LINGUIST List 23.2131

Thu May 03 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Budde et al. (2011)

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <>

Date: 03-May-2012
From: Daniel Walter <>
Subject: Sprachdidaktik
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AUTHOR: Monika Budde, Susanne Riegler, Maja Wiprächtiger-GeppertTITLE: SprachdidaktikSERIES TITLE: Akademie Studienbücher - SprachwissenschaftPUBLISHER: Akademie Verlag GmbHYEAR: 2011

Daniel R. Walter, Department of Modern Languages, Carnegie Mellon University


"Sprachdidaktik" ("Language Didactic") reviews a wide range of topics inlanguage acquisition and focuses almost exclusively on the role of the classroomand teacher in the acquisition of German. This book is primarily concerned withfirst language acquisition of German, but does integrate some concepts forGerman as a second language within a predominantly German classroom setting.While the readership for this book may be limited due to the strict focus onGerman pedagogy within Germany/German-speaking countries, as well as the factthat the text is written in German, it is designed to introduce languageteachers in Germany to the key concepts of language acquisition in a Germanclassroom. "Sprachdidaktik" covers a number of topics, from theory of languageacquisition to teaching communicative skills, and sets these topics within aclearly defined German context.Chapter 1, 'Sprachdidaktik als wissenschaftliche Disziplin' ('language didacticas a scientific discipline'), outlines the development of language pedagogy. Theauthors emphasize that German language pedagogy was initially conceptualized fornative-language German speakers, and only in recent years has multiculturalismand German as a second language begun to be researched and integrated intolanguage classrooms. The first chapter also summarizes the transition fromlinguistically, form-focused classes to a communicative approach, as well as theimportance of the strong influence of cognitive science on language didactic.The final section of the first chapter reviews the impact that the poor scoresGermany received from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)in 2000 have had on recent developments in language pedagogy, specifically thefocus on outcome- and competence-oriented activities.Chapter 2, 'Ein Denkrahmen für den Sprachunterricht' ('a cognitive framework forthe language classroom'), is delineated to the proposition of a refined andfocused cognitive framework which is centralized around one main idea:reflective language use. The first two sections of chapter two show therelationship that people have to language and what the function of language is,respectively. The third and fourth sections attempt to connect this backgroundinformation with the role that reflection and awareness have on languagedevelopment. The authors argue that the main goal of a language classroom shouldbe to foster reflection on language and that by developing an awareness of andreflection on language use, students' understanding of their own language willincrease.Chapter 3, 'Sprachunterricht: Ziele -- Inhalte -- Komptenzen' ('the languageclassroom: goals -- content -- competencies'), covers three sub-areas, thecurrent state of the language classroom, national standards and their impact onGerman as a subject area, and finally educational goals and competencyacquisition. The authors describe the current state of the language classroom asone that has three distinct, yet interconnected categories of instruction:Speaking and listening, oral and written reflection on language use, andwriting. With regards to national standards, there are four competency areas, 1)investigating language and language use, 2) speaking and listening, 3) readingand writing, and 4) working with texts and media. According to the nationalstandards, the investigation of language and its uses is to be seen as theoverarching competence which bridges each of the other competencies to oneanother. Despite the standardization of these concepts and competencies, theauthors stress the point that the way in which each state implements theseconcepts is quite different and it is up to each educator to understand how thestandards are implemented within his or her own state. The final section of thischapter attempts to provide some overarching goals that encompass the outlinelaid out in the national standards.Chapter 4, 'Anfänge schriftsprachlichen Lernens' ('The beginnings of writtenlanguage learning'), begins with a description of the challenges children faceduring the "learning to read" phase of their school instruction in order to getto the "reading to learn" phase of instruction (Chall 1983). Specific challengesinclude understanding the phonetic representation of the orthographic symbolsand the memorization and internalization of those symbols as representations ofspoken language. The authors' describe this difficult instructional period forstudents as a developmental process which begins at a rough beginning stage ofdifficult processing of individual alphabetic symbols to one of autonimization.The final section of chapter four discusses the didactic issues involved withteaching writing and furthering students along their developmental process withwritten language.Chapter 5, 'Sprechen und Zuhören' ('speaking and listening'), is divided intothree sections, oral communication as a subject of learning, goals andcompetencies, and promoting speaking and listening. The authors discuss how oralcommunication is both a medium for learning, as well as a subject of learning.As a subject matter, learning about spoken language is broken down into threeparts: listening, speaking with others, and speaking in front of and to others.The authors propose that the goals and competencies for spoken languageinstruction should include the abilities to contextualize, select a register,plan, develop verbal, as well as non-verbal, interactional competencies,comprehend spoken texts, and develop monitoring and evaluation skills. Teacherscan achieve these goals