Council Resolution of 31 March 1995 on improving and diversifying language learning and teaching within the education systems of the European Union

Official Journal C 207 , 12/08/1995 P. 0001 - 0005


of 31 March 1995

on improving and diversifying language learning and teaching within the education systems of the European Union

(95/C 207/01)


Since their resolution of 1976 comprising an action programme in the field of education, the Council and the Ministers for Education meeting within the Council have dealt with the promotion of the teaching of the languages of the Union on many occasions.

The new powers given to the Community under Article 126 of the Treaty establishing the European Community as amended by the Treaty on European Union, in particular with regard to school education, include a reference to 'the teaching and dissemination of the languages of the Member States`.

Bearing in mind the considerable achievements of the ERASMUS and LINGUA programmes and the resources available under the SOCRATES and LEONARDO Community action programmes, and the achievements of earlier schemes implemented by the relevant international organizations, in particular the Council of Europe, this resolution aims to provide a basis for reflection on how the educational systems themselves can continue the construction of a Europe without internal frontiers, and strengthen understanding between the peoples of the Union. The promotion of linguistic diversity thus becomes one of the major issues in education. While reaffirming the principle of equal status for each of the languages of the Union, thought should therefore be given to the tools appropriate for improving and diversifying the teaching and practice of such languages, thereby enabling every citizen to have access to the cultural wealth rooted in the linguistic diversity of the Union.

Moreover, Community action in support of Member States in this field, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, must take into account the different national structures and situations.

In the light of the above, the Council emphasizes the need to:

- promote, by appropriate measures, qualitative improvement in knowledge of the languages of the European Union within the Union's education systems, with the aim of developing communication skills within the Union and ensuring that all Member States' languages and cultures are disseminated as widely as possible,

- take steps to encourage diversification in the languages taught in the Member States, giving pupils during their school career and students in higher education the opportunity to become competent in several languages of the European Union.

Such measures should concern general and vocational education at all levels including higher education, while respecting the autonomy of higher education establishments.

They could be designed to:

I. Improve the learning and teaching of the languages of the European Union


1. In order to enhance communication skills particular attention should be paid to methods which develop reading comprehension and writing as well as listening comprehension and speaking.

It is therefore desirable to encourage contacts with native speakers of the language being studied:

(a) through the opportunities for virtual mobility offered by the new technologies

The virtual mobility of pupils, in the absence of physical mobility or complementing it, can be carried out by way of individual links between teaching establishments and exchanges of language teachers and assistants.

Moreover, multimedia resource centres already in existence or those which could be created in Member States for language teaching and learning and open and distance learning, could be networked. Through such a mechanism the quality of teaching products could be improved, innovative courses and materials for each Member State or common to several States could be designed and good practice for all levels of teaching, including the teaching of modern languages to young children, could be passed on,

(b) through physical mobility

The opportunity should be offered to as many pupils as possible to go on at least one language visit to a country of the Union of which they are learning the language during their school career.

Special attention should be paid to enabling pupils from disadvantaged social and cultural backgrounds, from rural areas and outlying regions to benefit from language visits.

Future action by Member States and the Community should draw on the extensive experience gained under the LINGUA Community Action Programme, in particular the joint educational projects. The following measures could improve the quality of language visits:

- ensuring that pupils receive adequate background preparation for their language visits, that the visits comprise an assessment element and that they last at least two weeks in secondary education,

- encouraging schools to incorporate language visits into an educational project involving the wider school community, so that pupils who remain behind can also benefit from the scheme, during the phase of preparation, as well as when pupils return from their visits and when pupils are on a visit to the school,

- using every opportunity within individual education systems to bring together pupils and teachers from Member States, for example during residential classes away from the school base (winter sports, seaside and countryside activities, etc.),

- stepping up language preparation for students taking part in exchange or mobility programmes.

2. Promoting innovative methods in schools and universities

With the aim of improving language skills and in view of the inevitable timetable constraints on language classes, a range of innovative methods to make language teaching and learning more effective could be introduced, in particular:

- periods of intensive teaching and learning,

- the opportunity for teaching staff on mobility schemes or on sabbatical leave and visiting teaching staff whose mother tongue is one of the languages of the European Union to be able to teach in that language,

- the teaching of classes in a foreign language for disciplines other than languages, providing bilingual teaching.

3. Teaching for young children

In view of the fact that learning is most effective if begun in childhood at the most flexible and receptive stage of intellectual development, and seeking to encourage schoolchildren to learn foreign languages, it would be desirable to establish or develop early teaching of modern languages in primary schools. The Community could provide support for disseminating experiences and exchanging good practice in this innovation field.

4. Promotion of the learning of foreign languages in technical and vocational teaching

A growing number of enterprises, including small and medium-sized enterprises, need colleagues who can master several of the languages of the Union.

