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on Wed, 12/11/2013 - 13:41

1. Introduction

The Dutch national Association of Language Teachers (Levende Talen)[1]celebrated its first centennial on May 27, 2011. Part of the festivities was a symposium with the title: ‘…and now for another century of modern language teaching’.

The focus point of this symposium was a panel discussion. Six Dutch participants (teachers, pupils, curriculum experts and teacher educators) shared their views on the future of mainstream language learning/teaching. As food for thought they were given the following introduction and reflections to the theme.

In a 100 years’ time… will there still be thirty students in three rows in a classroom with a language teacher working their way through text- and workbooks during two or three weekly, fifty-minute periods? Or will the concept of classroom and form disappear and will school be more like a social meeting place? After all, learning can take place anywhere: in social networks, virtual learning environments, with the help of intelligent agents or a private teacher at a distance. On the other hand, we should take into account that changes in education have proven to be slow and that all our 2011 prophecies may well stand little to no chance to come true in the traditional classroom.


1. The future learning environment. What changes can be predicted about the ‘learning environment’? What implications are there for schools and school buildings?

2. The future teacher. Will subject teachers (f/m) and their task load of some 26 lessons per week disappear in the next one hundred years? And if so, who or what will replace them? Will they become merely coaches assisted by robots to transfer knowledge?

3. The future student. Pupils have changed in the course of time. Nowadays they are less willing to just consume educational content. They prefer to find information themselves but distinguish between personal and school-related learning. Educational organisations may well teach students less knowledge in the future and increasingly rely on their skills to acquire knowledge and develop competences independently. 

4. Future methodologies. What are the current views on how languages are taught. Will didactics in mainstream language courses still be driven by textbooks produced by educational publishers? Will there be alternative approaches to develop language skills? Will web-based and interactive materials replace the traditional means? Will there still be a place for paper-based materials? 

5. Future technology.

Technological developments are bound to continue the next one hundred years. How will this affect language learning and teaching? Will we be able to learn how to speak a foreign language with the help of L2 signals from external sources or a chip embedded in our brains? What other, possibly more realistic, technical developments will support future teachers and students in the second language acquisition process?


To provide a more global (or at least European) perspective Hayo Reinders (also being a native speaker of Dutch) was invited to join the live panel discussion and five more international experts were requested to be Skype interviewed individually and discuss the same topics that were central to the live panel debate.

The following colleagues from a variety of EU countries were approached by the present writer and accepted the invitation: Josef Colpaert (Belgium), Nicolas Guichon (France), Andreas Müller-Hartmann (Germany), Andreas Lund (Norway) and Graham Davies (UK), who regrettably died a year later.

Below we summarize the key points of their views and observations about the symposium topics. The present document has links to the original audio sequences for a number of statements. Although the standard language was English, Colpaert and Guichon have been invited to use their mother tongues so as to also add a multi-lingual dimension to this venture.

[1] Living Languages.