through reflection on students' language use, as well ascreating a trusting classroom environment to facilitate student participation.Chapter 6, 'Lesen' ('reading'), shapes reading as another element of thelanguage classroom that is both a medium of instruction as well as a topic ofinstruction. The authors define reading as a complex mental process that isco-constructed via previous knowledge and linguistic knowledge, with threedimensions of reading in which competence must be acquired: the cognitivedimension, the motivational-emotional dimension, and the social-interactivedimension. The authors go on to focus on five essential skills to develop instudents: 1) letter, word, and sentence recognition, 2) local coherence, 3)global coherence, 4) recognition of superstructures, and 5) recognition ofrepresentational strategies. Teachers can develop these competencies throughpre-, during-, and post-reading tasks which target different skills.Chapter 7, 'Texte schreiben' ('writing texts'), discusses how current pedagogyfocuses on the process of writing. Above all, the authors stress the recursivityof the writing process. The authors then outline four functions of writing: acommunicative, a memorative-conservational, an epistemic, and a reflectivefunction. The authors suggest four competencies for instruction: the ability toset goals, activate previous knowledge and generate new ideas, formulate ideasclearly, and structure texts according to a plan. In order to teach thesecompetencies, the authors favor a diverse array of writing assignments which aresupported throughout the entire writing process. This support begins withtraining students on planning methods, such as mind-mapping, and continues pastthe final product to stages of revision, such as peer and teacher review.Chapter 8, 'Richtig schreiben' ('writing correctly'), builds on the previousinformation about writing as a whole, but is limited to specific instruction forgrammatical issues with writing. This chapter outlines different principles ofteaching spelling and grammar, including phonographic, syllabic, morphological,and syntactic principles. For instruction, the authors advocate working with astarting point of student-generated content, including whole texts, or simplywords and phrases students notice during reflection on their and others'language use.Chapter 9, 'Sprache und Sprachgebrauch reflektieren' ('reflecting on languageand language use'), ties together the previous four chapters which had allalluded to the importance of reflection on language and language use. Thischapter covers a number of topics for reflection, including grammatical,semantic and pragmatic perspectives of language reflection as well asphilosophical inquiries into language, such as formal vs. functional approachesto language. The prominent competencies that the authors point out for studentsto acquire are an interest and awareness of language and its uses,metalinguistic knowledge, and knowledge of linguistic terms. In order tofacilitate the development of these competencies, the authors' encouragestudent-generated material to be the focus of classroom discussions on languageand to order grammar instruction in a systematic way.Chapter 10, 'Sprachunterricht in merhsprachigen Klassen' ('teaching language inmultilingual classes'), is the first chapter of the final (third) section of thebook. While it builds upon the previous didactic framework constructed in thefirst part of the book and the communicative competencies of the second part,the third part investigates specific topics in the language classroom. Chapter10 examines the multilingual state of many language classrooms in Germany. Theauthors' main point is that the inclusion of students from different culturesand with different first languages should be seen as a positive element for theclassroom. Most notably, the authors discuss the possibilities for reflection onlanguage and language use that the presence of speakers of other languagesaffords. For a more comprehensive discussion of second and foreign languagelearning issues in German classrooms, see Roesch (2011).Chapter 11, 'Sprachliche Leistung beurteilen' ('assessing linguisticachievement'), discusses issues with the evaluation of linguistic achievement interms of two functions. The first function, assessing where a student is, servesthe purpose of understanding students' starting points and finding the contentand instruction necessary to move students to the next level. The secondfunction, providing a grade, is important in understanding how much studentshave improved, as well as serving the administrative function of comparingstudents across classrooms, schools and states.Chapter 12, 'Lehr-Lernprozesse im Sprachunterricht gestalten' ('constructingteaching-learning processes in the language class'), frames the learning processas one that is socially co-constructed by the teacher and the students. Withinthis frame, the authors propose three important areas for development in thelanguage classroom: Balancing construction and instruction, motivation, andcooperation.Chapter 13, 'Aufgaben im Sprachunterricht' ('Assignments in the languageclass'), stresses the importance of contextualizing assignments. In addition tocontext, the authors also advocate systematically analyzing assignments in termsof structure and the level of challenge it poses to students to ensure a highquality assignment which supports the learning goals of the class.Chapter 14, 'Sprachunterricht planen' ('planning the language class'), proposesa backward design for planning language courses. In this type of planningprocess, the instructor needs to focus first on long term goals and objectives.After these goals and objectives have been established, smaller units and thenindividual lessons can be developed. For more information on backwards design incourse planning, see Wiggins & McTighe (2005).Chapter 15, 'Serviceteil' ('Service section'), offers additional resources forteaching.Chapter 16, 'Anhang' ('Appendix'), includes the cited literature, index, andglossary.


