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What do you know about language teaching methodologies?

When talking about different teaching methodologies, please keep in mind: No single method can guarantee successful language acquisition.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Council of Europe has been promoting pluriculturalism and plurilingualism focusing on language learning as a priority for Europe’s competitiveness. Open borders mean migration, cross-border communication, education and work opportunities in multiple languages. The aim of the Common European Framework of Languages (CERF) is to promote methodological innovations and new approaches to teaching languages through a communicative language teaching approach for a plurilingual and pluricultural society. However, despite their efforts, language teaching in many countries/parts of the world is still focusing on grammatical competence over the communicative fluency.

The purpose of this chapter is to overview the old and the new methods of teaching to enrich the teaching repertoire.

Read more

  • Provide a comprehensive view of conventional and contemporary language teaching methodologies.
  • Understand the effectiveness of the different methods in advancing plurilingualism and pluriculturalism
  • Equip language instructors with the understanding and resources to aid language acquisition for professionals in various settings. 
  • Raise awareness of teaching techniques and their use in the classroom.
  • Enable you to choose the teaching method that fits best to your needs and purposes.

Now that you have an understanding of the history of language teaching methodologies, it is important to note that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are many ways in which the principles of the methods can support us in teaching language in cross-border communication.

Let’s have a look at the Grammar approach today

The Grammar approach is old-fashioned and only some elements of its methodologies should be applied in the classrooms today. However, those portions may be very effective in teaching, especially, in plurilingual education.

Even though these teaching methodologies have little theoretical grounding, they are very popular in the classrooms around the world. According to Echevarria (2010) they even dominate the business of language instruction. 

Comparative analysis of the methods used for students studying languages within the same time framework and learning motivation revealed the following advantages and disadvantages of each methodology:

Compared with the Direct- and the Audio-Lingual-Approaches, the Grammar Approach was scored accordingly from 1 (very bad) to 10 (very good):

Source: https://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/what-is-the-best-language-teaching-method/

2. What can we learn from communicative approaches?

The Communicative approach is based on the idea that the most important goal is to communicate a message. If the person is understood, the communication is successful. Also in language learning settings, the language ought to be used in the most authentic context; therefore, drawing attention to the situation, register, speaker's role, and setting. The essence of this approach is to motivate students by selecting age and interest appropriate problem-solving tasks, games, role-plays that could develop communicative competences in all four areas – speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Looking at the basic considerations of this approach, a great potential opens up in cross-border (vocational) language learning contexts, where authentic communication situations can easily be created and sought for real.

For more information: https://ontesol.com/communicative-approach/

3. What can we learn from bilingual and plurilingual methodologies? From bilingual to plurilingual education

Let’s start with bilingual education

The term bilingual education has many definitions and understandings. Generally, it refers to full acquisition of two languages both of them having the same value and status. Typically, it includes teaching of academic content in two languages. However, to what extent, how, or why languages are used may vary significantly around the world. Here are the most common models: 

  • Transitional bilingual education helps students with a heritage language to transition into the school language as fast as possible. The preservation of the heritage language may not be of interest. 
  • Maintenance bilingual education helps students to transition more easily into a new school language. The use of the heritage language is gradually replaced by school language. Heritage languages may remain to be taught to some extent. 
  • Additive bilingual education helps preserve both languages. Both languages are given the same value and are systematically taught at school. The goal is full bilingualism. 

For more information: 

Let’s discover Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) for cross-border vocational language education

CLIL is a method based on the principle that two languages are used simultaneously not only to communicate, but to learn subject matter at the same time. It is based on the idea that 'all teachers are teachers of language' (The Bullock Report - A Language for Life, 1975). Besides the language competence needed for work or study, the method focuses on cultural awareness, internationalization, and increased motivation.

The typical lesson consists of four elements:

(Building knowledge, skills and understanding in subject matter) 
Speaking, reading, writing, listening
Grammar + Vocabulary 
(Developing thinking skills in subject matter and understanding language)
(Understanding alternative perspectives, deepen awareness)

If you are interested in planning a CLIL-lesson, this sample lesson plan may help you.

