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Review of  Handlungsorientierter Fremdsprachenunterricht.

Reviewer: Guido Josef Oebel
Book Title: Handlungsorientierter Fremdsprachenunterricht.
Book Author: Gisela Linthout Wolfgang Herrlitz Gabriele Schmitz-Schwamborn Monika Veldenz-Dunne Mathi Vijgen
Publisher: Rodopi
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): German
Language Family(ies): Germanic
Issue Number: 15.1858

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Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004 10:03:31 +0900
From: Guido Oebel
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 für 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]
YEAR: 2003

Guido Oebel, Universities of Saga and Kurume (Japan)

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.

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

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.
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).

Format: Loose Leaf
ISBN: 9042011289
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 188
Prices: U.S. $ 52