Tag Archives: foreign language teaching

Call for Papers: 25th DGFF Conference, Session 7: Textbooks and Classroom Interaction

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus-Liebig-University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The 25th Biennial Conference of the German Association of Foreign Language Research (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Fremdsprachenforschung, DGFF) will be held at the University of Augsburg, Germany, September 25-28, 2013. The conference theme is: SPRACHENAUSBILDUNG – SPRACHEN BILDEN AUS – BILDUNG AUS SPRACHEN. The main thrust of the conference lies in looking both at the training side of language instruction ( “Ausbildung” = making people competent in languages for further study and jobs) and the idea that learning a new or additional language leads to self-formation (“Bildung” in German).

The conference program is now almost complete and available in English here. Session 7, chaired by Hermann Funk (University of Jena, Germany) and me, will be devoted to FL/SL textbook research, more specifically, to FL/SL textbook analysis, critique, and development, focusing in particular on the role of the textbook in orchestrating classroom interaction. This is our session abstract (in its English translation):

“If quantity and quality of classroom interaction are crucial factors for successful language teaching and learning, the factors surrounding and influencing classroom interaction, then, deserve our attention. In this regard, classroom management by the foreign language instructor is at the center of interest in today’s research. Textbooks, however, have not received much attention in recent classroom-oriented research in terms of analyzing their relevance for interaction. For this section, papers investigating the ways in which textbooks affect classroom interaction, both positively and negatively, are welcome. The following questions could be addressed:

• In what way does the textbook, with its numerous additional print and digital teaching resources, impact foreign language classroom interaction?
• In which ways can textbooks as a whole or particular additional teaching material be used to facilitate learning-centered classroom interaction? Which textbook-related competences (concerning lesson planning, instruction and reflective evaluation) should be taught and developed in academic teacher training?
• How do future textbooks need to be designed in order to be up-to-date with the current standards of foreign language teaching and modern technology? In addition to this, how can this design meet the conditions of learning-centered classroom interaction in the age of increasing linguistic and cultural diversity and the hybridity of language learners?
• Which qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods can help systematically illuminate the complex relationship between what textbooks have to offer (in this case e.g. types and sequencing of tasks and exercises), the usage of textbooks in the classroom and the textbook-related classroom interaction?”

The call for papers is still open. For further details, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


DGFF Conference 2011 Workshop Proposal

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.

Focus on Form in the Foreign Language Classroom: Planned, Incidental, Improvised?

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

In this presentation, Danijela Trenkic and Michael Sharwood Smith (2001) raise some fundamental questions concerning ‘form-focused instruction’ (more precisely, they focus on learners’ attention to formal aspects of the target language in communicative SLA environments). Does it make sense to focus on form (FonF) in the classroom? Trenkic and Sharwoold Smith come to the conclusion that “there is a place for FonF instruction and feedback in [the; JK] language classroom” and “that there is a possibility that it can ultimately influence ‘knowledge of language’” – “a question to be theoretically and empirically addressed by future FonF research.” This is vague, but due to the paucity of FonF research carried out in actual secondary school foreign language classrooms, it is almost impossible to come up with further (research-based) recommendations, appropriate and suitable to the needs of all language learners. Here are, nevertheless, some additional thoughts on this subject:

As two thousand years (and perhaps more) of foreign language learning and teaching show, focusing on the form of the target language is indespensable. However, since (intercultural) communicative competence is the ultimate goal of instruction today,  ‘form-focused instruction’ needs to be placed in the wider context of developing accuracy, complexity, fluency and appropriateness as a whole.

At present, ‘message before accuracy’ seems to be the best guideline for orchestrating everyday classroom discourse and interaction in secondary schools, but – in the age of standards-based instruction and increased orientation toward measurable, skills-oriented outcome – balancing out form-focused and message-oriented communication has (arguably) become more difficult. How can learners be prepared best for the annual assessment and testing marathon (largely focused on skills, on accuracy and on discrete-point testing)? How is it possible to develop communicative complexity, fluency and situational appropriateness under these  circumstances?

Task-based instruction appears to be a promising strategy, but as research in this area shows, it is still unclear when and how a focus of form should come (before or after the task?). At any rate, mixing up form-focused and message-oriented discouse should be avoided as far as possible (see, for instance, Doff & Klippel 2007: 198-204). – ‘As far as possible’ means that learners should only be interrupted by the teacher if their utterances are unintelligable, inappropriate, etc. Otherwise, teachers run the risk of demotivating learners to use the target language productively and spontaneously.

