Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany
The 24th Biennial Conference 2011 of the German Society for Foreign Language Research (DGFF) will be held September 28 to October 1 at the University of Hamburg, Germany. The conference theme is: Globalization – Migration – Foreign Language Learning and Teaching (Globalisierung – Migration – Fremdsprachenunterricht). The call for papers is not out yet, but the organizers have already issued a call for workshop proposals. I’d like to organize such a workshop (or an international research symposium) focusing on “Enhancing Young Learners’ Developing Concepts of Self and Other in the Primary FL classroom”. Here’s the abstract I have already submitted to the conference organizers – I’m very interested to hear what you think about the overall project:
Enhancing Young Learners’ Developing Concepts of Self and Other in the Primary FL Classroom
Current primary school EFL curricula in Germany (see, for instance, North-Rhine Westphalia 2008) place considerable emphasis on the incorporation of intercultural learning and teaching (fostering language and culture awareness, etc.) into a comprehension-driven, usage-based framework of instruction aimed above all at the development of basic communication skills in ways that are appropriate for children. Culture-sensitive language learning and teaching is thus not (or no longer) conceived of as an aside, but as an integral part of foreign language education in primary schools. However, in view of the current state-of-the-art of foreign language research in this area, the optimism shining through in curricular statements such as the one below may not be entirely warranted. The main reasons for some skepticism might include: a) we still know very little about the intricate mix of ((meta-)cognitive, (meta-)linguistic, affective, sociocultural, moral, etc.) dispositions, abilities and constraints involved in culture-sensitive education in primary EFL classrooms, b) the patchwork of case studies on adequate and fruitful instructional designs and activities (arguably) does not provide a fully reliable basis for the development and implementation of long-term instructional programs as yet, c) the limited amount of time allocated to the teaching of English in primary schools (90 minutes a week in Germany), and d) the fact that FL teacher education in this area (in Germany and, perhaps, elsewhere) is only just beginning to meet the challenges resulting from such a complex endeavor:
„Ausgehend von ihren eigenen Erfahrungen erhalten die Kinder Einblick in fremde Kulturen und Lebensweisen. Sie erkennen dabei Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede zwischen ihrer eigenen Situation und den Lebensumständen anderer. In Gesprächen über die mehrsprachige, multikulturelle Wirklichkeit von Kindern im englischen Sprachraum wird ihnen die kulturelle und sprachliche Vielgestaltigkeit der eigenen Lebenswirklichkeit zunehmend bewusster. Dies stärkt die Entwicklung von Aufgeschlossenheit, Verständnisbereitschaft und Toleranz. Eine wesentliche Voraussetzung für das Verständnis fremder Kulturen und Lebensweisen ist Authentizität. An diesem Anspruch müssen sich Themen, Situationen und vor allem Materialien messen lassen.“ (MSW NRW 2008: 10).
This interdisciplinary workshop / research symposium is intended to address and illuminate some fundamental aspects of intercultural education in primary FL classrooms, seeking to bridge theory and practice as far as possible. i.e.:
a) The concept of (the aspects of) intercultural communicative competence to be targeted in primary FL classrooms (openness towards other cultures, transcultural curiosity, ability to adopt a different perspective?); as Kramsch (2008: 24) points out, “In Europe, researchers stress education for citizenship and moral responsibility in the multicultural societies of Europe, they emphasize democratic debate, tolerance of the Other and reflection of the Self. In the U.S., advocates of intercultural competence stress individual learner development and community spirit, participation and task-based collaboration.”
b) The significance of acculturation and enculturation in today’s primary school FL classrooms (focusing on aspects of migration, pluriculturalism and plurilingualism).
c) The sociology and psychology of child language development (focusing on the child’s developing (meta-)cognitive, (meta-)linguistic, affective, social and moral capacities).
d) The implications of current research for creating curricula and for implementing convincing and successful instructional programs and classroom practices, in the primary FL classroom as well as in (pre-service) FL teacher education.
Envisioned concept of the workshop / research symposium: brief statements/presentations, plenary debate; workshop languages: English and German
Kramsch, Claire (2008). The intercultural yesterday and today: Political perspectives. In Renate Schulz & ErwinTschirner (Eds.) Communicating across Borders: Developing Intercultural Competence in German as a Foreign Language. Munich: iudicium, 2008, 5-27.
MSW NRW (2008). Lehrplan Englisch für die Grundschulen des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen. Available online.