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Teaching languages to learners with special needs

David Wilson

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What a busy week this has been for European Commission reports about modern foreign languages. First the Key Data on Teaching Languages at Schools in Europe 2005 edition appeared. Today we have the publication of Insights & Innovation: Special Educational Needs in Europe: The Teaching and Learning of Languages. The latter can be downloaded at:


It's over 8MB and 208 pages long! One of the main findings of the report is that "the major barrier to successful foreign language learning in SEN is in negative assumptions about learner capabilities, limited vision of the pragmatic value of languages for these pupils, and lack of recognition of the size of the school population involved." So more positive thinking by the professionals involved and a greater willingness for SEN and MFL teachers to collaborate for the benefit of learners in difficulty. The executive summary stresses the central role of Individual Education Plans when devising courses for SEN students. These documents record students' strengths, weaknesses, standardised test results, support mechanisms etc. The more we know about the students we teach, the better we will be able to help them access the MFL curriculum.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first report to focus on MFL and SEN Europe-wide. Many theorists and practitioners in the field have contributed to its preparation.

Comments, anyone?

David Wilson


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