RAOUL – outcomes of the research period October 2005 to January 2006

What have we discovered so far? How might this information be developed into a motivational tool?  

Motivations for language learning 

  1. Political 

Support Where there is positive support from national, regional and local governments for the development of linguistic competence, more people engage with learning and learn languages that will improve economic and/or social performance. Engagement with European initiatives to drive up language learning is less likely than with national, regional or local imperatives. 

Action: the motivational tool will include information about the multilingual policies of the EU and references to agencies and authorities that support language learning in partner countries 

Mobility When people are informed and aware of the opportunities open to them in work places and for travel abroad they are more likely to make an individual choice to study language. The language studied is most likely to be English and/or the major language of the destination country. European citizens do not just aspire to live and travel within Europe. Migrant communities within Europe more acutely perceive the case for language competence in the context of mobility. They are more likely to include the use of another language as part of a skills set for work. 

Action: the motivational tool should include case studies that illustrate how companies in partner countries use other languages. The case studies should include a range of other languages that are used not just English  

English The greatest numbers of people (even in the UK) consider learning and using English the most desirable attribute for work. There is a lack of awareness among individuals of the range of other languages that might be useful in work places. The perception is that English will be directly of use and that it will also be the common language of European colleagues working together. American English is viewed as important in dealing with colleagues in multi-national and American owned companies. Language teachers and other project partners recognise that English is not the only possibility. 

Action: the motivational tool could include a description of the use of English in European companies but should also list the other major languages that are used for business including those languages from outside the EU  

Influence The case for linguistic competence for work has been insufficiently made for it to become a prime motivational factor for individuals. They are more likely to choose to learn another language because they “feel” that it is the right language to learn. Setting aside the learning of English, the choices that individuals make are influenced by personal and social matters (holidays; family etc.); historical or traditional language learning patterns (French as a second language in the UK and Germany, for example) or a change in culture that dictates a rejection of previous practice (the decline of Russian learning in Hungary and the take up of English and German instead). The influence of close neighbours works both ways. It can dictate the language policy of a region (in South West Germany French is the second language learned since France is the nearest neighbour) or, as a result of changing ideologies, it can drive language learning policies away from what, geographically, may make the most sense (Hungary). 

Action: the motivational tool will need to make it clear that the ability to use another language is not just a social skill. Some case studies from individuals who have benefited from being able to speak another language at work could serve as illustration  

  1. Individuals 

Different individuals and groups of people are inspired by different factors. This means that there is not likely to be one set of motivational actions that can be taken. So alternative approaches will need to be developed for: 

Men In some partner countries take up of language learning is greater amongst women than men. What is it that will persuade more men that language competence is an important tool? Why, in some countries, do both men and women learn in equal measure? 

Action: Further research in year two into what inspires men to learn language  

Migrant communities Migrants are much more aware of the impact of linguistic competence on daily life including work. The direct links between the ability to use other languages and financial gain can be illustrated through the experience of migrants living and working in the EU. The motivation for these communities to learn other languages will more likely focus on underpinning knowledge and understanding of the languages of the EU, their inter-relationships and applications. 

Action: case studies from migrant communities to be included in the tool  

Age Different age groups have different attitudes and experiences of language learning and use. Middle aged and older people in Hungary, for example, resist the idea of language learning as a useful and pleasurable activity. Younger people, in general, have had more exposure to other language use through the media, technology, music and travel and are more likely to have positive attitudes to learning.

English native speakers The overwhelming use of English is the cause of considerable apathy among native speakers to learn to communicate in any other way. The case that “English is not enough” must be better made with individuals than at present. It is too easy still for English native speakers to adopt the stereotypical response: “they all speak English”. Progress on improving the linguistic competence of English speakers in work will only be made after impelling evidence that it is a vital skill. 

Action: we could undertake some specific research into these groups and the factors that might motivate them in year two. We also need to decide if there are any other groups that require special consideration in terms of motivations.  

  1. Content and methodology  

What is taught and the way in which teaching is delivered impact on the motivation of individuals to join in with learning and to pursue their studies. 

Content Logically, most learners and potential learners identified that they would be more likely to join a course if the content was directly relevant to their individual learning needs. It is an indictment of current teaching practice that this seems to be rarely the case. Language teaching is formulaic and can be inflexible. The individual is left with the task of making what has been learned fit for his or her own purpose. 

Action: the motivational tool should include the different ways that other languages can be learned. Advice for potential learners about how to describe what and how they would like to learn should also be included.  

Cost Although cost and travel distance were an issue for some learners many indicated that language learning is something for which they are prepared to both travel and pay. However, in seeking to dramatically increase the uptake of learning, it is likely that travel and cost will become more significant the more people we engage in the learning process. What is important to note in this context is the reluctance of companies and employers to invest in training for staff. For the most part it is the individual who must foot the bill for his or her language learning even if it is undertaken for the benefit of the employer. Other language use, it seems, is a skill that is expected of employees but not one that they might acquire within the context of their work.  

Action: we will need to make clear in the tool that learning to use another language is likely to be the responsibility of the individual. Here we need also to collect together information about which kinds of jobs, in particular, demand the ability to use another language and to describe which languages and for what purpose.  

Flexibility Along with relevance, many learners are seeking learning that fits in with their life style. Short intensive courses may work for some, family learning, e-learning, longer study periods, formal teaching, discussion groups; learners expressed a range of options that could help them to start and to keep on learning. 

Qualification For those learning for employment, or future employment, it is critical that certification should be the outcome of learning a language. A qualification that is recognised and accepted as part of a tally for entry to further or university education or that will work for employment purposes is an important consideration. It is important to acknowledge, and so to emphasise in any motivational tool, that the achievement of a certificate is not the best indication of linguistic competence. What is important to all learners is to know that they are progressing. Self assessment, peer assessment and teacher assessment techniques must be part of the learning process. 

Action: a list of the most widely recognised certificates of language learning could be included with advice about what kind of certificate learners should look for.  

Methodology: Some methods may appeal more to certain target groups than others. E-learning may engage the younger learner; some migrant communities expressed an interest in family learning; immersion training works well for those who want to move from functional competence to real understanding. Learners need to reach a stage of being independent in their use of another language. They all need, whatever their level, to have skills that help them to study on their own and to be able to use the language confidently. 

Action: the tool can include some tips about how to be a good language learner. It also needs to describe different ways of learning language so that new learners can judge which method is likely to suit them best.  

What else did we discover?  

The languages that appear to be the most in demand for work are as follows: 


  1. English
  2. French (because of location)/Spanish


  1. English
  2. French (traditionally)/German


  1. English
  2. German


  1. English
  2. German


  1. English
  2. French

Action: we need to double check that these really are the languages that are of most use in work places 

Most countries acknowledge that Mandarin Chinese and, maybe Arabic, could be languages that should be considered for work place use. No specific action seems to have been taken as yet to drive up demand for learning. There seems to be some uncertainty about whether proficiency in these languages will be a necessary skill. There is also a lack of awareness about what kind of content might be useful (which industries? Which functions?) The fact that these languages are perceived as “difficult” presents additional difficulties in motivating individuals to learn.

 Action: further research into new trading languages in year two to try to determine whether a strong case should be made for them in the motivational tool