to terms such as bilingual/bi-cultural, multilingual/multicultural were quite evident. For example, although most European countries take for granted their citizens speaking two or more languages, these languages have traditionally been "European" languages. Yet with the increase of immigration from various countries worldwide, citizens speaking a second or third non-European language have not been recognized or given the same status. These distinctions were cause for personal reflection on our own approaches to teaching and learning French as a second language with new Canadians.