The author is a student who worked as a host for Language Teaching Tomorrow 2019 international week.
Track 1 workshops were well received with the audience providing plenty of engagement with the speakers and the conversation continuing on after the talks. The focus seemed to be on teachers and staff and their; confidence and motivation in language classes, extent of understanding different fields of study and their relevance in the classroom, and the continued need for language teachers especially in language specialization (Business, Law, Engineering, etc.). These were all topics of great discussion, particularly the range of experiences from country to country and when it came to institution budgets.
Susanne Kirchmeyer kicked us off introducing Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Germany which has an increasingly large international student presence. The struggle is inherent here with the majority of Int. students having no German language skills and many of the older administrative personnel, as well as the Weimar community, having limited or no English language skills. There was particular interest into the networking across faculties by the language department as well as the expanding scope of the department into non-university faculties like student housing and local immigration.
From The Hague University of Applied Sciences Netherlands, Marleen Berkhout and Paula Hulsbosch brought an energetic introduction to their work which aims to prepare students for their future career in international settings. One topic of interest were for teachers to have a broad understanding of, for example business, so to better help reinforce specialized language skills in their field. Independent study and contact with alumni were helpful pointers. Another topic was field trips hosted entirely in the teaching language. These would be held in a place of interest relevant to the studied language and funded partly by an independent fund, the school and the students.
The strong theme of staff motivation was continued in the ‘round-table’ discussion spearheaded by Ms. Dorka Balogh from the Pázmány Péter Catcholic University, Hungary. Teachers shared experiences and ideas about knowledge sharing across faculties, professional language teaching and specialization, content methodology, and dealing with stress and burnouts and its prevention among other topics. The session was left with a pressing question: to what degree must professional language teachers understand/ have knowledge of their students’ field of study and how will the fusion of professional language studies and professional studies impact language specialization?
The final presentation was given by Ms. Sofie Verstraete from the Artevelde University College Ghent, Belgium and introduced a very practical guide to the way students are supported in developing their bachelor papers. With respect to language, Ms. Verstraete tells that bachelor papers’ quality is suffering for many reasons, one of which stems from the limited capacity of coaches to guide students in this way, because of workloads (especially). The logistical problem of addressing thousands of students’ papers by hundreds of teachers was a main driver for creating the language coach position. A template to guide thesis writing, an Academic Writing Assistant (website), and personal guidance were some of the practical tools given to students.
Overall the day’s events seemed fruitful and full of proactive discussion from all involved. It was particularly interesting for me, having gone through several Finnish language courses, to hear from the teachers’ perspective inside the classroom and to understand their difficulties and energy spent outside of the classroom.
Student of Energy and Environmental Engineering