Country Report - Austria - EN

Adult foreign language learning in Austria
by Andrea Király


Adult foreign language learning is a recent trend in last few decades in Austria. Both the opening of the boarders within the European Union and Austria’s accession to the EU, which came bound with language-learning initiatives, have contributed to increased adult language learning. Migrants´ learning the national language make up the largest percent of participants of the courses. In 2008, there were 871,000 people in Austria without Austrian citizenship. In addition there are also migrant families, in which only the mother tongue is spoken, even if they possess Austrian citizenship. The acquisition of German is an important aspect of their integration, and is therefore supported by the government. The integration criteria include within the integration courses 375 hours of German language lessons. These consist of 75 hours of spelling and 300 hours of language classes. In addition to the institutional language teaching there are also private initiatives on the palette of language acquisition. Numerous private language schools, companies, adult educational institutes, for example Volkshochschule, which is an adult education institute supported by the city of Vienna and provides inexpensive courses   and other organizations provide language courses. Besides German and English, Italian and French are not only languages of beloved vacation destinations, but also the languages of the neighbouring countries, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak and Slovenian, are becoming more popular.


The diversity of methods for learning a foreign language is also accentuated in adult education.  In addition to language courses in the traditional sense, language-learning guidance also has placed a greater importance on workshops, tandem exchanges, application of language portfolios and self-learning centers.  The palette will be expanded through subject-specific language courses: language courses for special occupational groups (e.g. for nursing) or for occupational areas (economic/commercial English), language courses directly located at the workplace or in combination with job orientation.  The certification of language knowledge has less of a long tradition in Austria; language exams are seldom called upon as a criterion for the admission of further education or for occupational goals.  Language certifications are merely asked for as confirmation of language competence in German.


In the last 15 years the Hungarian Language Institute has adapted to offer adult language courses geared toward the actual needs of the language learners.  The courses taking center stage are Hungarian, German and English as a foreign language.  Language courses are offered at 10 different levels, in order to ensure the quality of the language courses.  Additionally there are special courses offered; courses for retired persons available at different levels, Hungarian courses for individuals with Hungarian as a mother tongue, that have not had the opportunity to learn how to read and write in the language, literature courses, courses for commercial language, as well as private courses for individuals with special requirements.


Lit: Verena Plutzar: Sprachliche Bildung erwachsener MigrantInnen als Aufgabe der Erwachsenenbildung. In: Magazin erwachsenenbildung.at 5. Ausgabe 2008

 

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