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LINGUIST List 24.1438

Wed Mar 27 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Sabine Doff (ed., 2012)

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <anjalinguistlist.org>

Date: 17-Jan-2013
From: Daniel Walter <dwalterandrew.cmu.edu>
Subject: Fremdsprachenunterricht empirisch erforschen
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3556.html

EDITOR: Sabine Doff
TITLE: Fremdsprachenunterricht empirisch erforschen
SUBTITLE: Grundlagen – Methoden – Anwendung
SERIES TITLE: Narr Studienbücher
PUBLISHER: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. KG
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Daniel Walter, Carnegie Mellon University


“Fremdsprachenunterricht empirisch erforschen” (“Empirically researching the
foreign language class”) covers the basic principles, methods, and
applications of current empirical research on foreign language instruction,
primarily within a German context. The primary focus of this book is on the
process of conducting empirical research in foreign language classes with
descriptions of different methods available to answer research questions.
While the concepts discussed in this book are important for researchers at all
levels, the primary focus of this book is on budding researchers in the field
of foreign language education. Although the concepts discussed are fairly
universal to research, this text is limited to those researchers who have a
strong proficiency in German. In addition, the examples used in this book are
also concentrated on events pertinent to foreign language education in Germany
and, to a lesser extent, Europe.

This textbook is divided into four major sections: “Grundsatzueberlegungen”
(“principle considerations”), “Fokus Untersuchungsdesign” (“focus on research
design”), “Fokus Datenerhebung” (“focus on data collection”), and “Fokus
Datenanalyse” (“focus on data analysis”). These sections span chapters two,
three, four, and five, respectively. Each of these four chapters contains at
least one primary explanatory section written by one of the book's
contributors, as well as a secondary section which describes the application
of the material covered in an actual research project, written by another

The first chapter “‘More than methods’ -- Vier Praemissen zur empirischen
Erforschung von Fremdsprachen” (“‘More than methods’ -- four premises to the
empirical study of foreign languages”) outlines the editor's, Sabine Doff’s,
intent with this publication. She discusses four premises she hopes will frame
the purpose and structure of the book. Her first premise is that research in
foreign languages is constituted by empirically supported theory as well as
theoretically supported empiricism. Her second premise is that quantitative
and qualitative paradigms are to be seen as two endpoints on a single spectrum
and that in between there are countless forms which research can take. Her
third premise is that methodology should be suited to the thing being
researched. Her fourth and final premise for foreign language research is that
fundamental research methods and methodology training be part of teacher

The second chapter, which focuses on principal considerations of foreign
language research, is divided into two subsections. The first section, “Was
ist erlaubt? Ethik in der Fremdsprachenforschung” (“What is allowed? Ethics in
foreign language research”) by Gerhard Bach and Britta Viebrock, covers the
different areas of ethics related to foreign language research. The authors
emphasize that the discussion of ethics in foreign language research is often
a “peripheral phenomenon,” and that a closer look at how ethics plays an
integral part in all studies is necessary for all researchers in the field of
foreign language education. The authors promote taking both macro- and
micro-level looks at ethical concerns. While this chapter primarily overviews
the state of research ethics in Germany, the authors recognize that the
majority of research ethics in foreign language education stems from
English-speaking areas, specifically citing Mackey and Gass (2005), McKay
(2006), and Doernyei (2007).
The second subsection of chapter two, “Was ist gute empirische
Unterrichtsforschung? Ein Plaedoyer fuer die vergessene reflexive Qualitaet
von Wissenschaft” (“What is good empirical class research? A plea for the
forgotten reflexive quality of science”) by Daniel Troehler, highlights the
development of empirical research over a historical context which includes
reflections on how research into classrooms has changed and advanced over the
last century. The author’s main point is that only through reflection on
others’ and our own previous research and ideas can we continue to develop
foreign language classroom research.

The third chapter “Fokus Untersuchungsdesign”, focuses on two major topics,
experimental and historical foreign language research. The first subsection,
“Experimentelle Fremdsprachenforschung” (“experimental foreign language
research”) by Nicole Marx, encompasses the basic parts of experimental design
and how it pertains to foreign language research, such as deciding on research
question, operationalizing and identifying differing variable, and creating a
research design to answer the questions posed. The secondary text to this
section, “Anwendungsbeitrag: Latein und English -- eine empirische Studie zur
Kognatenerkennung” (“Application example: Latin and English -- an empirical
study on cognate recognition”) by Katrin Siebel and Nicole Marx, describes the
preliminary steps in designing a study which looks at how Latin and English
knowledge can enhance students recognition of new words in each language.
The second subsection of chapter three, “Historische Fremdsprachenforschung”
(“Historical foreign language research”) by Sabine Doff and Tim Giesler,
describes the historical nature of foreign language research and how
investigating planning and policy change over time can lead to helpful
insights into current research. This section includes information on how to
find and critically evaluate historical sources. The complementary section,
“Anwendungsbeitrag: Historische Forschung am Beispiel des English-Unterrichts
fuer Kaufleute im 19. Jahrhundert“ (“Application example: Historical research
from the example of English classes for sales persons in the 19th century”) by
Tim Giesler, details the manner in which this study uses historical texts to
interpret changes in English education over a specific period of time.

