Springboard for Talent – Language Learning and Integration in a Globalized World

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Dec 12, 2017
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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Springboard for Talent – Language Learning and Integration in a Globalized World

Linguists, academics, policymakers and business leaders come to Salzburg to consider the social, political and economic importance of language learning

Language is fundamental to national identity and an important contributor to social cohesion in modern pluralistic societies. Learning a foreign language helps you to know that country and language skills can be very valuable. However, language policy decisions can also impact detrimentally on students’ life chances. All of this raises critical questions for researchers, policymakers and practitioners about the role of language learning and testing for two public good objectives: to “untap” and optimize individual talents and to foster social cohesion and dynamic inclusive economies.

To this end, Salzburg Global Seminar is holding the session Springboard for Talent: Language Learning and Integration in a Globalized World at its home in Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria, from December 12 to 16, 2017.

The session is being held in partnership with ETS, the Qatar Foundation and Microsoft, and forms part of Salzburg Global’s long-running multi-year series, Education for Tomorrow’s World.

The four-day program will bring together over 50 representatives from the varying spheres of policy, academia, civil society and business, representing over 25 countries, to look at the importance of language policy and practice from three perspectives – the individual, the state, and market and society – and examine how language learning can help integration, international relations and employment opportunities.

As many countries try to tackle large influxes of both refugees and migrants, participants will examine language programs that help the new arrivals better integrate into their new host countries and enhance social cohesion. Languages also play a large role for the state with regards to “soft power” and diplomacy, as seen by the emergence of English as a global “lingua franca” and the growing efforts in the West to learn Chinese to better engage with and understand the rising power of China. The third lens of the session will look at the economic value of language learning, with evidence showing that bilingualism and multilingualism bring strong economic benefits for labor mobility.

Like many other sectors, technological innovation has the potential to revolutionize and democratize the language teaching and learning fields, paving the way to fairer access to the job market. Participants in Salzburg will consider the role disruptive technology might play in shaping future decisions about language policy.

Much emphasis in schools’ curriculum in recent years has been placed on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), with languages often valued less in comparison – despite the fact this goes against the latest thinking in neuroscience. Participants will consider how the research community can counter this misalignment of evidence and policy, and gain more traction with policymakers, practitioners and the public.

In an effort to promote the importance of language learning, as well as participating in panel-led plenary discussions and working groups, the participants will collaborate on both a “Salzburg Statement” and the formulation of a series of “Salzburg Questions.” The Statement will not only be circulated widely following the session, but will also form the basis of a new series of webinars to be held throughout 2018. The Questions will spark an online international debate, to be launched on Twitter on International Mother Language Day on February 21.

You can follow all discussions throughout the week on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #SGSedu.


The session, Springboard for Talent: Language Learning and Integration in a Globalized World is part of Salzburg Global Seminar multi-year series  Education for Tomorrow’s World. The session is being held in partnership with ETS, the Qatar Foundation and Microsoft. This project was also supported by The Erste Foundation. To keep up to date with the conversations taking place during the session, follow #SGSedu on Twitter and Instagram.