History of EUROCALL

This history of EUROCALL was written in 2001 by the founder President, Graham Davies, who passed away in June 2012. Parts of this text have been updated at various stages in the last few years.

By Graham Davies, 1942-2012, EUROCALL President 1993-2000

Graham Davies, EUROCALL President 1993-2000

I suppose Millennium Year was destined to become a year for writing histories. The History of CALL posters that were exhibited at the CALICO 2000 and EUROCALL 2000 conferences and the excellent History of CALL website, both of which were put together by Philippe Delcloque, are symptomatic of this phenomenon. This article is my personal contribution to Millennium Year. It aims to put on record a brief history of EUROCALL, what the association has achieved, and what the association represents today.

EUROCALL was set up as a formal professional association in 1993 but its origins go back much further – to a course entitled “Computers in English Language Education and Research”, which was organised by Geoffrey Leech and Scott Windeatt under the auspices of The British Council at the University of Lancaster in 1984. There was a huge demand for such courses in the early 1980s. Computers were spreading like wildfire throughout education, and the demand for training in how to make the best use of them was outstripping supply. Feedback on the Lancaster course was very positive, and selected papers given by presenters were published in Leech & Candlin (1986), including papers by people who subsequently became key players in the history of CALL: John Higgins, Geoffrey Leech, Martin Phillips, John Sinclair, and Scott Windeatt. I suppose I ought to include myself too; I wrote a paper on authoring CALL courseware.

A number of participants at the 1984 course were so enthusiastic about CALL that they decided they had to get together again. As a result, “The First International CALL Conference” took place in Hasselt, Belgium, in the Spring of 1985. It was a small gathering – more a “reunion” rather than a conference, but it marked the beginning of a long series of meeting and conferences.

Several people who attended the Hasselt reunion met again at the University of Liège in January 1986, with a view to discussing possibilities of future collaborative ventures. The Liège meeting was attended by Leni Dam (Denmark), Lienhard Legenhausen (Germany), Archi Michiels (Belgium), André Moulin (Belgium), Jacques Noël (Belgium), Marlies Smit-Kreuzen (The Netherlands), Scott Windeatt (UK), Dieter Wolff (Germany) and myself. Our discussions centred on the idea of establishing a kind of European “clearing house” to promote CALL, with plans of attracting European Commission funding. Three clear areas of common interest were identified:

i. Using computers in the classroom
ii. Training teachers
iii. Software evaluation and development

It was at this meeting that the name EUROCALL was coined.

My own institution, Ealing College of HE, had already succeeded in obtaining funding under a UK government initiative to set up and maintain a unit known as the National Centre for Computer Assisted Language Learning (NCCALL). NCCALL came into existence under my directorship in 1985 and continued to receive UK government funding until 1990. At the time of the Liège meeting NCCALL was committed to working in the three common areas of interest listed above, and Marlies Smit-Kreuzen’s institution (Lerarenopleiding Zuidwest-Nederland, Delft) was in a similar position in The Netherlands. It was hoped that a Europe-wide “clearing house” could be set up along similar lines.

The opportunities offered for research into CALL and the possibility of setting up a European CALL information centre were also discussed in Liège. It was agreed that Scott Windeatt should act as EUROCALL’s researcher/coordinator, and that the newly formed EUROCALL group should meet again at The Second International CALL Conference scheduled to take place at the University of Düsseldorf in April 1986. Unfortunately, I could not attend the 1986 conference as I was already committed to presenting a paper at a CALL conference in Canada at the same time. The Düsseldorf conference was a successful event, including papers by people who were to become key names in CALL: David Hardisty, Udo Jung, Lienhard Legenhausen, Joseph Rézeau, Bernd Rüschoff, Tony Williams, and Scott Windeatt. Selected papers were published in Legenhausen & Wolff (1987).

My next step was to contact John Trim at the Centre of Information on Language Teaching (CILT), London, for advice on obtaining European funding. John Trim put me in touch with several key people in the European Commission and in the Council of Europe. The EUROCALL group met again at NCCALL, Ealing College of HE, in June 1986, and subsequently an application for funding from the EC was drafted and submitted – but with an unsuccessful outcome. It appears that our application had focused too much on research instead of development – a recurrent theme in the history of EUROCALL.

