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Krisztina Sebestyén University of Nyíregyháza, Hungary

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Katarzyna Jagielska Pedagogical University of Krakow, Poland

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Nadine Comes University of Education Freiburg, Germany

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Abstract

In the globalized world, not only one's language plays an increasingly important role, but also the knowledge of other foreign language(s) and their associated culture(s). With their help, a person can obtain various information, which can help them become more informed about the world. Furthermore, they can help gain personal or professional success through foreign language and cultural experience during their studies, scholarships or employment (Sebestyén 2022). Therefore, in 2002, the European Union set the goal of achieving that all its citizens shall know two other foreign languages besides their mother tongue (Kommission der Europäischen Gemeinschaften 2005). Thus, the aim of our thematic issue is to provide an insight into the current situation through a few examples after 20 years since the decision of the European Union was made.

Abstract

In the globalized world, not only one's language plays an increasingly important role, but also the knowledge of other foreign language(s) and their associated culture(s). With their help, a person can obtain various information, which can help them become more informed about the world. Furthermore, they can help gain personal or professional success through foreign language and cultural experience during their studies, scholarships or employment (Sebestyén 2022). Therefore, in 2002, the European Union set the goal of achieving that all its citizens shall know two other foreign languages besides their mother tongue (Kommission der Europäischen Gemeinschaften 2005). Thus, the aim of our thematic issue is to provide an insight into the current situation through a few examples after 20 years since the decision of the European Union was made.

Multilingualism and intercultural competence: theoretical background for the papers about the thematic issue

According to Feld-Knapp (2014: 15), multilingualism is “… a state, in which language users have not only one language available for their language activities, but several languages at the same time, which can be activated and used for communication purposes”.1 Hufeisen (2008) concretizes this concept. According to her, everyone who knows at least two languages is multilingual. More factors support the realization of individual multilingualism, for example, the multilingualism of the given country – several official languages, meaningful nationalities, foreign employees' presence, etc. – (European Commission, 2012; Feld-Knapp, 2014), especially the family or institutional environment of the person. The knowledge and use of languages can already appear in the family, which represents the first scene of socialization, where in the case of a multilingual family, the individual can acquire not only the mother tongue by the age of ca. 6, but also a second language simultaneously or consecutively (Erdei, 2010; Risager, 2006). The concept of a second language refers to when an individual lives one's everyday life as a bilingual. In addition to his/her mother tongue, they can use another language at a native or near-native level (Klein, 2011). In most cases, the second language is the language of the majority society outside the family (Hopf, 2005; Risager, 2006). Therefore, paying attention to developing these language skills is extremely important because people may have different second language skills due to their different mother tongues (Michalak, 2013; Webersik, 2013), which may cause difficulties in their studies or daily affairs.

Foreign languages appear within institutional frameworks, too. According to the literature, learning foreign languages usually starts at the age of 14, as a youth or as an adult (Risager, 2006). Experience shows that in most European countries, it starts between the ages of 6 and 9. In many countries, children learn not only one but two foreign languages in schools (Eurydice, 2017). Also, the concept of the third language denotes the language learned as a foreign language in almost all cases, which the individual begins to learn after the mother tongue and the second language acquired in the home environment or learned in an institutional form (Rost-Roth, 2003).

It is also important to deal with the languages known by the individual and their level because Reading comprehension achievement has a significant impact on student achievement in other subjects, for example, achievements in foreign languages or Mathematics. This is because if the person does not understand the task in his/her mother tongue without adequate vocabulary, he/she probably will have difficulties interpreting the text in a foreign language too (Hegedűs & Sebestyén, 2019). Reading comprehension does not mean only a ‘mechanical’ understanding of the language. It also requires the so-called discourse competence, which helps to interpret and create texts. By connecting the individual with other, for example, cultural knowledge, they can place the information in an appropriate discourse, and they are able to process the content of the text accordingly. They can also create texts independently (Szitó, 2006). The treatment of texts is not only essential in the tasks specifically dealing with it but also has an important role in the entire learning-teaching process, for example, it has an essential role in explanation or argumentation (Quasthoff, Heller, & Morek, 2021).