The fourth chapter, “Fokus Datenerhebung,” focuses on different methods of
data collection, including surveys, tests, thinks aloud and stimulated recall
protocols, and qualitative interviews. The first section,
“Fragebogenkonstruktion im Kontext des schulischen Fremdsprachenlerners”
(“Survey construction in the context of school foreign language learning”) by
Wolfgang Zydatiss, discusses the construction and uses of surveys in their
varying forms, from more quantitative, scalar versions to more qualitative,
open ones, and draws on sources such as Oxford (1990). The discussion also
covers statistical procedures, such as Cronbach’s Alpha, that are important to
test the reliability and validity of surveys. The adjoining secondary text,
“Anwendungsbeitrag: Fragebogenentwicklung und -pilotierung im Rahmen des
Dissertationsprojekts ‘Bilinguale Module im Mathematikunterricht’”
(“Application example: survey development and piloting in the frame of the
dissertation project ‘Bilingual module in math class’”) by Katharina Pfuefer,
outlines the way in which a particular survey is constructed from beginning to
end, including the creation of items, the piloting of the test, and the
mathematical procedures needed to identify problems with the survey.
The second section of chapter four, “Tests als Untersuchungsgegenstand und
Forschungsinstrument in der Fremdsprachenforschung” (“Tests as items of
investigation and research instruments in foreign language research”) by
Claudia Harsch, looks at how language tests are developed and implemented to
determine students’ abilities as well as used as tools for empirical research.
The secondary text, “Anwendungsbeitrag: (Sprach-)Tests in der Praxis: Die
Studie ‘Development of North Rhine-Westphalian CLIL Students’ (DENOCS)”
(“Application example: (Language-)Tests in practice: The study ‘Development of
North Rhine-Westphalian CLIL Students’ (DENOCS)”) by Dominik Rumlich, provides
the explicit example of the development, refinement, and implementation of a
specific language test over the course of time.
The third section of chapter four, “Datenerhebung durch Lautes Denken und
Lautes Erinnern in der fremdsprachendidaktischen Empirie” (“Data collection
through think aloud and remember aloud in foreign language didactic
empiricism) by Dianna Feick, covers what English researchers would call
think-aloud and stimulated-recall protocols for data collection (see Gass and
Mackey, 2000). The authors provide a clear summary for different uses of each,
as well as the different means of collecting this type of data, i.e. audio
recording, video recording. In addition, they show the connection between
think-alouds and stimulated-recalls; namely, the raw data in think-alouds can
be used as a basis for stimulated-recall procedures. The secondary text
provided by the same author, “Anwendungsbeitrag: Videobasiertes Lautes
Erinnern als Instrument zur Untersuchung fremdsprachlicher
Gruppenaushandlungsprozesse” (“Application example: Video based
stimulated-recall as an instrument of study of foreign language group
interaction processes”), exemplifies her preference for video recorded data
and the connection between think-aloud and stimulated-recall protocols, with
particular emphasis on researcher-participant interaction before and during
this type of data collection.
The fourth and final section of chapter four, “Fuehren und Auswerten
qualitativer Interviews” (“Conducting and assessing qualitative interviews”)
by Matthias Trautmann, divides qualitative interviews into three main
subcomponents: Planning, execution, and analysis. First, the planning of
qualitative interviews encompasses recruitment of interviewees, considerations
of where and how the interview should be conducted, how the interview will be
documented, and ethical aspects, including the protection of interviewees’
identities. The execution of the interview should incorporate a
“pre-interview” informal interaction to promote an open and friendly
atmosphere, introductory questions, active listening on the part of the
researcher, appropriate questions, and concluding/summarizing questions at the
end. In terms of analysis, the author provides three main examples:
biographical (or narrative) analysis, documentation analysis, and qualitative
content analysis. Along with this overview, the author also places interviews
in a foreign language context and discusses which languages one can and should
use (first language, target language) to conduct interviews with speakers and
learners of foreign languages. The secondary text, “Anwendungsbeitrag:
Experteninterviews in der Fremdsprachenforschung: Anwendungsspezifische
Planung, Durchfuehrung und Auswertung” (“Application example: Expert
interviews in foreign language research: Application specific planning,
execution, and assessment”) by Annina Lenz provides insights into a specific
type of interview, the expert interview (see Meuser and Nagel, 2009).

