4 megatrends reshaping language learning

Similar to emerging trends in corporate training and development, there is a profound transformation in the way we learn foreign languages.

Discover now how 4 megatrends will shape the future of modern education programs for learners and coaches when engaging in language learning ahead of its time.

  1. Project-based learning

In today's business environment, there is a shift to competency-based education.

It is a skill based approach, where employers care more about what individuals are able to do, rather than the degree or qualifications they have.

In parallel, an increasing number of organizations consider micro-credentials such as "badges" to be a better way to organize learning units and to measure and communicate capabilities, than time-based courses. This becomes visible in social networks, where employees openly demonstrate their achievements, using "competencies as currencies".

In our global and diverse economy, proficiency in one or more foreign languages is often considered a necessary skill for employment. In many cases, this generates a learning investment for the employee.

In practice, however, language requirements may be very specific depending on the content of the job and business imperatives: being able to make an impactful sales pitch in English, understanding complex business law expertise in German, sharing strategic sector insights with French-speaking co-workers.

As a result, rather than a linear journey, the learning plan will be increasingly fragmented, project driven, putting focus on the relevant development areas. In fact, it is not about progressing in a language "in general", but rather being able to sustain communication in those areas that are relevant to successfully accomplish the job or project.

For the language learner, this entails quicker, more direct access to proficiency. Similar to other competencies, acquired language skills will be certified through micro-credentials and increase the market value of the talent - who will be able to easily switch employers within their speciality.

For the language coach, this requires not only a true understanding of the learner's job and business, but also the preparation of relevant content. This a shift towards project-driven, tailored language programs, based on measurable key performance indicators. And it is likely to result in a 'per project' rather than 'per lesson' pricing model.

In short, the concept of project-based language learning reflects the complexity and actual breadth it takes to progress in any new language - while offering a fast pace for professionals to access relevant business language.

2. Communication techniques

Language and communication skills are linked and interact.

In business, there is a trend towards learning languages as a means not only to become self-empowered, but also to empower others:

  • Team leaders do consider the impact that their communication style and the language they choose have on the motivation of their colleagues.
  • Summarizing complex matters and transforming them them into easy-to-understand language is one of the core attributes professionals must demonstrate to carry out business efficiently.
Mediation to summarize powerful information

Recently, the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) has recognized that the four traditional language skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing have proved inadequate to reflect the complex reality of communication. Particular focus is now put on the macro-function of "mediation" that enables language speakers to summarize and paraphrase information - hence facilitating plurilingual communication.

"With the extensive use of social media networks, communication styles have become sharper, more direct and straighter to the point. This affects language learners, who oftentimes are penalized by too narrow vocabulary and expressions, making their speech less impactful. »

"Summarize", R. Pawolleck Why Good Communicators Simplify Their Language!

Whether using automated language, stylistic devices or targeted communication techniques, modern language learning will consider the interaction between solid language skills and the need for efficient communication. This places the learner in a position where gaps in language proficiency will not impact the intended message, nor the authenticity of the speaker.

3. Cooperative learning and technology

Certainly, the most radical changes have taken place and will take place in the way we learn languages.

The Covid-19 pandemic has given us a chance to rethink online education and to design language training ahead of its time. It has again accelerated the development of new technology-enabled learning models, including virtual online laboratories, learning pods, micro schools and digital platforms such as "Europeana".

The major trend of the decade will be the accelerated use of artificial intelligence and new digital tools and software, including blockchain technology and machine learning.

New forms of collaborative learning have emerged: the emphasis on face-to-face activities has shifted to partly or fully online meetings and new ways of language learning have emerged, such as the creation of network tandems and groups, blended (some online and some face-to-face) and hybrid learning platforms (some learning at school and some at home).

The use of synchronous, i.e. real-time technologies such as Zoom, Skype, Moodle and virtual classrooms has become a predominant feature of many learning programmes as tools have become more sophisticated and teachers' skills have improved. Temporary challenges such as gaps in home wi-fi access will be quickly overcome. Content platforms such as Padlets and Wakelet are part of all modern e-learning and provide a creative and interactive learning experience. Applications, blogs and podcasts offer unlimited complementary learning opportunities.

Deepen a language wherever necessary

New technologies and more collaborative learning methods will continue to transform language learning curriculums and the way we apply academic content to real-world experiences. It will become easier to create exposure to any target language and social interaction at home or wherever it is needed.

4. Content shaping

Over the past years, an overwhelming supply of language programs, tools and methods has emerged, available at no or low cost to everyone with access to internet.

The growing range of choice, an increasing tendency towards the visual, and connectedness, all driven by technology, have a large impact on how language trainers tailor the learning curriculum.

As an example, selecting meaningful input out of the many videos available on YouTube is a challenge as most content is powerful, though often unstructured, loose and with little concept behind it.

Modern language professionals, who design coaching programs away from traditional books and material, will need to identify and thoroughly select content, convert it into meaningful input and structure the offer.

Content shaping becomes a critical exercise for any language coach, while language learners will benefit from increasingly inspired and personalized learning programs.

In summary, the new language programmes will be project- and goal-oriented and will take into account the link between language skills and communication skills . Language learners will thus be able to measure their progress and will be better positioned in the business and labour market. New forms of digital, cooperative and technological learning will make the learning pathway more efficient, interactive and flexible. Finally, creative language trainers and language coaches, using diverse content, will provide the breadth and inspiration for new language programmes.

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