In sum, "Sprachdidaktik" puts forth a comprehensive overview of the issuesinvolved in German language education in Germany. While the book's examples lacka bit of concreteness, which would be especially beneficial for beginningteachers looking to practically implement the theoretical ideas discussed in thebook, it does attempt to show ways in which theory can come into practice. Inregard to theory, the authors do an excellent job of discussing importanttheoretical aspects of language teaching within a clearly defined context,namely the German classroom. One major theoretical aspect which is threadedthroughout the text is reflection on language and language use, much is which isdrawn from Ivo (1975) and Andresen & Funke (2003). The thread of reflection onlanguage and language use is highly effective in penetrating the multiple levelsof the language classroom, from the sociocultural (Ch. 10) to the solelylinguistic (Ch. 8), and even to course planning and goal development (Ch. 14).While this theme appears throughout the book, it is integrated wholly into theauthors' framework and does not become repetitive, but rather refined andreadapted as the book develops. For additional information on linguisticknowledge and language awareness in the classroom that focuses more on Englishclasses, see Denham & Lobeck (2005).While "Sprachdidaktik" offers ample connections to other sources both withineach chapter and in the service section, there does appear to be a dearth ofconnections between language instruction and more international sources. Thetext does cite some seminal works, such as Cummins (1979), but leaves outcurrent research that has refined such work. For additional reading which coversa broader scope of international literature on second language acquistion,Omaggio Hadley (2000) provides readers with a more international perspective aswell as one that focuses more on multilingual and second language classes.On occasion, the historical background becomes overly fore-fronted, especiallyif the focus of the reader is on current theoretical and practical topics, butcurrent theories from mainly German sources are explained in an easilyunderstandable manner. This book is a significant source of theoretical,historical, social, and practical knowledge for teaching language in a Germanclassroom and would be highly beneficial for anyone intending to do research onor teach in this environment.


Andresen, H. & Funke, R. (2003). Entwicklung sprachlichen Wissens undsprachlicher Bewusstheit. In U. Bredel et. al. (Eds.) Didaktik der deutschenSprache: Ein Handbuch (pp. 438-51). Paderborn.

Chall, J. (1983). Stages of Reading Development. New York: McGraw Hill.

Cummins, J. (1979). Cognitive academic language proficiency: Linguisticinterdependence, the optimal age question and some other matters. In WorkingPapers on Bilingualism 19 (pp. 197-205).

Denham, K. & Lobeck, A. (2005). Language in the Schools: Integrating knowledgeinto K-12 teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ivo, H. (1975). Handlungsfeld Deutschunterricht. Argumente und Fragen einerpraxisorientierten Wissenschaft. Frankfurt a. M.

Omaggio Hadley, A. (2001). Teaching Language in Context. Heinle & Heinle.

Roesch, H. (2011). Deutsch als Zweit- und Fremdsprache. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


Daniel Walter is currently a Ph.D. student in Second Language Acquisitionin the Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University, wherehe teaches Reading and Writing for an Academic Context, as well asElementary German 1. His research interests include second languageacquisition (SLA), with a focus on second language syntax, second languagegrammatical gender, and German as a second/foreign language.

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