The fifth chapter, “Fokus Datenanalyse,” contains two sections. The first
section, “Statistische Verfahren” (“Statistical Procedures”) by Julia
Settinieri, describes basic descriptive and inferential statistical procedures
of data analysis. While a full treatment of statistics in the social sciences
is not possible, the author does a proficient job of describing the basic
thinking behind and application of the very basics. Additionally, she also
mentions, with brief definitions, more advances statistical procedures, such
as linear regression and multivariate analysis of variance, in order to at
least introduce these terms to her audience. The secondary text,
“Anwendungsbeitrag: Anwendungsbeispiele statistischer Verfahren zur Analyse
von Lernersprachdaten” (“Application example: Application examples of
statistical procedures in the analysis of learner language data”) by Urska
Grum, provides an example of basic descriptive statistics as well as a t-test
and Spearman correlation.
The second section of chapter five, “Von der Rekonstruktion zur Integration:
Wissenssoziologie und dokumentarische Methode in der Fremdsprachenforschung”
(“From reconstruction to integration: The sociology of knowledge and
documentary method in foreign language research”), provides a qualitative
method of analysis. This section is concerned with the documentary method and
its uses as a lens into historical and current practices in foreign language
education. While this method is only one of many possible methods in
qualitative analyses, the authors do show the reflexive and iterative process
that is a core part of qualitative research. The secondary text,
''Anwendungsbeitrag: Die dokumentarische Methode als Instrument zur Analyse
von literarischer Anschlusskommunikation” (“Application example: The
documentary method as an instrument for analysis of literary understanding
between interlocutors”) by Elisabeth Bracker, analyzes a group discussion.
This type of documentary method is reminiscent of work in fields such as
conversation analysis and discourse analysis.

The sixth and final chapter provides biographical data on all of the
contributors to this book.


Overall, this book provides interesting foothold for novice researchers into
empirical studies in foreign language learning. The secondary texts are useful
as tools to look at the processes and steps involved in different research
methodologies, but they do not provide readers with examples of what final
research products should look like. In addition, the broad nature of the book
allows researchers some insight into a number of available methodologies, but
this does not always mean that all of the presented methodologies can always
be applied without further studies. More specifically, the quantitative
methods introduced require a solid background in statistical procedures before
one can conduct the proposed research, so this book is not necessarily an
immediate entrance into conducting one’s own research. The same can said in
terms of the qualitative methods proposed. While there is a detailed overview
of what this kind of research entails, the practical implementation of the
qualitative methods posed here require more finesse and analysis than is
presented here. Despite these shortcomings, this book does an excellent job of
introducing graduate level students to the nuanced nature of research by
providing a straightforward overview, listing areas of further inquiry, and
giving descriptions of different steps throughout an empirical study. As an
introductory research methods books, it also emphasizes, to some degree, the
often overlooked or assumed ethical considerations. All in all,
“Fremdsprachenunterricht empirisch erforschen” delivers a well-rounded
introduction to methods and methodology in foreign language and educational
research and a platform from which students can build a more in-depth
understanding of how to conduct research.


Gass, S. and Mackey, A. (2000). Stimulated Recall Methodology in Second
Language Research. Mahwah, NJ. Erlbaum Associates.

Doernyei, Z. (2007). Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: Quantitative,
Qualitative, and Mixed Methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mackey, A. and Gass, S. (2005). Second Language Research: Methodology and
Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

McKay, S. (2006). Researching Second Language Classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence

Meuser, M. and Nagel, U. (2009). Das Experteninterview -- konzeptionelle
Grundlagen und methodische Anlage. ('The expert interview -- conceptual
premises and methodological design'). In Pickel, S., Jahn, D., Lauth, H.-J.,
and Pickel, G. (Eds.), Methoden der vergleichenden Politik- und
Sozialwissenschaft (pp. 465-479). Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag.

Oxford, R. (1990). Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should
Know. Boston, Mass.: Heinle and Heinle.


Daniel Walter is currently a Ph.D. student in Second Language Acquisition in
the Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University, where he
teaches Reading and Writing for an Academic Context, as well as Elementary
German 1. His research interests include second language acquisition (SLA),
with a focus on second language morphosyntax, second language grammatical
gender, and German as a second/foreign language
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