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European Day of Languages: supporting linguistic diversity

The Council of Europe initiative celebrates Europe’s linguistic and cultural diversity and promotes the importance of language learning

European Day of Languages

European Day of Languages is an important reminder of the enormous benefits of teaching and learning a wide range of languages,” says Cambridge Assessment English chief executive Francesca Woodward. 

The Council of Europe initiative celebrates Europe’s linguistic and cultural diversity and promotes the importance of language learning. For its 20th anniversary this year it published ‘20 things you might not know about Europe’s languages’ – revealing that English is the fourth largest mother tongue spoken in Europe, after Russian, German and French. 

“English has become an essential skill for everyone in so many areas,” continues Fran, “but it’s equally important that people do not neglect their first language and that they take the time to learn other languages. Whether it’s the regional language of the place you live, the language of your parents or the language of your favourite holiday destination, there are enormous benefits from learning more than one language.”

One of our principles for the future of education is that first and second language skills are essential for all learners. As an organisation with expertise in English language learning, teaching and assessment, we help millions of people worldwide to teach and learn English and prove their skills to the world. But we also encourage and support the teaching and learning of a much wider range of languages as we recognise benefits of this for both individuals and society as a whole.

Highlights in this area include Cambridge Assessment English being instrumental in the development of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which was first published by Cambridge University Press 20 years ago. The CEFR has gone from strength to strength and become the global standard for measuring language ability. 

We were also one of the founding members of ALTE, which is an association of language test providers who work together to promote the fair and accurate assessment of linguistic ability across Europe and beyond. 

Alongside this, our Cambridge English Corpus – a multi-billion word database of spoken and written English – helps us understand where English language learners are statistically more likely to encounter difficulties. We use this insight in developing our English language learning materials, as we can tell learners and teachers what to look out for and teach the language that learners will encounter in their everyday lives – language that’s useful, current and helps them to sound natural when they speak and write.

As the world’s leading publisher in language and linguistics, we offer a wide-range of journals and books for students, teachers and researchers. Our publishing includes theoretical, applied and sociolinguistics, and represents a breadth of subfields, such as first and second language acquisition. Our acclaimed book list includes state-of-the-art monographs as well as major reference works, guides to research methods, and textbooks at all levels. 

Our five tips for language learning at home and in the classroom from language experts, teachers and authors are:

1.    Nursery rhymes can help a foreign language feel natural to learners. These help improve listening skills due to the repetition of words, the language is often easier to remember and they help with emotional engagement.
2.    Mistakes can help you learnAllowing learners to speak a lot while making a few mistakes is key to success as they are much more likely to develop confidence for dealing with real-life situations.
3.    Chatbots – apps that mimic the behaviour of a conversation with a real person - could be useful for practising a new language for a number of reasons, such as boosting confidence, having the opportunity to practise at any time, identifying errors, and tracking performance over time.
4.    The use of social media as a learning tool in the classroom can help engage students, encourage collaboration with peers and demonstrate their creative skills.
5.    Parents can support language learning at home by practising little and often, focusing on a child’s interests and praising effort not just results. 

What is your experience of learning a second language? Let us know by tweeting us at @cambpressassess 


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