LINGUIST List 15.1858

Fri Jun 18 2004

Review: Applied Linguistics: Linthout (2004)

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What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Sheila Dooley Collberg at collberglinguistlist.org.

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  1. Guido Oebel, Handlungsorientierter Fremdsprachenunterricht (Action-orinted FLL)

Message 1: Handlungsorientierter Fremdsprachenunterricht (Action-orinted FLL)

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 01:10:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: Guido Oebel <oebelcc.saga-u.ac.jp>
Subject: Handlungsorientierter Fremdsprachenunterricht (Action-orinted FLL)

AUTHOR: Linthout, Gisela 
EDITOR: Herrlitz, Wolfgang; Schmitz-Schwamborn, Gabriele; Veldenz-
Dunne, Monika; Vijgen, Mathi 
TITLE: Handlungsorientierter Fremdsprachenunterricht 
 [Action-orientation in the Foreign Language Classroom]
SUBTITLE: Ein Trainingsprogramm zur Kompetenzentwicklung f�r den Beruf 
 [A Training Program for the Development of Job-related Competences] 
SERIES: Deutsch: Studien zum Sprachunterricht und zur Interkulturellen 
 Didaktik 6 
 [German: Studies in Language Teaching and Intercultural Didactics 6]
PUBLISHER: Rodopi 
YEAR: 2003
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-230.html


Guido Oebel, Universities of Saga and Kurume (Japan)

SYNOPSIS 

Linthout's book can be regarded a compendium summarizing the outcomes
of an international project which professional training schools from
five European countries (Czech Republic, France, Germany, the
Netherlands, Poland) with funding provided by the European Commission
participated in. It claims to offer practical suggestions for the
gradual implementation of action-orientation in the FLL- classroom,
particularly of German as a Foreign Language (DaF). Throughout her
book, the author proves to be a strong advocate of adequate up-to-date
approaches such as action-orientation and learner- centredness which
both seem much better suited to convincingly overcome communication
problems no matter whether in ones mother tongue or in any foreign
language. These two utmost constructivist approaches enable language
learners through mainly authentic situations and tasks to improve and
apply their language skills thus resulting in sustainable retaining
learning effects whereas traditional instructivist learning
environments exclusively used to focus on isolated grammatical and
lexical units with little such desirable effect. The linguistic tasks
and suggestions for the DaF-classroom presented in the book are based
on situations in which the learners have to cope with problems arising
from their non-proficiency in the respective foreign language in order
to solve them. To this end, there are manifold authentic situations
taken from the daily job routines such as commercial correspondence
with business partners abroad, the planning of joint projects, the
cognitive and linguistic understanding of forms, regulations, manuals,
etc., thus constituting an increasingly demand of foreign language
competence among learners by meeting the respective requirements
within a virtual learning process. As, according to Linthout,
job-routines are inevitably connected to performing activities in
foreign languages the major objective of FLL within professional
training ought to be creating the job-related ability to act in
foreign languages.

As already extensively described in the preceding paragraph, the
present training program aims at implementing action-orientation in
the foreign language classroom. To this end, it focuses on the second
part of the project records for teachers employed with professional
training institutions. Following two introducing chapters containing a
general as well as a more detailed description of the educational
concept in question, the two major parts of the book consist of four
modules (1. The Didactic Approach of the Action-oriented Classroom,
2. Action- oriented Approaches, 3. Project Work,
4. Internationalization and Intercultural Learning) and two so-called
dossiers (1. Action-oriented Teacher Training, 2. Company Exploration,
i.e. explicitly not just a visit to the works!).

Each modular chapter follows a constant pattern: the depiction of a
somehow basic theoretical knowledge regarding action-orientation is
followed by essential features of respective approaches. From there,
action-orientation inherent implications, opportunities as well as
restrictions during its implementation in the foreign language
classroom are discussed and reflected through successfully attempting
to give sound answers to question from practice. Each chapter
concludes with an appendix offering supplementary material such as
hypotheses and quotations for further discussion.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

In my opinion, Linthout's training program on the implementation of
action-orientation in the foreign language classroom fills
convincingly the obvious gap in the specialist book market by
eventually providing an appropriate handbook on action-orientation and
foreign language teaching at professional training schools. She
addresses mainly teachers of foreign languages encouraging them to
turn away from the traditional chalk and talk teaching to constantly
integrating their students in creating and thus increasingly
participating in classroom design. Despite the book being overdue, the
time of appearance of Linthout's book seems still to be somehow ideal
as it follows the heated discussions on the disastrous specific German
results of the recently published PISA-survey. Thus, at least the
willingness recently arising among German decision-makers on education
policy to substantially rethink inevitable changes in favour of more
action- oriented and learner-centred teaching methods ought to pave
the way for implementing such kind of extremely anthropological and
humanistic approaches for the benefit of both, teachers and learners
of whom at least some few of the last-mentioned will be tomorrow's
teachers themselves.

As, at least to my knowledge and experience, no other up-to-date
teaching approach promotes in addition to specialized knowledge more
adequately the so-called soft skills, implementing action-orientation
in the foreign language classroom might be considered a highly
valuable contribution to creating a variety of competences necessary
for members of any society to tackle imminent social problems
worldwide. In order to surmount the politico-educational anachronism
of instructivistic teaching, Linthout's book offers a highly welcome
and individually adaptable manual on constructional classroom design
emphasising the idea of active, experiencing learners in a situation
where knowledge is not transmitted to them but constructed through
activity and social interaction. The book's chapters are designed so
that teachers who so far have not dared to at least partially
implement aspects of action-orientation in their own classroom are
provided with a soft lead-in to the constructional theory enriched
with exemplary classroom suggestions. In addition, the theoretical
background as well as the concrete examples are applicable to foreign
languages other than German with only slight adaptations.

The book has, as I see it, only one minor drawback: the author only
peripherally mentions LdL (Lernen durch Lehren [Learning through
Teaching]), which was invented by Jean-Pol Martin, Professor of French
Didactics at the Catholic University of Eichstaett (Germany) almost
two decades ago. LdL is the most radical version of applied
learner-autonomous approaches and has achieved astonishingly
convincing results,. However, perhaps Linthout intentionally did not
deal more extensively with LdL as this variation radically promoting
learner-autonomy addresses mainly teachers who at least should be
familiar with the basics of constructivist theories.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Guido Oebel, Ph. D. in comparative linguistics, holds university
degrees in translation studies, adult education and German as Foreign
Language and is currently employed as associate and visiting
professor, respectively, at the Universities of Saga and Kurume
(Japan). His main interests of research are: FLL, especially L2-L3
acquisition and cross- linguistic transfers, and constructional and
intrinsic FLL (games, movies, pop music, role-playing).
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