THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
In 2003-2004, a major study of Nordic high school students' understanding of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish (INS) on behalf of the Nordic Culture Fund. The results were discouraging, the Nordic young people do not understand each other very well, and they understood less than young people in the 70s. In 2005 Lis Madsen made an investigation for the Nordic Culture Fund concerning teaching of Nordic languages and Nordic culture (how the Nordic policy documents at primary, secondary and teacher training meet with the Helsinki Agreement on education in Nordic languages and Nordic culture). Also this investigation had discouraging results. No country met with the Helsinki Agreement.
This is the background of the initiative, to start a project focusing on language comprehension. There was a consensus to reach a new group, namely internship tutors, who not only have contact with teacher and teacher students but who also themselves are teaching at schools. The Language Pilot project was created and it was and it still is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Nordic Culture Fund and The Nordic Pearls. I, Lis Madsen, was appointed project manager and developer.
The aim is to enhance the teaching of the Scandinavian languages in school, so that everybody living in the Nordic countries can continue to communicate in one common Nordic language; Danish, Norwegian or Swedish. The goal, in other words, is that children and young people can understand spoken and written Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.
During the first two years there was a group of experts who under my leadership as project manager, was responsible for developing the concept for the courses. The experts were teachers or teacher trainers and there was one person from each of the Nordic countries (except the Faroe Islands). The project was also followed closely by a reference group of representatives of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Nordic Culture Fund and Nordic Pearls). After the pilot phase (2007-2008) the project was managed only by myself. However the reference group continues as a sounding board, and they participate as moderators on the courses.
The project has had a website from the start. The website is edited today by The Danish Teachers Organization in close collaboration with me.
In the pilot phase, there was an external evaluator for the project. Today the results are evaluated by me as project manager. The results are published on the website.
The evaluation of the pilot phase showed that it was a highly successful project in the sense that the participants in the course improved their ability to learn and train the neighboring languages, and that after the course they established contacts between teachers across national borders, developed and tested various new ways to encourage neighboring language teaching, and the participants spread their knowledge to other teachers through training and peer guidance. We have not studied the effect on children and young people, as it would require more resources than there are in the project. But it would be desirable to do follow-up research in the project.
The results from the pilot phase made the Nordic Council of Ministers decided to continue to support the project. There is and has been great interest in the project. There have been several radio broadcasts in Denmark, Norway and Sweden on neighboring languages and the language pilots have also been interviewed in magazines and newspapers and there are various articles written about the project, for example in the Nordic Native Language Association Magazines and other Nordic magazines. There are now courses for Nordic teacher trainers on neighboring language teaching (November 2011), and a Nordic network, NIL, on neighboring language learning in teacher training has been created (with participating institutions from DK, N, S and FIN)
Until now 134 Nordic school teachers has been trained as Language Pilots. The teachers come from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Finland
As project manager I was encouraged by many different persons and institutions to apply for the ELL Award. Winning an award is a recognition of the innovative character of the project and it can also be regarded as a "seal of approval" for the initiative. The award was also used to investigate the Scandinavian emigration to the United States and the status of Scandinavian languages over there.
The project is, as I said, still running, and the ELL Award has created awareness and recognition. On many occasions it becomes highlighted that I have got an award for the project.
THE NELLIP NETWORK’S PERSPECTIVE
The Nordic Language Pilot project has been selected for its consistency with the European policies, specifically in the field of improving the teaching and learning of language. This project also emphases the European, or rather the Nordic, aspect establishing and reinforcing cross national contacts. It actively improves understanding between cultures and promotes the use of neighboring languages in cross border communication. The courses and initiatives serve as inspiration for many different neighboring language activities and methods.
In 2009 focus of the ELL Award in Denmark was on Early Language Learning and Transnational cooperation on language learning and this project is clearly in line with these policies in the field of transnational cooperation.
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