In spite of the failed application to the EC, the EUROCALL group continued to expand, attracting representatives from the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), the University of Siena (Italy), and the Université Paris IX Dauphine (France). Another meeting was held in December 1986 at the Université Paris IX Dauphine, hosted by Evelyn Perry, editor of a newsletter known as ReCALL – which, quite coincidentally, was later to become the name of EUROCALL’s mouthpiece.

The Third International CALL Conference took place in March 1987 at the Lerarenopleiding Zuidwest-Nederland, Delft, organised by Marlies Smit-Kreuzen and Sylvia Lobbe. They did a terrific job, attracting over 100 participants and including prominent presenters such as Sue Hewer and Wilfried Decoo.

The next landmark was the The Fourth International CALL Conference, which was the first to be advertised as having been organised under the auspices of the EUROCALL group. The organiser was Leni Dam, Pædagogisk Central, Greve, Denmark. The conference took place in June 1988 in the municipality of Greve, near Copenhagen. It was a small gathering of around 30 people but from a wide range of countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, and the UK.

At about this time Graham Chesters was in the process of putting in a bid to set up the Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Modern Languages (CTICML) at the University of Hull. He approached me as the Director of NCCALL to discuss ways in which our two centres could collaborate. The bid was successful. The CTICML was set up in 1989 and was destined to become a key player in the history of EUROCALL. I became a member of the CTICML Advisory Committee, and our two centres collaborated closely until NCCALL was dissolved in 1990 due to the absence of further government funding.

An important meeting of the EUROCALL group took place in Rotterdam in November 1988. At this meeting the first EUROCALL Constitution was approved and a self-appointed Organising Committee was set up. The Constitution was a modest document – just one sheet of A4 – the contents of which are produced in full in the Appendix to this article.

At the next meeting of the EUROCALL Organising Committee, which took place in Vienna in May 1989, it was decided that the next two EUROCALL conferences should take place in Austria (1990) and Finland (1991). It had already been decided not to hold a EUROCALL conference in 1989 but to contribute a EUROCALL section to the 1989 Man and the Media Symposium, Goethe-Institut, London. The proceedings of the 1989 Man and the Media Symposium were published in Davies & Hussey (1992).

EUROCALL 90 took place at the University of Klagenfurt, Austria, organised by Anthony Hall. It became clear at this conference, which was attended by around 100 people, that EUROCALL had begun to take off as a leading association in the field – but it was still too loosely organised. The proceedings of EUROCALL 90 were published in Hall & Baumgartner (1991).

EUROCALL 91 in Helsinki was a turning point in EUROCALL’s history. It was the first conference to attract over 200 participants, and it was the first (and only) EUROCALL conference to publish the proceedings in advance of the conference itself: Savolainen & Telenius (1991). It was agreed in the closing session that an attempt would be made to establish an association with a formal structure and membership, backed by some form of funding. It was agreed that the next EUROCALL conference would mark the launch of the new formal association and take place at the University of Hull in 1993.

It was felt that it would take at least two years to set up the association and plan for the EUROCALL 93 conference, so a major EUROCALL conference was not scheduled for 1992. Instead a “Mini-EUROCALL” conference was integrated into the 1992 summer courses in ICT for language teachers that took place at the EECALL Centre, Dániel Berzsenyi College, Szombathely, Hungary. This was the first contribution to EUROCALL activities by our dear colleague János Kohn, who passed away in March 1999 and in whose memory the EUROCALL János Kohn Scholarship was set up for young Hungarian researchers working in the area of ICT and languages.

As one of the founders of EUROCALL, I recklessly undertook to set the machinery in motion to put the association on a sounder footing. I began to investigate possible sources of funding and to determine what level of support existed for EUROCALL as a formal association. A leaflet was sent out to known supporters of EUROCALL and possible new members, and the plans to restructure the association were publicised in System 20/4, Callboard 13 (published by NCCALL), and the ReCALL NewsSheet 8 (published by the CTICML). By the Autumn of 1992 it became clear that there were over one hundred potential fee-paying members of the restructured EUROCALL.

