Beyond The Classroom: Innovative language learning and retention

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1. Challenge Statement

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are seeking innovative solutions that will motivate and support individuals who are outside of the formal, language training system to acquire, use, and retain their second official language.

2. Background and Context

The DND/CAF is a large organization with a highly dispersed workforce, comprised of members from linguistic minority and majority communities. As such, it employs a number of delivery methods for second official language learning. The department has 20 training centres across the country that offer traditional classroom instruction, ranging from five weeks to ten months in duration. An online learning application also provides virtual and distance learning opportunities.

The success of second language training programs is traditionally measured by participants’ ability to achieve a minimum second official language profile or “level” at the time of examination. However, another important measure of success is the ability to instill motivation and build the confidence of participants to use their second language in the workplace, and consequently to retain and improve their abilities over time. 

In the DND/CAF, exposure to one’s second official language and formal language training can be a challenge when deployed overseas or when posted to unilingual locations within Canada.  Bridging this gap in exposure would help to maintain and encourage the ongoing use and development of one’s second official language. It may also indirectly affect the capacity of the formal language training system by providing members with a stronger base upon which to build during formal training, reducing the length of formal training required and the progress that the learner must make in order to be successful in training.

3. Desired Outcomes

Solutions should draw on the latest scientific theories and literature (e.g., social psychology, behavioural economics, applied linguistics, education) and incorporate state-of-the-art trends in areas such as persuasive systems design, adaptive/personalized systems, and intelligent social learning environments to motivate and sustain user participation. Solutions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Strategies, approaches, methods, and/or techniques to increase members’ willingness to use their second official language;
  • Organizational culture change initiatives that promote greater use of second official language in the workplace (e.g. personalized incentive mechanisms);
  • Systems or applications designed to bolster individual competence and confidence in using a second language;
  • State-of-the-art approaches (e.g., in cognitive neuroscience, linguistics, neuroplasticity, etc.) for improving neural processes that underlie second language learning and capacity to process new language systems. 
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