Foreign Language Teaching in the 21st Century -
Learners 2.0 - Methods 3.0 - Challenges 4.0
About the Conference Theme
In the early 21st century, foreign language teaching is exposed to noticeable discrepancies. On the one hand, it is expected to be holistic and immensely efficient; on the other hand, the language teaching methods developed up to the present day are constantly challenged by ever-growing expectations from various sides. Learners, in turn, are not always able to meet the varied expectations concerning their learning behaviour as well as the concrete progress they are to achieve. That is, both learners and methods are facing multifarious challenges. The Fourth Saarbrücken Conference on Foreign Language Teaching devotes itself to the description and analysis of this situation as well as to possible solutions.
As is suggested by the subtitle of the conference, the development of the new media in the past few decades has been so rapid that - from an evolutionary point of view - language learners, as well as human beings in general, have not yet been able to cope with the new situation and all the intellectual and methodological chances it entails. It is true that learners have already undergone some minor evolution – i.e, progressing from Learners 1.0 to Learners 2.0 in a metaphorical sense. They have, for example, made progress by frequently referring to online software or even mobile applications for their diverse language learning activities. Yet, they have not taken the next evolutionary step which would permit them to instantly integrate new language items into their mental lexicons. It can thus be stated that typical learners are lagging behind the developments of the "modern" world around them.
The methods nowadays developed by foreign language methodology and action research are rather advanced as compared to those established and practised in the middle (Methods 1.0) or at the end (Methods 2.0) of the 20th century. It may, however, be admitted that in many cases, these methods do not reflect a standard that would represent an enrichment to today's learning environments. This implies that new methodological impulses that would get us closer to a desirable learning and teaching environment represent a pressing necessity.
The impulses required in this context can be labelled Challenges 4.0. These challenges concern all the parties involved in foreign language teaching, i.e.:
● learners, who represent the target group that is meant to benefit from all the efforts mentioned above and that is confronted with all kinds of teaching methods ranging from traditional ones up to highly modern methods, inclusive of those that will be developed in the (near) future;
● teachers, who were trained in Methods 1.0 and - possibly - in Methods 2.0, but are expected to apply Methods 3.0 to their present teaching;
● language methodology, whose research is to cover all possible learning environments, ranging from face-to-face learning via blended learning up to autonomous learning that is expected to be independent from space and time;
● the educational institutions involved, i.e. schools and universities, ministries of education, and various institutions of adult and in-service education,
● publishing houses that need to defend their position in a market under constant digitalisation and that may, before long, be confronted with the indubitable decline of importance of textbooks published in paper form;
● any institution and research field that may come into existence in the not-too-distant future.
All the aforementioned groups of people and institutions are involved in the scenario described above.
Set on this background and addressing all areas of language teaching, the Fourth Saarbrücken Conference will deal with the outlook of foreign language teaching and acquisition as can be presently imagined and even predicted on the basis of the different indicators perceptible in the relevant fields concerned.
Just as its predecessors in 2011, 2013, and 2015, the Fourth Saarbrücken Conference on Foreign Language Teaching will be closely documented on the Internet.
It was our great delight to announce that all the conference participants were cordially invited to the State Chancellery of Saarland, the office of the prime minister, on 2 November 2017.