"New Learning" - How is German learned with respect to the reference frame and portfolio?
2006 and 2007
The most interesting, topical and politically momentous power struggle in the field of language(s) is now being conducted in Europe. With the diligent approval of almost all the governments of the European Union, both the EU and the European Council have roundly proclaimed that they mean to preserve and cultivate Europe’s linguistic diversity. As processes of political integration normally tend on their own to establish a common language of communication (whereby English would undoubtedly be the predestined winner), this declaration of intention is by no means a modest one. If European multilingualism is to be secured, clear linguistic-political decisions will be needed and, over and above this, an energetic and practical will to reform which reaches down to the grass roots level of foreign language learning in the school systems. What is needed is, first, a clear declaration of intention on the part of educational policy to pursue the minimum requirement of “two foreign languages for every European citizen” and, second, a reform of foreign language instruction which makes the acquisition of communicative skills the measure of the content and results of all teaching and learning.
The scratch test for the success or failure of this plan has long begun. Notwithstanding all lip service, the rush of European governments and Ministries of Education to the necessary points positions of linguistic policy has not been exactly headlong. While the large European countries have conducted themselves rather hesitantly and vaguely (like Germany) or with unconcealed restrictiveness towards the reforms (like England), several smaller countries went courageously into the offensive, only later often to be shocked by their own courage (like Norway). If a balance is ventured, it will turn out undecided: At the moment, it is still a moot question whether European educational policy can summon up sufficient courage and assertive will to secure European multilingualism.
How does it look at the grass roots level? The European Council has called for a general upgrading of foreign language learning and has, since the 1960’s, continually made substantial contributions to this end. Concretely, it has proposed the establishment of a common scale of evaluation, the “Common European Reference Frame for Languages” (CEF) and to furnish all language learners (pupils) with a “European Language Portfolio” (ELP) which can help them as a learning aid and document their progress. In the meantime, there are in fact a great many of these portfolios. The question is how they have gone down at the grass roots level and whether they will actually be able to change foreign language learning.
The aim of our project is to provide initial, perspectival answers to this question: What does foreign language learning (learning German) in Scandinavia look like after the reform strategies of the European Council have begun to take effect?
We have chosen schools in Finland and Norway that have engaged themselves for the development and testing of the foreign language portfolios and want to produce a video documentation that shows these groups in characteristic learning situations based on the new concepts.
This project will take place in cooperation with Utdanningsdirektoratet Oslo, Kastellet skole Oslo, Kongsberg videregående skole and Telemarksforsking Notodden.