Foreign Language Acquisition and Teaching

Research in this field is closely related to the main practical activities of the College of Foreign Languages and Cultures: teaching foreign languages and cultures and training foreign language teachers for different education levels. Several other research fields of our college, especially comparative studies of cultures, literature and linguistics, provide a theoretical basis for developing teaching methodologies and elaborating new learning materials.

One of the major research fields of our college is contrastive linguistics, with a focus on a usage-based, functional approach to studying a wide variety of language pairs. Contrastive studies are often driven by specific teaching issues and provide a valuable basis for research in the field of foreign language teaching. Another field of research is related to the issues of language acquisition, with a specific interest in the influence our native language and other acquired languages have on learning foreign languages and in language acquisition more generally. These studies are generally based on different learner language corpora. Since most of our researchers are practitioners and teacher trainers, an important part of our research activities pertains to teaching methodology and the development of targeted teaching materials, with a special focus on issues of intercultural competence, language-learning for special purposes, and using ICT in foreign language teaching. Besides these main clusters, the members of our college are interested in issues related to language testing and the sociolinguistic situation in Estonia.

Our college prides itself on its multilingualism and this provides a fertile ground for research on different topics related to contrastive linguistics. Our researchers collaborate closely with the Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics and there are many ongoing projects between linguists from different departments. The central focus is on taking a usage-based, functional approach to studying various language pairs. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the language pairs studied: Estonian-English, Estonian-German, Estonian-French, Estonian-Russian, Estonian-Spanish, Estonian-Swedish. The language pairs are mostly analysed from the synchronic perspective by taking a semasiological and/or onomasiological approach. Specific topics include rhythm, word stress, demonstratives, aspect, voice, tenses, modal verbs.

Selected publications: 

Research in the field of language acquisition mainly focuses on the interlanguage of Estonian-speaking learners of different foreign languages. Our researchers are interested in the influence that our mother tongue or previously learned foreign languages have on the acquisition of foreign languages, basing their studies on various learner language corpora. Several studies focus specifically on linguistic interference issues in L3 or L4 learning.

Selected publications:

The main areas of interest of our college in the field of teaching methodology include ICT-assisted learning of foreign languages, teaching languages for special purposes and integrating cultural topics into the teaching process. Studies in this field mostly lead to practical outcomes, including teaching materials and e-learning objects.

Several practitioners of our college participate in the teaching quality enhancement programme of the University of Tartu, which encourages the academic staff of the university to study their own teaching practice and to share their experience with colleagues.

Selected publications:


  • Djuddah Leijen
  • Ele Sepp
  • Ülle Türk
  • Merje Miliste
  • Katrin Saar
  • Kristina Mullamaa
  • Mari Kruse
  • Marika Peekmann
  • Anneli Sigus
  • Natalja Zagura
  • Anu Treikelder
  • Liina Tammekänd