Sociocultural knowledge is also closely related to the knowledge of a language, which means that the language user knows the symbol system of the language. Furthermore, intercultural knowledge is related to language use that determines it (Höhne, 2010; Ott, 2014). This knowledge helps communication and understanding in the target language (Földes, 2009), as well as success in the target language environment. In the case of cultures belonging to languages, it is just as possible to speak of first, second and third cultures as in the case of languages. Just like language knowledge, cultural knowledge also interacts with each other. So more and more cultural knowledge makes it easier and easier to record new information and helps even more conscious use of language (Bárdos, 2003; Fekete, Hegedűs, & Sebestyén, 2016; Myczko, 2015; Rost-Roth, 2003). The whole cultural knowledge is called intercultural competence in the literature (Byram, 1989), which creates a special area of competence that helps language learning. It is important during foreign language activities and lessons because it can, for example, motivate an individual to learn a language (Borsos & Kruzslicz, 2017; Holló, 2019).

Experts' opinions are divided on the connection between the beginning of language learning and the age of the language learner. Some people believe that starting foreign language learning at an early age is important because the brain of younger children is even more flexible in absorbing new knowledge, developing intonation and articulation bases, and their language learning is more successful in the long term. Older children and adults are disadvantaged in the mentioned areas and are also more reserved language users, but the language learning process happens faster in their case (Kissné Gulyás, 2011).

(Mother) language education in kindergarten can have several directions. On the one hand, this may refer to the consolidation of the majority society's language, which may be the children's mother language, second language or foreign language. This is important because experts have found a connection between language use in kindergarten and the quality of reading, according to which weaker language achievement (phonological, grammatical and lexical) in kindergarten results in lower reading achievement later in first grade (Sósné Pintye & Kas, 2022), therefore (mother) language education is important in an institutional environment even before children start school. Another direction can be when there is a strong presence of nationalities in a country, and children can learn not only the language of the given nationality but also the related culture in the institutions maintained for them. Suppose the family claims to belong to the given nationality. In that case, the parents can choose the given institution for their children due to the preservation of identity and belonging to another nationality due to cultural surplus (Andl, 2014; Papp Z. 2012). The third possible direction is when parents consider it essential for their children to start learning a foreign language at kindergarten age as a foundation for their success in studies and/or the labor market. According to Mándoki and Hegedűs (2022a, 2022b), this is especially important for younger parents, and their kindergarten choice is significantly influenced by whether their child can participate in foreign language activities in a given institution.

In research, the characteristics of the majority of children are usually examined. Children in special situations are less often focused on (LeRoy, Samuel, Deluca, & Evans, 2019), even though, in many cases, foreign language learning also affects them within an institutional framework. However, according to some research, these children with special educational needs may have more limited opportunities to learn foreign languages (Regalla & Peker, 2018). From the point of view of education, the classification of special groups may vary from country to country, but whatever the professional categorization, it is agreed that if the child's condition allows, they participate in education in the form of co-education (Réthy, 2002). The co-education has two forms, integration and inclusion, between which there is a difference in the degree of co-education. Integration can materialize in the same institution but in a separate class, or the same institution and in extracurricular activities spent together, or in the context of studying together in certain lessons. On the other hand, inclusion is a higher level of co-education because the entire institution prepares for the child's arrival in an inclusive manner and ensures the personal and material conditions that help the integration and optimal development of the inclusively raised child (Hegedűs, 2023). Thus, the majority of the teachers – for example, language teachers – can also teach in such classes where there are children with special educational needs, which is why it is crucial to get to know the characteristics of these students.

Brief introduction of the thematic part's papers

Our present thematic issue is connected to the mentioned topics in four points. There is already much previous literature on the third language (e.g., Hufeisen, 2003; Rost-Roth, 2003), including the ‘German as foreign language after English’2 language teaching trend too (Hufeisen, 2008; Wypusz, 2015), which includes the paper of Sarah Dietrich-Grappin and Britta Hufeisen. In this, the authors modernize the model of the didactics of the third language developed in the 1990s, based on a selection from the special literature published from the 1980s years to 2021 and on the most recent scientific results related to the German language in the field of translanguaging and compétence plurilingue. The authors explain in their new model the importance of previous language knowledge in integrating third language learning, by which they understand the field of receptive and productive skills and grammar teaching.

Another methodological approach to foreign language teaching, the development of discourse competence, also appears as a second connection point. Tatjana Laşcu mentions in her paper that this method belongs to a newer approach to teaching English as a foreign language. It can encourage the development the communicative competence, the understanding of social phenomena, and the development of language structures and holistic vision. Through specific didactic examples, the conditions necessary for developing the students' discourse competence in the classroom can also be learned.

