Latvia University of Agriculture (LATVIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 1477-1485
ISBN: 978-84-616-0763-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 19-21 November, 2012
Location: Madrid, Spain
The article addresses the issue of enhancement of university students’ foreign language competences at the Latvia University of Agriculture (LUA) in accordance with up-to-date societal needs and individual needs of students.
Firstly, the authors reflect on the former Soviet–time language policy and how it affected the formation of the university students’ foreign language competences. After the 2004 accession of Latvia to the European Union, due to the new developments in politics, economics, and culture, Latvia introduced a radically new multi-language policy that strongly also influenced the development of the concept of teaching modern foreign languages for specific purposes for non-philologist students at the tertiary level.

Furthermore, the article presents the new approach worked out by the academic staff of the Languages Department at the LUA on the basis of the language and multilingualism policy of the European Commission, the language policy of the Latvian government, the Professional Standards of the Republic of Latvia, the Strategic Plan for Development 2010-2016 of the Latvia University of Agriculture, and the findings of several studies conducted by the university staff. This approach focuses on the current issues of foreign language acquisition, new society requirements and how to develop multi-language skills at the university ensuring greater employability of the future labour force in the international world of work, and in the European labour market, in particular.

The approach emphasizes that the improvement of foreign language and academic skills at the university level should be based on the following variety of pillars: an updated analysis of the needs of undergraduate students, recent graduates and employers; the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach; internationalisation of the study process through attracting visiting lecturers and exchange students, and organising international students’ conferences and cultural events during extra-curriculum activities; a wide application of modern Information Communication Technologies (ICT), as well as blended learning. It is also based on tailor-made tasks and the following web-enhanced language learning activities: web-search activities, web-quest activities; video lectures, use of e-dictionaries, interactive free ready-made sources for practice outside classrooms, podcasts, Wikis, online reading materials.

The authors of the article conclude that the implementation of the approach of foreign language teaching/learning for specific purposes at the LUA is fostering the perfection of the future specialists’ multilingual skills, and it is enhancing the process of internationalisation of the study process. Today, Latvia is a multicultural country, and university students need to acquire not only technical knowledge in at least two foreign languages, but also cross-cultural skills and know-how to live in a multicultural society.
Multilingual skills, foreign languages for specific purposes, societal needs.