Lithuanian Association of Language Teachers (LALT)


On the 4-5th June 2012, the 6th International Conference of the Lithuanian Association of Language Teachers (LALT), Member of the IATEFL, took place in Vilnius, Lithuania, jointly in the Halls of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) and in the Mykolas Römeris University. The theme of the Conference: Languages, Culture, Globalisation.

The goal of the 6th Conference of the LALT was to review results of the European project, Language Rich Europe. This project was not summed up in dry statistics. Its ideas were vividly presented by several speakers.

It was a great pleasure to hear, in the Opening speeches and throughout the Conference, a call for quality in language teaching and in its use.

Dr Giedrius Viliūnas, ProRector of the Mykolas Römeris University encouraged the learning of languages and cultures but warned that care should be taken so that “lingua franca did not turn into lingua vulgaris”.

Mrs Anna Holmén, representative of the Translation Directorate, the European Commission, emphasized the role of translation in the European Union (EU) which is “united in diversity”. She stated plainly that “languages mean jobs in the EU” and that people who can use competently several languages add a measurement of quality to their mobility.

Ms Anetta Quraishy, Senior project manager in the project, Language Rich Europe, the British Council, reminded of the initiative of the British Council in launching the project and in its contribution to informing the teachers’ community and to improving foreign language teaching.

M. Luc Aubry, Cultural Attaché, the French Embassy, Valentinas Stundys, Chairman of the Lithuanian Parliamentary Committee of Education, Science and Culture, and Vaidas Bocys, Vice Minister of the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science, wished the participants of the Conference success while sharing their discoveries and experience and moving forward in the much required sphere of language teaching.

On the first day of the Conference, several speakers focused on the Lithuanian situation in cultural exchange, in language policy matters and in language teaching. Dr Irena Smetonienė (“The Teaching of Languages in the System of Education”) spoke of the importance of the integrity of language teaching throughout the educational system. Dr Julija Moskvina (“The Use of Languages: the Media, Public Sphere and Business”) reviewed the use of languages in the media, public service and in business in Lithuania, within the project, Language Rich Europe. She noted a limited spread of printed publications, which depends on the economic conditions in the country and, in its turn, influences the currency of publications in minority languages. The use of minority languages depends on the national structure of the society. She found a clearer and a more definite picture in the use of languages in business, where English plays a major role, along with Lithuanian, Russian and German.

A few speakers focused on the awareness of Lithuanians of their cultural and linguistic identity. Dr Ina Dagytė (“The Communicative Perspective in the Use of Languages and Lithuanian Identity in SSGG Analysis…”) reviewed the popularised identity stereotypes in the Republic and criticised them. She found the public search for identity inadequate and the expenses gross, while noting the difference between the actual identity and its show, as well as discrepancies in the concept of identity viewed as content and its communication. Vida Čepulkauskienė („Alterations in National Values in Conditions of Globalisation“) focused on the concept of citizen among contemporary Lithuanians, while reviewing the equivalent concepts given by Lithuanian philosophers and those cherished in the interwar years. She noted that national values have become diluted in conditions of globalisation, although the young (the surveyed students of the Kaunas College) were aware of the significance of national and civic values, customs and traditions. They appeared to be sensitive to the culture in the use of the national language, and to the history and culture of the native country.

Most of the presentations on the second day of the Conference were given over to issues of globalisation in the teaching and learning of foreign languages. Mrs Eglė Šleinotienė, President of LALT, (“In-service Training, Projects and Innovations as Challenges to Teachers in Conditions of Globalisation”) looked into the process of globalization and outlined its focus on market and business, which are not the most prominent aspects of culture. Nevertheless, she found globalization influencing culture through the necessary linguistic resources when the teaching of native and foreign languages acquires a primary importance. In the circumstances, the qualification of language teachers is key, and Lithuania can boast of a decentralized system of the training and continuous education of language teachers. The President of LALT also reviewed two most interesting and productive projects (REAL and ELTACS) in which LALT is engaged. The call for quality in teacher education was also voiced by Danute Rasimavičienė (“Languages in Higher Business Schools: the experience of a European Association”), who found teachers lacking in the knowledge of contemporary English and the respective support, and by Marija Liudvika Drazdauskienė (“The Culture which Could Elevate Foreign Language Learning”), who emphasized, within contemporary concepts of culture, the necessity of education of exceptional quality in the programmes of languages and literatures and education, as graduates from these programmes become teachers who, in their turn, contribute to the knowledge of the new generations of teachers and to education in general.

Many speakers at the Conference discussed their pedagogical experience while working in different projects, applying concrete methods or surveying results of their teaching. Olga Medvedeva (“NELLIP: The Network of the European Language Label Initiatives and Projects”) familiarized the audience with the promotion of “quality in language learning through the application of the European Language Label (ELL) quality criteria and of national priorities” envisaged in the NELLIP. This project further promotes “a joint methodology that allows an effective planning and implementation of high quality learning initiatives”. The research aspect in the NELLIP project “includes identifying and analyzing the best language learning initiatives through the ELL database”. Consequently, national agencies, schools and individual teachers can share research results and apply them in “defining national language policies and in improving language learning in all sectors of education”.

Several other speakers focused on project work and on their success in Lithuania. Jūratė Patackaite and Laima Paraukienė („ELTACS/EUROLTA and REAL projects in the LALT as a Challenge to Lithuanian Academics“). The first Project, which is a part in a Lifelong Learning Programme, analyses and surveys current language teacher training and initiates „an innovative teacher training scheme which complements the existing training model as EUROLTA certification for teacher trainers“. REAL Project aims to create an umbrella organisation for European language teacher associations with the idea to provide useful and up-to-date information in the field, to brief on EU policy matters and to connect professionals engaged in language teaching. Professional relations and communication have for years been a major goal in education in the EU. Nemira Mačianskienė („HUMART: Identification of Generic and Subject Specific Competencies in Linguistics“) informed of qualifications and criteria in four subject areas (Theology, Linguistics, History of Art and Linguistics) within the European Qualifications Framework, which had not yet had designed descriptors and reference points. She also briefed of typical degrees offered in linguistics in different higher schools in the EU and of specific and generic competences gained by graduates in linguistics programmes. The presentation by Jūratė Z. Merkienė and Margarita Misiūnaitė („SPACE Diploma Opens Doors to Future career and Future Successful Language Learning“) may be treated as a certification project in the EU. The aim of this Project is “to encourage greater motivationa nd independence in langauge learning and to provide support for independent language learners“. The speakers‘ aim was to encourage students „to take Space European Examinations and get an international diploma“. Founded in Lille, France, in 1989, this Project involved students in a reappreciation of their knwoledge of their native languages and in their search of quality education in learning foereign languages.

It is impossible to review comprehensively all the presentations dedicated to foreign langauge teaching and learning. Their focus divided between two major topics – culture as an aspect or skill in foreign language learning and in communication, and results and issues of the application of different methods in foreign language teaching.

This Conference was a major event in the Lithuanian Republic as it renewed contacts and relations among the academics actively involved in the teaching of languages while spreading the new information, research results and individual experience. The social aspect of the Conference was very special and enjoyable. The venues of the Conference ennobled the speakers and the audience, while the British Council‘s reception in the National Gallery of Art on the 4th of June was an opportunity for personal and informal talks and a chance to view the current exhibitions in the Gallery. The 6th International Conference of the Lithuanian Association of Language Teachers was an acdemic, scholarly and social event which pleased the participants beyond all expectations.