Written by: Nedezhda Doichinova, BETA member

On December 10-11, 2009 I attended a Workshop in Graz, Austria, organized by the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) within the activities of a four-year Project called “Language Associations and Collaborative Support”.
The ECML was established in 1993 by the Council of Europe and currently runs a four-year programme under the motto “Empowering Language Professionals” including four thematic strands:
A: Linguistic and Social Diversity;
B: Multicultural Society and Intercultural Competence;
C: Professional Development for Language Educators;
D: Innovations and New Technologies.
4500 participants, 22 projects, 190 events – these figures illustrate to some extent the scope of work carried out by the ECML so far. In brief, the ECML programme objectives (2008-2011) focus on:

  • promoting professional competence;
  • professional networking;
  • impact on reform processes;
  • improving the quality of language education in Europe.

These highly ambitious goals are to be achieved through Projects developed in the following thematic areas:

“Language Associations and Collaborative Support” (LACS) is a Project belonging to the fourth thematic area: “Plurilingual Education” and its aims are to add value to the work of the ECML and of the individual language teacher associations through disseminating ECML Projects and publications as well as collaboratively exploring effective dissemination practices.
The purpose is not only to support language professionals across Europe through more effective dissemination of new language pedagogies, but also to influence language policies and curricular models appropriate to 21st century.
In order to do so the Project maps the way in which a wide variety of language associations are organized (nationally, regionally and locally) and how they support their own networks of members.
The Workshop held on December 10-11, 2009 explored all these issues in a practical way by grouping the participants first on geographical, then on language, and lastly on “I haven’t met you yet” basis. After that each group had to do different activities according to the Workshop Programme. Finally we all gathered together in the plenary room and presented the result of our work to all the 30 participants from 28 countries.
It is worth mentioning that it was the first ECML event carried out in three different languages: English, German and French, simultaneous translation provided for the joint activities.
A Bulgarian voice was heard at the event as well as that of BETA – I asked for and was given the chance to present BETA – an additional slot was found for that within the Workshop Programme thanks to Mr Terry Lamb, the Project Coordinator. The BETA Power-Point-based presentation is to be uploaded on the Project’s site and the participants were asked to send similar ones for their associations to the LACS management team for further dissemination. So, on BETA’s behalf I think I can claim we set a good example.
Many were the benefits, both on ECML and personal levels that I can share with you. I hope your professional interest has been aroused so you are welcome to the next BETA annual conference where you can learn much more about the ECML and the LACS Project, and can read hard copy materials brought from the ECML Resource Center in Graz.