Enhancing Language Education: A Conference on Language

I had the great honour and pleasure to represent TESOL and speak at the “International Conference on Language – Enhancing Language Ability and Education for the 21st Century”* held on 5–6 June 2014 in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China. The Government of China invited 400 government officials, policy-makers, researchers, educators and development partners, and UN agencies from China and around the world to discuss and reflect on challenges and new approaches for effective language education and planning.

The conference focused on the enhancement of language ability and language education for human civilization and social progress. Three themes were addressed:

  1. language ability and sustainable social development,
  2. innovation in language education, and
  3. international exchange and cooperation.

Conference Overview

Lillian WongThe conference was opened by welcome remarks from government leaders of China and UNESCO leaders, and with keynote addresses from national and international experts such as the Director-General of UNESCO, the Vice Premier of the Chinese Government, the Vice Minister of Ministry of Education, and the Director of the State Language Committee of China.

Eleven panels discussed language education issues within the three themes during the 2-day conference.  Topics included multilingualism, multilingual education, learners with diverse language backgrounds, Lingua Franca and other languages, language education and educational objectives, improving teacher performance, and so on.  The panels presented research, case studies, approaches, and practices, which were followed by discussions with the audience sharing views and experiences on the topics.

My Presentation: “Successful L-2 Learning: What We Know”

Lillian Wong presenting_SuzhouI was on the panel presenting and discussing issues on the topic “Successful L-2 Learning: What We Know” with five other panelists from China, Cambodia, Nigeria, UK and Australia.  My presentation on innovation in English language education, discussing the integration of experiential learning and e-portfolios into a collaborative professional English curriculum, was well received, and our panel aroused a number of discussion questions from the audience.  For details, all the topics and panels can be viewed here.

A Successful Conference

This important government-hosted international event with UNESCO was a big success.  It was a very well organized and interactive conference that I had the privilege to participate in.  I was impressed with the in-depth and global discussions at the panel sessions and rich conversations throughout the conference as well as the professionalism of the organizers and the enthusiastic support of the student volunteers.  The simultaneous interpretations in four languages—English, French, Spanish and Mandarin—for all the presentations were excellent.

A drafting group composed of rapporteurs from all the presentation panels prepared an outcome statement that summarizes the main discussions of the event.

Key Discussion Questions for Exploration

These key discussion questions from the conference might be of interest for explorations:

1)  Language ability and sustainable social development

  • What are the current understandings of the complexity of language ability?
  • What are critical and analytical perspectives affecting language-in-education policies?
  • What are the new technologies that best foster enhanced and multiple language abilities?
  • What are the thresholds of mother tongue language that foster improved second and third language learning?
  • What is the current state of the art regarding language acquisition in relation to cognitive, mental, and also sociocultural dimensions?

2)  Innovation in language education

  • How can the latest innovations in language education be connected efficiently to curriculum planners, text book writers, and teachers?
  • What are key directions in research on language innovation?
  • What can individual schools and teachers gain from the innovation literature and experience?
  • What are the implications for the future role of teachers as managers of the learning experiences of students?
  • How can national governments and other systems of education foster large scale adoption of promising innovations in language education?
  • What are the most effective means for producing greater rates of success in language learning? What are the implications for teacher education, in-service and preservice, of the technological and other changes that are transforming the communication experiences of young people today?

3)  International exchange and cooperation

  • How can long-term collaborations be best fostered in school and postschool international exchange?
  • What are the best-practice models of language learning that encourage productive international collaboration?
  • Is there a case for a universal language body to foster and guard the languages of the world, and to encourage language study, such as a Global Language Council?
  • Could such a body document global language resources and encourage collective action to preserve the rich variety of the intangible heritage of humanity?
  • What can individual schools and teachers contribute to wider national schemes of exchange and collaboration?
*This important event was organized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) of the People’s Republic of China, the State Language Committee of the People’s Republic of China, the National Commission of the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO and People’s Government of Jiangsu Province in partnership with UNESCO.  The Conference was hosted by the Language Commission of Jiangsu Province, the Jiangsu Provincial Education, the Department Suzhou Municipal Government and China Central Television (CCTV).  

About Lillian L. C. Wong

Lillian L. C. Wong
Lillian L. C. Wong has a doctorate in applied linguistics. She teaches English for academic and specific purposes and information technology in language teaching and research in the Centre for Applied English Studies at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include teacher professional development, e-portfolios for language learning, innovation and change in language education, sociolinguistics, language education planning and policy, autonomous learning, learning motivation, learner differences, and learning styles and strategies. She has served as chair of the Professional Development Committee for TESOL International Association, and she currently serves on the TESOL Board of Directors.
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