The paper of Jurgita Lenkauskaitė and Daiva Malinauskienė explores the topic of kindergarten education and multiculturalism by presenting the situation in Lithuania. Multilingualism and multiculturalism are getting stronger in Lithuania, which impact what professionals and parents think about early multilingualism and its appearance in education. According to experts, well-chosen methods help children learn (foreign) language skills more naturally and similarly to learning their mother tongue during language teaching in kindergarten. The goal for children of non-Lithuanian nationality is to get to know the Lithuanian language and culture and facilitate their integration into Lithuanian society. The paper's authors approach the topic from the perspective of institutional education, in which they introduce the challenges of the institutions, innovative methods, auxiliary educational materials, and good practices.

The fourth point of connection to the topic of multilingualism is the paper by Roland Hegedűs and Krisztina Sebestyén in which the student achievement of children struggling with learning disorder or disabilities or integration, learning, and behavioral difficulties (ILBD) – the latter is a Hungarian terminology that does not belong to the scope of special educational needs – is examined in the database of National Competency Measurement (NCM) of 2019. The authors discuss whether there is a difference in Reading comprehension and Mathematics achievement between classes with a ‘normal’ curriculum, classes with intensive foreign language learning and classes with an increased number of lessons in a certain subject.

Summary

Knowledge of a foreign language is an increasingly essential competence in studies, the labor market, and in everyday life. Languages connect people, bring them closer to other countries and cultures, and enable them to understand and communicate with them. In the long term, multilingualism also contributes to improving the competitiveness of the European Union economy (European Commission, 2022; Kommission der Europäischen Gemeinschaften, 2005; Sebestyén, 2022).

In our thematic issue, we introduce the different dimensions of multilingualism in each country with the help of German, Moldavian, Lithuanian and Hungarian authors. The theoretical papers deal with two methodological issues of foreign language teaching, the didactics of teaching a third language teaching, and the development of discourse competence. The empirical papers present the multilingualism appearing in Lithuanian kindergartens and the student achievement of Hungarian secondary school students who require special educational conditions.

About the authors

Krisztina Sebestyén, Ph.D., graduated from the University of Debrecen as a teacher majoring in German as a foreign language and Pedagogy in 2013. She obtained a Ph.D. degree in education sciences from the same university in 2022. She currently works as a senior lecturer at the University of Nyíregyháza, where she teaches students participating in teacher training. Her research field is the motivation and practice of foreign language learning and teaching, with a special focus on the German language.

Katarzyna Jagielska is a Ph.D. in natural science in physical sciences (2009, The Henryk Niewodniczański Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Science) and social science in pedagogy (2019, The Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw). She is a coach and tutor. She currently works at the Pedagogical University of Krakow as an assistant professor. She teaches students in teacher training, social work, psychology, and management in social services. Her current research focuses on the issues of inequality of education and inequalities in the labor market opportunities of young adults and educational and professional career planning for young adults.

Nadine Comes is a research fellow and lecturer in the Department of Educational Research and Teacher Education at the University of Education in Freiburg/Germany. Her focus is based on intercultural learning and multilingualism in educational settings.

Acknowledgments

With the support of the ERASMUS + Programme of the European Union.

The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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1

Own translation, the original text is the following: „…ein Umstand, in dem den Sprachverwendern für ihre sprachlichen Handlungen nicht nur eine Sprache zur Verfügung steht, sondern in dem sie gleichzeitig mehrere Sprachen haben, die für kommunikative Zwecke aktiviert und eingesetzt werden können” (Feld-Knapp, 2014: 15).

2

Deutsch als Fremdsprache nach Englisch (DaFnE).

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Senior Editors

Founding Editor: Tamás Kozma (Debrecen University)

Editor-in-ChiefAnikó Fehérvári (ELTE Eötvös Loránd University)

Assistant Editor: Eszter Bükki (BME Budapest University of Technology and Economics)

Associate editors: 
Karolina Eszter Kovács (University of Debrecen)
Krisztina Sebestyén (Gál Ferenc University)

 

Editorial Board

 

Address of editorial office

Dr. Anikó Fehérvári
Institute of Education, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University
Address: 23-27. Kazinczy út 1075 Budapest, Hungary
E-mail: herj@ppk.elte.hu

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2021  
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Hungarian Educational Research Journal
Publication Model Gold Open Access
Submission Fee none
Article Processing Charge none
Subscription Information Gold Open Access

Hungarian Educational Research Journal
Language English
Size B5
Year of
Foundation
2011
Volumes
per Year
1
Issues
per Year
4
Founder Magyar Nevelés- és Oktatáskutatók Egyesülete – Hungarian Educational Research Association
Founder's
Address
H-4010 Debrecen, Hungary Pf 17
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 2064-2199 (Online)

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