For more information:

CLIL method: 

CLIL in vocational settings: 

Content-Based Instruction (CBI)

CBI is also known as language across curriculum or immersion instruction. It is built on the premise that it is detrimental to postpone content learning until the learner knows another language well enough. The method focuses on prioritizing content over language by scaffolding complex authentic material and immersing students in practical tasks. 

The typical lesson contains three elements:

(3-4 authentic sources that deal with different aspects of the subject)
(Scaffolding techniques to help analyze, use, understand, present content)
(Students interest and motivation to learn is primary)

CBI can support students to be better prepared for multilingual communication situations. It is important that they are not frighten, but have learnt how to deal with linguistically and culturally complex communication. CBI helps to build up this competence. This is of special importance also in cross-border workings contexts, where communication in different (working) languages is daily business!

For more information:

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) 

The SIOP-Model was designed to close the academic achievement gap in the US-American school system. The primary goal is to enable people of all backgrounds to understand linguistic and learning needs of bilingual students for successful academic achievement. The model focuses on how to make academic content more accessible by drawing specific attention to key language features, effective learning strategies, multiple intelligence, differentiated instruction, and culture. The model is based on eight interrelated components:

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) Model (Source

An important focus of plurilingual approaches and methods for language learning is teaching and training learning strategies and methods for the optimized processing of linguistic information (see Let's talk about your language teaching). One of the main aims is to promote autonomous and self-directed learning, so that each learner can deal with the learning materials in the best possible and most profitable way. Based on the individual learning level and prior knowledge, each learner can further develop personal resources. This takes into account the initial conditions assumed in the SIOP model with heterogeneous learning groups and different language competencies. Plurilingual approaches (such as intercomprehension) are also particularly well suited for training and promoting reading skills. In the SIOP model, this is considered a useful introduction to language learning. In this respect, a combination of plurilingual approaches and methods with considerations from the SIOP model seems obvious and productive. 

If you are interested in planning a SIOP-lesson, this sample lesson plan may help you.

For more information: 

Cognitive Academic Language Learning (CALLA)

CALLA is an instructional model designed to increase academic language learning. It is based on three main categories of learning strategies: metacognitive, cognitive, and social /affective. The model is based on four foundational beliefs: 

  • Active learners are better learners (better comprehension & recall).
  • Strategies can be learned (but must be taught explicitly).
  • Academic language learning is more effective with learning strategies.
  • Learning strategies transfer to new tasks.

The CALLA model may be represented by highlighting three elements:

(Resourcing, grouping, note-taking, elaborating, summarizing, inferencing, thinking inductively/deductively, utilizing auditory and visual cues)
Thinking about thinking

(Planning, monitoring, evaluating)
(assisting in learning, cooperation, use of affective control, cross linguistic strategies (code-switching, cognate use, translating, reflexification)

Plurilingual approaches and methods fit well into the considerations of the CALLA-model. In this sense, plurilingual approaches often presuppose an active learner role and demand active and self-directed engagement with the linguistic source material on the part of the learners. To this end, the teaching and acquisition of cognitive learning strategies is at the center of didactic considerations. At the same time, metacognitive reflection processes are given space in order to promote e.g. language awareness. Further, it fosters learner autonomy. The importance of affective attitudes and mindsets towards language learning is also taken into account and explicitly addressed. The development of these competencies is particularly valuable in cross-border contexts to enable learners to act in the best possible way in multilingual situations despite certain linguistic and cultural challenges and to be able to deal with the challenges in a goal-oriented manner.

For further information:

Last, but not least!

Today, there is a shift from bilingual to plurilingual teaching and learning methodologies and the whole linguistic and cultural repertoire of learners is ideally included in language education (insert link to Moodle section 2). This is of special importance in cross-border working and learning environments as companies are increasingly multilingual. The more language one understands, the more possibilities exist on the labour market.

4. What if we need non-academic language learning approaches?

What if we need non-academic language learning approaches?

The previous sections focused on language teaching methodologies that have been designed with academic goals in mind. However, academic goals in vocational training are not always desired. This chapter aims at overviewing language teaching approaches used for non-academic language needs. Several terms are used when talking about specialized languages. Let’s discover some concepts.

Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Project-Based learning engages students to learn collaboratively by engaging in real -world tasks. Through authentic projects, learners need to use the knowledge and skills in their foreign languages, learners practice all four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), collaborate and construct knowledge, which promotes autonomy, socialization, cognitive development, and competence. Various PBL project models have been suggested. 

For example Brown (1995) details six core steps in curriculum development:

1.   needs analysis

2.   goals and objectives

3.   assessment

4.   materials selection and development

5.   teaching

6.   program evaluation.

Sheppard and Stoller (1995), Stoller (1997, 2006) and McDowel (2023) developed further models. The latter model is an inquiry based approach that includes three levels of learning:

1.   surface (I have skills)

2.   highlight the need to know and set outcomes, deep (I can relate skills)

3.   build/share existing and new linguistic and content knowledge, transfer (I can apply skills in multiple contexts)

Scenario-based learning

The scenario based teaching/learning has been implemented successfully with plurilingual professionals. The strategy is based on the concept of task-based language learning. In this model, students work with different communicative constellations, and scenarios can be created with regard to students’ interests in terms of content and communicative tasks. The following elements are essential in scenario-based learning:

  • clear and systematic progression of tasks in the subject curriculum
  • incorporation of real content and tasks from daily life of students
  • authentic and appealing learning aids (including visuals) for independent study and research
  • multimediality to address all abilities

In task-based learning, observing the full-task-cycle principles helps implementation. This principle can be applied to curriculum or lesson planning.

For more information:

Chapter 8. Taken from: Roche J. and Suñer F. (eds) (2023), Cognitive Linguistics for Language Instructors, pp. 310-345, Lit, Münster.

Theatrical language learning

Theatrical language teaching has roots in a number of different approaches to language teaching and learning. However, the use of drama and theatre techniques in language teaching can be traced back to the 1960s. One of the key figures in the development of theatrical language teaching was Viola Spolin, an American theatre practitioner who developed a number of improvisation techniques. Some of Spolin's techniques, such as the "Yes, and..." rule and the "What Happens Next?" game, have been adapted for use in language learning and are now widely used in theatrical language teaching. Theatrical language teaching has been adapted to professional contexts where students have to play pretend scenes from very real vocational contexts. 

Key benefits of theatrical learning:

Increased motivation and engagement

Improved communication skills

Improved pronunciation

Enhanced cultural awareness

Positive impact on language anxiety

In this section, you have discovered different approaches; you may also have detected similarities. It’s up to you now to find the method that suits best to your needs and purposes.

References in English

Brown J. D. (1995), The Elements of Language Curriculum: A Systematic Approach to Program Development, Heinle & Heinle, Boston, MA.

McDowel M. (2023), “4 Strategies for Building Content Knowledge”, Edutopia, available online:  https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-strategies-building-content-knowledge-elementary [accessed 12 October 2023]

Sheppard K. and Stoller F. (1995), “Guidelines for the integration of student projects into ESP classrooms”, English Teaching Forum No. 33(2), pp. 10-15.

Stoller F. (1997), “Project Work: A means to promote language content”, English Teaching Forum No. 35(4), pp. 2-19.

Stoller F. (2006), “Establishing a Theoretical Foundation for Project-Based Learning in Second and Foreign Language Contexts”, in Beckett G. H. and Miller P. C (eds), Project-Based Second and Foreign Language Education: Past, Present, and Future, pp. 19-40, Information Age, Greenwich, CT.

Language for Specific Purposes (LSP)

LSP is a widely used approach to teach learners with very specific linguistic needs for a job or training. Language is used beyond the usual academic constraints. Typically, the programs go through needs analysis to understand the specific needs of the learners, and then craft the syllabus together with the learners to assure that the learning is the most effective and useful. LSP courses were often viewed as programmes that focus merely on specific linguistic needs, but globalization demands that learners are not only proficient linguistically in their field, but simultaneously develop critical thinking skills and cultural knowledge which are the core values of traditional humanities education. Therefore, today LSP is based on three core principles: language, culture, professional participation in global market. 

