Loes Rutten’s proposal for Autumn Agora Kyïv “Breaking language barriers” is an educational topic that affects young people all over Europe. Language can be a rock barrier for communication and, therefore, for education as well.
Asked how she came up with the idea of “Breaking language barriers: Accessibility of youth opportunities starts with a common language” as a topic for EPM, she replied: “During my Erasmus in Bologna, I was startled by the low level of English of both fellow Erasmus students and many of the Italian students I met. I naively assumed that the level of English of young people in Europe is similar to the English of AEGEEans, but we must be aware that AEGEEans generally are already confident in English when they join AEGEE and they are not representative for the whole European youth. Some of the Italian students I spoke to, said they would like to go on Erasmus too, but their choice of universities was very limited because their level of English was not higher than B1. It made me realise that the difference in level of English among European youth leads to a division between mobile and immobile youth. As a member of ACT, I am well aware of the focus areas in our strategic plan, and I realised that a certain level of confidence in English is a prerequisite to profit from youth opportunities that already exist. As AEGEEans we try to prevent the emergence of a ‘lost generation’. I believe that as AEGEEans, it is our responsibility to include all young Europeans in the scope of our activities. ”
The young people from the AEGEE community all over Europe know English as a second language as they are always using it in writing reports for AEGEE Europe, reading the AEGEEan or mostly by participating to European events. Loes believes that we should all speak from our own experience about the times we encounter this language barrier and combine our knowledge in order to define the real problem: “AEGEEans can contribute by sharing their knowledge and opinions on didactics. In what way is English taught in different countries: is it interactive or passive, is it focussed on grammar, listening and/or communication? Which didactics do we believe to be the most successful? We can also discuss what initiatives we can think of to provide students with opportunities to practice English. Think of language tandems with Erasmus students, ‘language courses’ as international events, the more ideas the merrier! By combining our knowledge, we can create a clear picture of the average level of English of youth in different European countries, as well as an understanding of successful (and unsuccessful) didactics. We could share this information with shareholders (schools, universities) so that they know how to improve their English education. Moreover, we can improve the situation by starting a lobby to raise awareness for the need of a ‘European standard’ of English on a European scale, while coming up with activities through which members and outsiders can practice English on a local scale”
Loes was considering the possibility of initiating a lobby towards the European Union urging a ‘European standard’ for the level of English of students all over Europe, but, of course, this will depend on the reactions of the topic during the Agora. She will be quite busy in the future year as ACTie and maybe Network Commission, the latter depending on the election, and will not be able to assume the role of Content Manager, but she is quite confident that the matter will intrige people who will want to break the language barriers.
Written by Gabriela Cioata, AEGEE-Bucuresti