Transferable Skills in Language Learning
Learners in the 21st century have no problem gaining access to knowledge. The difficulty is what to do with knowledge when they access it, how to cope with large volumes of information, set goals, solve problems, make good decisions, manage time, avoid dropping out, manage stress, plan well, multi-task and so on. All of these abilities are life skills, study skills, but above all they are transferable skills. The awareness of the transferablility of skills, that is the application of skills learned in one situation to another, is fundamental to the modern creative knowledge society.
Languages graduates do not always use their languages in the workplace, but language learning and teaching equips students with a multiplicity of transferable skills. Studies carried out during the Transferable Skills Project indicate that many languages graduates do not have confidence in their preparedness for the workplace. Therefore languages students need to be made aware of their skills, so that they will have the ability and the confidence to articulate them.
The task of raising awareness of students’ transferable skills involves becoming a more ‘reflective practitioner’ and pointing out to students how what is being taught can apply in another situation. For example, when teaching about the workplace to Business German students, an in-tray activity (Postkorbaktivität) can be used. The employee (student) decides which tasks he or she will carry out in which order and which tasks should be delegated and to whom. Awareness of many skills is raised by this activity. It is possible to proceed in this manner for all teaching materials. It necessitates merely a few words to the student to inform them of the transferability, i.e. this activity will enhance your presentation skills, will help you to plan and time manage in any situation, will provide you with analytic skills applicable to any text and so on. For more ideas on how to raise students’ awareness of and proficiency in transferable skills go to http://www.skillsproject.ie/