European Centre for Modern Languages

Language for work competences

Competences helpful to professionals and others when supporting work-related majority language (L2) learning by migrants and ethnic minorities

Setting 1: Learner, L2 teacher and L2 learning provider

L2 teacher
L2 learning provider
The key actors in this setting are the learner, the L2 teacher and the L2 learning provider. The learners are mostly job seekers, but they may also be employees wanting to improve their L2 skills to find a better or more secure position.

The provision is classroom-based, and often structured as a course. 

Work placements may be included, but visits to workplaces of interest to learners are more common. 

Instruction is the predominant mode of support for learning, but with some support for self-directed and autonomous learning – such encouragingt internet research by learners, language observation tasks focused on communication at work or in everyday life outside the classroom; also,  peer-learning and peer-coaching. 

Examples of this setting

LanCook (Finland)
LanCook was a three-year EU-funded Lifelong Learning project (December 2011-2014). The project focused on the language of work tasks and workplace activity. It included the creation of language learning materials in seven languages. These materials used digital technology to enable and support innovative approaches to language learning...
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Radio project (France) 

This approach aims to help learners to explain precisely what they do at work. It involves learners creating a radio programme in which they talk about what they do at work. It was developed by ALPES (Association Lyonnaise de Promotion et d'Education Sociale ...

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Russian for migrants (Russia) 

The approach is based on a flexible, expandable workplace curriculum. This curriculum covers eight topic areas: Greetings – First days in Russia – Living and working in Russia, learning Russian – Shopping – In Town – Healthcare and insurance – Work time, free time – Being law-abiding...

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Weissenberg, J. (2012), Sprachbedarfsermittlung im berufsbezogenen Unterricht Deutsch als Zweitsprache, Ein Leitfaden für die Praxis (Practical guide to language needs assessment in vocational teaching of German as a second language). Hamburg: passage gGmbH


L2 teacher competences

The teacher is familiar with

  • the local/regional labour market
  • work-related language skills in workplaces of interest for learners
  • analysis of work-related language requirements 
  • analysis of learning needs  

The teacher is aware that

  • each workplace is a functional system with its own aims and goals, power relations, priorities, structures and procedures, etc.
  • learners’ autonomy can be valuably fostered by exploiting the language learning opportunities of L2 environments
  • the psycho-social situation of migrants, and particularly refugees, may impact on their L2 learning
  • learners may have very different educational backgrounds, including in VET (vocational education and training)
  • learners may have very different levels of literacy – and that in some circumstances work-related L2 instruction may include basic skills, such as numeracy

The teacher is willing to

  • engage with the learners’ field of work (actual or prospective).

The teacher is able to

  • work cooperatively with other actors, including vocational teachers, job centres, non-professional mentors/volunteers, employers, workplace instructors 
  • adapt methods of needs analysis and requirements analysis to own specific situation, e. g. no access to companies, or learners working in different sectors, etc.
  • develop a learning programme that addresses the needs and requirements of diverse groups of learners
  • address the learning priorities of other relevant stakeholders, such as job centres
  • use a range of approaches to support learning, including for example the arrangement of work placements in local companies
  • offer information, guidance and advice to learners on work-related L2 issues 

L2 learning provider competences

The role of learning provider includes provider managers and also teachers representing the provider with other actors.

The provider is familiar with

  • the local/regional labour market 
  • the process of L2 acquisition, including enablers and barriers to L2 acquisition, and can relate them to the specific situation of learners in own institution
  • language requirements of a variety of jobs (accessible to the learners 
  • qualification structure and forms of education and vocational training provision
  • needs and requirements analysis and how to support staff to implement/adapt them

The provider is aware

  • that each workplace is a functional system with own aims and goals, power relations, priorities, structures and procedures, etc.
  • that the psycho-social situation of migrants, and particularly refugees, may impact on their L2 learning

The provider is able to 

  • network in order to organise work-related L2 support activities for learners with other actors, including:  
    • local employers in order to organise work placements, visits to companies, requirements analysis, etc.
    • job centres, voluntary sectors, chambers of commerce, trade unions, employers’ associations, local government, round tables/economic development initiatives 
    • VET schools and centres
    • migrants’ organisations/communities
    • volunteers and volunteers’ organisations
  • provide professional development for own staff regarding work-related L2
  • support teaching staff with whatever needed: equipment, contacts for placements, visits.
  • provide information and advice and guidance (for learners) to support their language and vocational development