Receptive plurilingualism in the neighbouring language

This approach to teaching is based on receptive plurilingualism (Intercomprehension). Several research studies have been performed to discover that teaching plurilingual decoding skills improves metalinguistic awareness and, thus, plurilingual cultural competence (Let’s talk about language(s) and Understanding languages through other languages).

Let’s learn more about it with a practical example:

Students from two very similar neighbouring languages (for example, Lithuanian-Latvian) work together. They should be given a task and texts to read in two different languages. Decoding typically may begin on the lexical level where students search for lexical cognates or internationalizations. As students proceed, they are expected to make cross-linguistic similarities of grammatical structures and functional expressions. The EU has a number of documents in multiple languages which can be a wonderful source for any professional training need. Students are finally asked to write down what strategies they used to decode lexical and grammatical structures.

For example, taxation customs manual taken from: 

The project sample shows students making note of synonymous words that are used to translate a similar word; false cognates, letter markings for long and short [i] sound, word combinations that exist in one yet not another language, differences in connecting words, etc.

For more information



Gamification is an approach to language teaching that involves incorporating game elements and mechanics into language learning activities to make them more engaging and motivating for learners. This approach is based on the idea that games can provide a fun and interactive way for learners to practice language skills and receive immediate feedback on their progress. Gamers of language are given a clear goal or objective to work towards, some of which could be vocabulary acquisition, grammar practice, or conversation skills, and they receive rewards or points for achieving that goal. 

For example, a language teacher might design a vocabulary game where learners earn points for correctly identifying words and phrases, or a conversation game where learners practice using the language in a realistic context. 

  • Vocabulary: Duolingo and Babbel are good examples of plurilingual vocabulary building apps. Furthermore, there are many flashcard-based matching games, word puzzles, and vocabulary quizzes. 
  • Conversation simulations: The Sims or Second Life are good examples. In these activities, learners take on different roles and engage in simulated conversations, using the language they are learning in a realistic context.
  • Role-playing games: In these games, learners take on different characters and engage in simulated scenarios, using the language they are learning to solve problems and complete tasks. a good website for role playing games: https://randomskill.games/a-compilation-of-free-tabletop-role-playing-games-rpg/
  • Escape rooms: Learners must solve language-related puzzles and clues in order to escape the room. Escape the language lab, escape the airport, museum, hotel, city are a few popular games.
  • Story-based games: In these games, learners engage with a story and make choices that impact the outcome, using the language they are learning to navigate the narrative. Some popular games are: Choose Your Own Adventure, Interactive Fiction, Visual Novels.

Major benefits of gamification in language teaching: 

  • Increased motivation and engagement
  • Improved retention and recall
  • Immediate feedback
  • Personalized learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Reduced anxiety

5. An exemplary insight in projects on raising awareness for the neighbouring languages

Kiemų festivalis-Courtyard festival

In May/June, the Courtyard Festival in Kaunas brings neighborhoods and people of all cultures and professions together to share their passions and joys. Making friends with people who grew up in different cultures and live next door is an evaluable asset to increasing multiculturalism. In turn, the Institute of Foreign Languages of Kaunas University has taken part in the festival in the last years to build awareness to the importance of plurilingual repertoire. Given that many Lithuanians have daily exchanges with Ukrainian neighbours or acquaintances, the teachers took the opportunity to explore the similarities between Lithuanian and Ukrainian languages. Lithuanians learned Ukrainian words and phrases, and foreign visitors learned Lithuanian as well! The festival was not only about indulging in treats, but also about exchanging smiles and warm moments, creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere!

Please keep in mind: Local job fairs and other local events that raise awareness to languages can be used in the context of vocational training education institutions. Vocabulary games, cognates in languages, culturally shared traditions or festivals as well as linguistic and cultural concepts of professional context could be shared.

Kalbų degustacijos - Language tasters

A language taster is a short introductory lesson that enables learners to gain a preliminary understanding of a new language. This type of lesson typically covers basic language features such as sounds, grammar, and vocabulary, and is designed to pique learners’ interest in the language and assist them in deciding whether or not to pursue further study. In recent years, the Institute of Foreign Languages at Vytautas Magnus University has organized several language taster sessions, offering students at the university the opportunity to explore new languages such as Portuguese, Estonian, Farsi, and others. These sessions were conducted by either Institute lecturers or international students who were studying at the university. By providing language taster sessions in a range of languages, VMU aims to expose students to different cultures and encourage language learning, while also creating opportunities for international students to share their linguistic and cultural backgrounds with others.