In January 1993 I met Dieter Wolff and Bernd Rüschoff at the University of Wuppertal, and we drafted an action plan for securing funding. Having consulted the founder members of the EUROCALL association and possible new representatives in the member states of the European Union, we made an approach to Graham Chesters, Director of the CTICML, to coordinate a proposal to the European Commission, under Action VA of the LINGUA Programme, for funding to set up a formal EUROCALL association. The proposal was submitted in April 1993 by representatives of three educational institutions:

i. Graham Chesters, University of Hull, UK
ii. Dieter Wolff, University of Wuppertal, Germany
iii. Lis Kornum, Christianhavns Gymnasium, Denmark

In August 1993 the news arrived from Brussels that EUROCALL had been awarded 20,000 ecus (euros) to support its official launch. The funding enabled us to organise a meeting on 14 September 1993, immediately prior to the opening of the EUROCALL 93 conference at the University of Hull. The meeting included representatives from 11 European countries, consisting of both old and new EUROCALLers, who produced a draft of EUROCALL’s new Constitution and nominated an Executive Committee consisting of:

President: Graham Davies Thames Valley University, UK
Vice-President: Lis Kornum, Christianshavns Gymnasium, Denmark
Secretary: June Thompson, University of Hull, UK
Treasurer: Dieter Wolff, University of Wuppertal, Germany

with the following co-opted member:

Graham Chesters, University of Hull, UK

This first Executive Committee was nominated to serve for just one year in order to establish EUROCALL as a formal association, after which elections would be held. The first election was held at EUROCALL 94 (Pädogogische Hochschule Karlsruhe, Germany), and I was delighted to be elected to serve a full three-year term as Founder President of EUROCALL. At EUROCALL 97 (Dublin City University) I was elected to serve my second three-year term as President. In this Millennium Year I decided that it was time for a change and I relinquished the post. My colleague and friend Bernd Rüschoff was elected as the Second President of EUROCALL at the Annual General Meeting, EUROCALL 2000. He has my blessing and best wishes as the new incumbent of this important post.

Current members of the Executive Committee

EUROCALL’s aims are summarised in Article 2 of its Constitution,

2.1 promoting the use of foreign languages within Europe;

2.2 providing a European focus for the promulgation of innovative research, development and practice in the area of computer-assisted language learning and technology enhanced language learning in education and training;

2.3 enhancing the quality, diffusion and cost-effectiveness of relevant language learning materials.

These aims shall be achieved by means of:

2.4 provision of information and advice for those involved in education and training;

2.5 dissemination via a publications service (journal, newsletter, conference proceedings, bibliographies);

2.6 exploitation of electronic communication systems;

2.7 facilitation of knowledge transfer through special interest meetings, annual conferences and staff mobility arrangements.

It is significant how many of these aims correspond to EUROCALL’s first “unofficial” constitution, dating from November 1988 (see Appendix).

Since our establishment as a formal association, the following conferences have taken place:

1993: University of Hull, UK, organised by June Thompson and Graham Chesters. Selected papers were published in Thompson & Chesters (1994).

1994: Pädogogische Hochschule Karlsruhe, Germany, organised by Bernd Rüschoff.

1995: Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Spain, organised by Ana Gimeno. Proceedings were published in Gimeno (1996).

1996: Dániel Berzsenyi College, Szombathely, Hungary, organised by János Kohn. Proceedings were published in Kohn, Rüschoff & Wolff (1997).

1997: Dublin City University, Ireland, organised by Françoise Blin. Selected papers were published in ReCALL 10,1.

1998: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, organised by Michael Goethals. Selected papers were published in ReCALL 11,1.

1999: Université de Franche-Comté, France, organised by Thierry Chanier. Selected papers (in English) were published in ReCALL 12,1 – the first edition of ReCALL to be published by Cambridge University Press – and (in French) in ALSIC 3,1:

2000: University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland, UK, organised by Philippe Delcloque. Selected papers were published in ReCALL 13,1.

2001: University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, organised by Everhard Ditters.Selected papers were published in ReCALL 14,1.

Further details can be obtained from the conferences page on this website.

From its humble beginnings, EUROCALL has gone from strength to strength. We have established ourselves as the leading professional association in Europe for technology enhanced language learning. We now have over 400 members in more than 30 countries with an impressive record of services and achievements, for example:

  • A comprehensive website containing a wealth of resources has been established
  • An electronic discussion list has been set up
  • A range of publications, including the fully-refereed journal ReCALL, which is now published by Cambridge University Press
  • We have established links with other associations with similar aims
  • We have a network of regional representatives
  • Two Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have been set up in the areas of Speech Technology and Language Processing

