Language Futures is an exciting initiative for creative language departments interested in developing languages beyond the classroom. It is not designed to ‘teach’ a language, but to equip students with the skills to develop as independent learners supported by school, home and a language proficient mentor from the community.  Motivation and engagement are key to the approach with learners not only choosing the language they wish to learn, but also exercising choice in elements of what and how to learn. The class teacher acts as a facilitator of language learning rather than a teacher of a specific language by creating the conditions for students to manage their own learning processes and supporting them to learn collaboratively with their peers.

Language Futures was first developed in 2009 by Linton Village College in Cambridgeshire as part of the Learning Futures initiative led by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, in partnership with the Innovation Unit. In summer 2015, management of the initiative was transferred to the Association for Language Learning, with legacy grant funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for the next two academic years.

Overseen by ALL’s Director Rachel Middleton, and working closely with its project partner Whole Education, the Language Futures team also includes a:

  • Schools Adviser (Ann Swarbrick) who advises and supports the development of the approach in school settings, particularly with schools wishing to pursue Language Futures as an after school/extra-curricular model
  • Education Researcher (Rachel Hawkes) who explores and evaluates the impact of the approach on learners, teachers, and the wider school community, particularly parents and mentors
  • Project Manager (Clodagh Cooney) who takes day to day management responsibility for the initiative

Over the past academic year, we have:

  • Supported schools already using or wishing to adopt Language Futures as an approach to language learning within the curriculum
  • Supported schools pursuing Language Futures as an after school or enrichment experience
  • Developed a range of guidance and resources to support the approach including project-based learning, language learning strategies and building schools’ capacity resources
  • Began a research exercise exploring and evaluating the impact of the Language Futures approach on learners, teachers, and the wider school community, particularly parents and mentors.

A core feature of the Language Futures approach is the support offered to students by mentors.  Students receive personalised support from language proficient mentors who are volunteers with an in-depth knowledge and fluency in a particular language, recruited to provide good models of the language and advise students on specific language queries and learning tasks.  Mentors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and both teachers and pupils speak about the difference they make and the impact they have on learning.

Rachel Hawkes, Director of International Education and Research at Comberton Academy Trust, one of the teachers launching Language Futures this September, says: ‘‘Language Futures’ mentors I have met are motivated to volunteer for a variety of reasons. Some are parents who value the opportunity to get to know their own child’s school. Others are considering teacher or teaching assistant as a possible career option and see this as valuable professional experience. All love the language they know and have a passion for sharing the language and its culture with a future generation of speakers.’’

Future plans:

  • Both primary and secondary schools will be launching the approach in 2016-17. For further information on how teachers in the Cambridgeshire area are launching Language Futures this September, please visit the News section of the ALL website
  • The Association for Language Learning’s annual conference and CPD event Language World taking place in March 2017 will feature a major talk on Language Futures as well as a primary and secondary-focused Language Futures workshop. There will also be a Language Futures a poster session which is a new feature of Language World for 2017 offering opportunities for academics and teachers to showcase their research and field questions from delegates.

Please see the Background section of our website for information on how this highly innovative approach has been developed over the last number of years.  The Approach page contains information on the core features of the Language Futures approach whilst the Getting Started page offers advice on how the approach can be established in your school, including planning and preparing for its introduction.  For further information on launching Language Futures in your school or on becoming a Language Futures mentor, email the Language Futures Project Manager Clodagh Cooney.

LW2017 Progress for ALL

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