For some examplary invitations get inspired at: 



Please remember: Language tasters are an easy awareness raising project that allows learners to build their linguistic repertoire. This can be done at the level of any school who has teachers speaking other languages. While Foreign Language Institute offers language tasters in general context, it is easy to create lessons in professional context. A school should take advantages of the local resources – teachers who work/teach/cross borders could feature translanguaging, intercomprehension, mediation strategies in professional context.

Have you already taken part in such an activity? What experience have you made? 

Can you imagine to organize such an activity or even a little festival? Talk with your colleagues or let your students be the organizers. 

Tandeminis mokymas - Tandem learning

During the autumn semester of 2022, students had the opportunity to participate in a Tandem Spanish-English language learning programme. 

Students from Vytautas Magnus University studying Spanish and students from Don Bosco University of El Salvador were among those who attended the programme. Tandem learning is a language learning approach where two individuals with different native languages are paired up to learn from each other. This method involves equal language exchange, where half of the time is dedicated to practicing one language and the other half to practicing the other language.

The language learning material used in tandem learning at Vytautas Magnus University is sourced from the Seagull project (https://www.seagull-tandem.eu/). Apart from language learning, tandem learning also encourages cultural exchanges and fosters friendships between students. Students get the opportunity to learn about different cultures and lifestyles, interact with each other, and form meaningful connections that can last beyond the learning period.

Feedback on tandem learning has been collected on Padlet: https://padlet.com/tringailiene/feedback-on-tandem-r99nhemxfz2pvvfc

For more information: 

Please note: Language learning opportunities in the cross border vocational context are superb when two vocational schools in neighboring areas are keeping close contacts. Teacher involvement is necessary, but fairly minimal as the students independently connect and share their languages and cultures in a professional context.

Vėlyvieji pusryčiai su kalba - Brunch with languages

 VMU hosted a unique event called ‘Languages for Brunch.’ Participants were invited to create their own language bouquet by learning some phrases in various languages (namely, Bulgarian, Estonian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, German, and Ukrainian). This event not only allowed participants to learn and experience new languages but also provided an opportunity for guests to come together and enjoy a brunch while sharing their experiences. By combining language learning with social activities, ‘Languages for Brunch’ offered a fun and engaging way for people to connect and broaden their horizons.

Please note: Brunch with languages is another type of a language awareness opportunity that allows people to talk in a non-formal environment. Socializing and food always breaks walls and stereotypes. While may be costly, it could easily be integrated with conferences or seminars where the lunch is served anyway. Special rooms that build on languages can be organized using resources at work or exchanging with Erasmus+ partners.

6. Using the project-based approach in cross-border vocational (language) education

The project-based approach and it's potentials in language learning

Let’s have a closer look at the project-based approach and at what it can specifically bring to language learning in cross-border vocational settings. In vocational training, students of different (future) professional backgrounds come together and should be trained according to the needs of their future fields of works. In groups of students with different professional backgrounds, it is thus important to adjust the learning to the individual needs of groups of students and to make it more flexible, choosing e.g. different topics aiming at representing future situations. Working with the project-based approach allows to make students work in groups on different topics, thus allowing each group to focus on aspects that are important and specific to their future field of work.

In which fields of language teaching and learning is it particularly important to take in mind the different needs of the students corresponding to their fields of formation? How can the project-based approach help to improve the specific linguistic skills of different students?

Do you think that the project-based approach improves the learner’s motivation to learn the language? Why (not)?

On which topic could you work (according to your field of formation), if you followed the project-based approach in a language learning class in your school? Find three different topics, which are relevant for your future work. Describe in which way you could work on one of them following the project-based approach!

For additional input, get inspired by our sample lesson plan.

Take away

Knowledge of different language teaching methodologies can help making choices that enhance language learning in a specific context.

Using the practical examples provided may help you to find ways how to raise (language) awareness and how to build plurilingual repertoire of your learners in cross-border vocational (language) education.