In addition, it is becoming evident that EUROCALL is having some effect on policy makers in education at both national and at international level. As Graham Chesters pointed out in his EUROCALL 98 Keynote, we need to be aware of “the politics of CALL” (Chesters 1999). One area in which EUROCALL is beginning to have an effect concerns the recognition of research. As I pointed out earlier in this article, EUROCALL’s very first funding application was turned down because it focused on research rather than development – a problem that has faced researchers in our area of work for nearly two decades. Research in CALL is simply not properly recognised by the national and international bodies who award research grants. But our members believe that research is essential in order to push the boundaries of CALL forward, and that it has to go hand in hand with development and practice. Action was finally taken to do something to persuade the powers that be of the correctness of our beliefs. A seminar was held at the University of Essen in April/May 1999, to which twenty CALL theorists, researchers, developers and practitioners from Europe and the USA were invited, resulting in the drawing up of a Joint Policy Statement concerning research, development and practice in CALL. The main aims of the document are:

i. to establish a clearer understanding for departments, institutions, professional associations and decision-making bodies of the range of activities represented in the field, and

ii. to provide an organised and consistent perspective on the rubrics under which these activities should be evaluated.

The document is also attached as an appendix to a chapter on research in the area of new technologies and language learning that I have recently contributed to a forthcoming book (Davies 2000). Slowly but surely, I believe we are making some headway.

So we enter the New Millennium with the future looking extremely rosy. Having played an important role in the WorldCALL conference, which took place at the University of Melbourne, Australia, in July 1998, we will be playing a leading role in organising the next WorldCALL conference, which will be held in 2003 – venue to be decided, so watch this space!


Chesters G. (1999) “On the politics of CALL”, ReCALL 11,1: 7–12.

Davies G.D. (2000 – in press) “New technologies and language learning: a suitable subject for research?” In Chambers A. & Davies G.D. (eds.) Information and Communications Technology in language learning: a European perspective, Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Davies G.D. & Hussey M. (eds.) (1992) New technology in language learning: proceedings of the 1989 Man and the Media symposium, Frankfurt-am-Main: Peter Lang Verlag.

Gimeno A. (ed.) (1996) Technology enhanced language learning: focus on integration: proceedings EUROCALL 95, Valencia, Spain: Universidad Politécnica de Valencia.

Hall A. & Baumgartner P. (eds.) (1991) Language learning with computers: an educational challenge: proceedings of EUROCALL 90, Klagenfurt: WISL.

Kohn J., Rüschoff B. & Wolff D. (eds.) (1997) New horizons in CALL: proceedings of EUROCALL 96, Szombathely, Hungary: Dániel Berzsenyi College.

Leech G. & Candlin C.N. (eds.) (1986) Computers in English language teaching and research, Harlow: Longman.

Legenhausen L. & Wolff D. (eds.) (1987) Computer assisted language learning and innovative EFL methodology, Ausburger I & I-Schriften Band 38, Augsburg: Universität Augsburg.

Savolainen H. & Telenius J. (eds.) (1991) EUROCALL 91: proceedings, Helsinki: Helsinki School of Economics.

Thompson J. & Chesters G. (eds.) (1994) Emancipation through learning technology: proceedings of EUROCALL 93, Double issue of Computers and Education 23, 1/2, Exeter: Pergamon/Elsevier.


The First EUROCALL Constitution

Rotterdam, November 1988

EUROCALL is an international organisation whose aims are to:

1. Share information on the use of computers in the language classroom.

2. Provide a framework which will allow teachers to learn from the experiences of practitioners in other countries.

3. Encourage research into the use of computers in the language classroom.

The specific objectives which EUROCALL has are:

1. To produce a newsletter twice a year, to be sent to subscribers.

2. To organise a conference once a year, to be held in a different European country each year.

3. To organise Special Interest Meetings as the need and interest arises.

4. To encourage research into areas such as:

1. The role of CALL in the curriculum.

2. The methodologies associated with CALL.

3. The learning processes and outcomes associated with various types of software.

4. The methodology and content of teacher training courses for CALL.

EUROCALL is run by an Organising Committee which currently consists of:

Leni Dam Pædagogisk Central, Greve, Copenhagen, Denmark
Graham Davies NCCALL, Ealing College of Higher Education, London, England
Lienhard Legenhausen Anglistisches Institut, University of Düsseldorf, Germany
Sylvia Lobbe Lerarenopleiding Zuidwest-Nederland, Delft, The Netherlands
Joseph Rézeau Collège Privé Richlieu, Dompierre-sur-Yon, France
Scott Windeatt IELE, University of Lancaster, England
Dieter Wolff Anglistisches Institut, University of Düsseldorf, Germany