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Language Centre of the University of Vienna

Author(s): Sonja Winklbauer
Institution/Organisation: Language Centre of the University of Vienna (AT)

1. DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS CASE

1.1 Scope of the initiative


The following case study showcases the Language Center of the University of Vienna (Sprachenzentrum der Universit?t Wien, www.sprachenzentrum.at), founded in 2001, the European Year of Languages. According to its foundation charter its has a dual mission: on the one hand, it aims to offer high-quality (continuing) education in languages to students, university staff and a general audience (currently 4500 participants a year), while on the other hand initiating and/or coordinating research projects in the fields of quality assurance and language teaching, thus developing into a research-oriented platform of the University of Vienna in the fields of language teaching and learning research.

Furthermore, national and international cooperation has been consistently promoted and encouraged. The Language Center is a member of the Austrian Association of University Language Centers and Institutions (VUS), of the Association of language centers, language teaching institutes and institutes of foreign languages (AKS) and of the European Confederation of Language Centers in Higher Education (CercleS).

In the general context of ever broader internationalization in the field of education and on the labor market, the Language Center significantly contributes through high quality teaching to the European language policy. By way of the Language Center, the University of Vienna consistently implements concrete programs and projects aimed at promoting multilingualism.



1.2 Range of languages learned


Currently, the Language Center of the University of Vienna is offering tuition in the following 25 languages: Albanian, Arabic, Austrian Sign Language, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovakian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.

Next to the languages taught in schools, much attention is given to promoting the languages of the neighboring countries and to languages rarely taught, respectively the languages of minorities, such as the Austrian Sign Language (ASL).

As the languages offered by the Language Center represent an additional offer and are not part of university curricula, students can have a free choice. Statistically, the most sought-after language is English, followed by French and Spanish, as well as Austrian Sign Language.


1.3 Learning outcomes


Practice-oriented language tuition in groups of up to 14 participants creates a learning environment that ensures persistent contact between the learners and the language and culture they are studying, which guarantees the subsequent usability of the skills gained. The focus lies on communication competence and intercultural awareness.

At the end of 39/40 tuition hours, learners undergo formal tests in which their writing, reading, speaking and listening skills are graded according to the CEFR. On the other hand, the specialized courses, though not rounded off by a formal test, enhance the participants' communication skills both in terms of employability and academic proficiency, which is best illustrated by courses like "English for Academic Purposes", or "Effective Presentations in English".

 
1.4 Practical realisation


The core strategy of the Language Center is implemented by means of the following activities and teaching programs:

  • general language courses during the semesters and during the university holidays;
  • specialized language courses, focusing on academic topics (e. g. English for academic purposes, academic writing, presentations in English), as well as intercultural and international topics (e. g. English for the European Union and international affairs, Le Fran?ais pour l?Union Europ?enne, Cultural Awareness), or job and curriculum oriented subjects (e. g. Medical English, Legal English, Human Rights and Social Sciences);
  • preparation courses for standard international language tests and certificates (IELTS; ILEC, DELF/DALF);
  • ERASMUS-Outgoing courses, which prepare students for the special challenges of studying and living abroad;
  • cooperation projects with cultural institutions (e. g. the Romanian Cultural Institute in connection with the EU-project ?Taste the Language?, www.tastethelanguage.net), respectively within the frame of teacher training programs and test preparation courses (British Council, Institut Fran?ais de Vienne)
  • networking on a national and international scale (VUS, AKS, CercleS);
  • promotion of autonomous learning by provision of a web-based language learning platform, where people of diverse linguistic backgrounds can engage in language exchange in an open, independent way; (http://www.univie.ac.at/sprachenzentrum/content/SprachenLernboerse/Pinnwand/index.html)
  • carrying out quality assurance projects (development of framework curricula, performance assessment and evaluation), research projects in relevant, specific fields (Austrian Sign Language in schools and research institutions) and motivational projects (e. g. the EU-project ?Taste the Language?, aimed at boosting interest in language learning by means of tasting sessions combined with language teaching).
  • participation in initiatives aiming to promote linguistic education from young ages (Children?s University)

 

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