A Delphi survey on the topic "Futures of language learning"

Zukünfte des Sprachenlernens

Due to the rapid development in technological possibilities, language learning has changed a lot and is facing further changes due to the challenges for virtual courses and new forms of learning during the Covid-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020 (home office, home schooling, etc.). The question of whether and how humans will learn languages in the future is therefore fraught with a high degree of uncertainty. In order to discuss these issues, the Goethe-Institut commissioned the Fraunhofer ISI to conduct interviews and a Delphi study on the topic of "Futures of Language Learning" as well as workshops for the strategic preparation of the Goethe-Institut for the new futures

Based on an inventory of developments in machine learning, mobile learning, analytic technologies, mixed reality, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and virtual assistants, a literature review was conducted to identify changes for language learning that could potentially be actively used by the Goethe-Institut. Translation tools (such as Google Translate or DeepL) are already increasingly used for learning and not only for translating. There are changing needs to learn foreign languages.

To learn about the perspectives and approaches of other stakeholders in language work and fields related to language learning, 19 interviews were conducted on questions including: 

  • How does language learning change?
  • What are the new developments and findings that influence language learning? For example, to what extent do technical developments in translation programs influence the practice of language learning?
  • Will we still learn languages in the future?

Based on these questions, during several internal interactive workshops theses (statements) on possible futures of language learning were compiled and put up for discussion in a Real-time Delphi survey of selected experts from all regions of the world. The estimations and assessment results were used to develop strategic responses by the Goethe-Institut, including the question of what might happen if we give up learning languages in the future. With this Foresight process, the Goethe-Institut is positioning itself to respond flexibly to new developments and to actively initiate and shape future developments.


10/2020 – 09/2021