by Wolfgang Butzkamm, Aachen University (RWTH), Germany
Let me share with you what I think is the most important single technique in foreign language teaching, i.e. the sandwich technique. It is a prominent feature of C.J. Dodson’s bilingual method (1967) and was probably invented by him. When modeling a dialogue sentence for students to repeat, the teacher not only gives an oral mother tongue equivalent for unknown words or phrases, but repeats the foreign language phrase before students imitate it: L2 => L1 => L2.
German teacher of English: Let me try. Lass mich mal versuchen. Let me try.
Students: Let me try.
With this simple trick, interference from the mother tongue is avoided and students can fully concentrate on repeating the foreign phrase correctly. This bilingual technique makes it easier to establish the foreign language as the working language of the classroom. By and by, the teacher introduces important classroom phrases (bilingually, but just once) in order to create a foreign language atmosphere:
Teacher: Your job is to match the sentences – die Sätze zuzuordnen – to match the sentences.
He/she can also use richer and more authentic texts sooner, for instance in telling stories:
Teacher: And her stepmother scolded her without mercy – schimpfte sie erbarmungslos aus – she scolded her without mercy…
Mother tongue equivalents are always and immediately given in contexts, which is a far cry from isolated vocabulary equations. We have to understand the apparent paradox that by using the mother tongue skillfully we will eventually manage to conduct whole lessons in the foreign language only. For more information see Wolfgang Butzkamm & John A. W. Caldwell (2009). The bilingual reform. A paradigm shift in foreign language teaching. Tübingen: Narr.
A review of the book, written by Alexander Arguelles and published in the RELC Journal 41, 3, 2010 , is available here.