It is therefore particularly important that pupils in technical and vocational education have the opportunity to acquire the language skills necessary to find work and to progress through their career.

The relevant measures in this field could include in particular:

- an increase and diversification of pupil and teacher exchanges,

- the establishment or perfection of language learning methods which are adapted to technical and vocational teaching, taking into account the links between general education and the specific needs of each professional field,

- support for language teachers and for the relevant staff in firms and educational centres,

- improvement in transparency and comparability in the field of linguistic qualifications.

5. Promotion of the learning of foreign languages in adult education

It should be possible to acquire foreign languages knowledge after the end of formal education. Appropriate opportunities should be available to as many adults as possible. Career prospects, particularly through professional mobility, are thereby enhanced. Acquiring language skills should be a means of introduction to the different cultures and traditions of the peoples of the Member States of the Union. Thus mutual understanding and mobility of persons can be intensified. The Community can play a supporting role in this connection.


1. Training for language teachers

Taking into account what has been achieved in this area under the LINGUA programme, language training periods in Member States should be developed and strengthened both for future language teachers (initial training) and for teachers already in post (in-service training).

It would be desirable to improve the quality of the training provided, in particular by:

- ensuring that there is proper background preparation for training periods and that they last at least two weeks,

- laying emphasis on the improvement of spoken skills, the study of language learning strategy and teaching methods and refreshing knowledge of the culture of the country whose language they are or will be teaching,

- encouraging the exchange with Member States of higher education students working as language assistants in schools, endeavouring to give priority to prospective language teachers or those called upon to teach their subject in a language other than their own.

2. Language training for non-language teachers

To encourage the teaching of foreign languages beyond the strict confines of the language class, in particular in the bilingual classes referred to in A (2) and in technical and vocational education, it would be desirable that teachers of subjects others than languages should benefit from appropriate language training, including in higher education. Member States, in accordance with their own rules and objectives, should determine the type and different levels of language competence with their teachers may need.

Similarly, primary school teachers who are required to teach their pupils foreign languages should be provided with training in languages and teaching methods. For these teachers, study periods spent in the country whose language they will teach should be geared to their specific needs. The emphasis should be particularly on the spoken language, listening comprehension, methodology and the use of new technologies.


Teaching of the languages of the European Union, to achieve greater practical effectiveness, could be accompanied by a programme of exchanges of experience devised, where appropriate, to develop methodologies based on common indicators for evaluating pupils' and students' skills at the various levels of teaching. Such a project, which should be carried out in close contact with the Council of Europe, as well as other international organizations such as the OECD, would provide each Member State with objective tools for analysis concerning the quality of their foreign language teaching, and the adaptation of teaching to different needs, and would point to ways of strengthening them.

II. Diversifying the learning and teaching of the languages of the European Union

- In view of the developments that have taken place and the progress that has been made over the last 10 years in the teaching of languages in all the Member States of the Union, pupils should as a general rule have the opportunity of learning two languages of the Union other than their mother tongue(s) for a minimum of two consecutive years during compulsory schooling and if possible for a longer period; the aim of such teaching, going beyond introductory tuition, is the acquisition of clearly defined skills; it is for each Member State to specify those language skills and to determine the different levels of competence required and the appropriate forms of certifying achievement,

- the provision of teaching for languages which are less widely used or less frequently taught should be increased and diversified as far as possible, at all levels of teaching and throughout all types of curricula,

- in view of the difficulties in the way of such diversification, it will be necessary to use all the opportunities offered by open and distance teaching and the new technologies; schemes to develop and disseminate these teaching and learning tools should receive special attention at Community level.

The Community should continue to encourage Member States to exchange experiences and good practice regarding the design of educational and teaching aids for the study of the languages of the Union in schools and in higher education. In order to ensure that teachers are provided with equivalent teaching resources for all these languages, it could in particular back schemes for adapting educational and teaching materials from the more commonly taught languages to those less frequently taught,

- multilateral partnerships between schools or higher education establishments can be used to make pupils, students and teachers aware of the advantages of acquiring a range of language skills. Periods for increasing awareness of one of the partners' languages could be organized, particularly for less frequently taught languages,

- academic teaching normally provides few occasions for real-life communication; to consolidate efforts to diversify language teaching and learning, teaching establishments should be encouraged to draw on resources in the outside community for language practice, such as families, school-business partnerships, adult and vocational education organizations and leisure-time activities.

The Commission is INVITED to:

- support Member States' actions which are aimed at the abovementioned objectives, bearing in mind the achievements of previous programmes, as well as the specific objectives and the resources available under the SOCRATES programme,

- submit a brief report every three years on the progress of schemes undertaken in support of the modern language teaching policy at the level of the Member States and the European Union.