Spontaneity (in general) should not be underestimated in this context. Since instruction always takes place in the here-and-now of the classroom situation, planning a focus on form is possible, and – whenever new grammatical structures are introduced – necessary and advisable, but in everyday classroom discourse and interaction, reacting flexibly to what learners say on the spur of the moment is equally important (i.e. treating errors spontaneously,  expanding learner utterances immediately, etc.). Future FonF research should therefore be directed at developing a more comprehensive pedagogical framework which takes into account the discrepancies of planned and unplanned (incidental), scripted and unscripted (improvised). process- and product-oriented  instruction and learning.


Doff, Sabine & Klippel, Friederike (2007). Englischdidaktik. Praxishandbuch für die Sekundarstufe I und II. Berlin: Cornelsen.

International ALA Conference 2010

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

The 10th International Conference of the Association for Language Awareness (ALA) will be held July 25-28 at the University of Kassel, Germany. Central theme: “Awareness Matters: Language, Culture, Literacy”.

The conference will focus on research related to language, culture and literacy with an emphasis on awareness. The discussions will center on first, second, third, fourth, etc. and foreign language acquisition, teacher training, research in language and culture as well as on the role of language awareness and cultural awareness in the workplace.

Plenary speakers: Michael Byram (University of Durham, UK), Patricia Edwards (Michigan State University, USA), Reinhard Hünerberg & Andrea Geile (University of Kassel, GER), Günter Nold (TU Dortmund, GER), Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt (Le Moyne College, USA).

Main areas:

– Language Awareness in Language Learning and Language Teaching in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts
– Language Awareness in Diverse Workplaces, such as Business, Marketing, Health, etc.
– Language Awareness and the Use of Media
– Cultural Awareness in Language Learning and Language Teaching in Diverse Settings
– Cultural Awareness in the Workplace, such as Business, Marketing, Health, etc.
– Cultural Awareness and the Use of Media
– Language Awareness and Literacy Development in Language Learning and Teaching
– Language Awareness and Professional Literacy Development

The call for papers is out now. For further details, click

The Role of the Textbook in the EFL Classroom (2)

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

Back in 1934, McElroy stated that “the textbook is decidedly not the sole condition of an effective class; quality of teaching is more important” (1934: 5). 75 years later, an enormous body of research on the role of the textbook in EFL classrooms has accumulated around the globe, indicating that ‘successful’ learning and teaching in primary and secondary EFL school environments is dependent on a wider spectrum of factors, not only on the quality (or quantity) of English language learning materials. The importance of the teacher is, of course, undisputed (see, for instance, Butzkamm 2005).

Over the past decades, it has become increasingly clear that context-sensitive EFL instruction requires teachers to take into account many anthropological and sociocultural factors which influence the conditions under which English is taught. Currently, global textbooks produced for teaching and learning English as a foreign language in many different countries are criticized for paying too little attention to this, especially for largely failing to assist EFL teachers in bridging the cultural background(s) of ‘their’ individual learners and the diversity of English-speaking target language cultures.

In Germany, global textbooks are rarely used in institutional contexts though. Instead, local textbooks and related materials and media, produced especially for the ‘German school market’ by a few major German publishers are usually employed in EFL classrooms. In my view, the overall quality of these products is high. However, as commercial products textbooks and related materials are – in Germany and elsewhere – last not least designed to occupy the textbook market, offering whatever is seemingly necessary and useful in terms of target language und intercultural education (see Kurtz 2002). In consequence, German EFL teachers are flooded with materials and suggestions. 

Psychologically, this makes it difficult to think about teaching options which go beyond those suggested by the textbook authors in the teaching manuals (arguing from a Gestalt theoretical perspective see Kurtz 2001). Viewed from an international perspective, this is a luxury problem, but it is not unproblematic; the more the better?


Butzkamm, Wolfgang (2005). Der Lehrer ist unserer Chance. Essen: Buchverlag Prof. A.W. Geisler.

Kurtz, Jürgen (2001). Das Lehrwerk und seine Verwendung nach der jüngsten Reform der Richtlinien und Lehrpläne. Englisch, 36 (2), 41-50.

Kurtz, Jürgen (2002): Fremdsprachendidaktik als Dienstleistung und Ware: Verlagskataloge für das Fach Englisch unter der Lupe. Englisch,  37 (1), 8-12.

McElroy, Howard (1934). Selecting a basic textbook. The Modern Language Journal, 19 (1), 5-8.

ELLiE: Early Language Learning in Europe

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

ELLiE is a transnational, longitudinal study of the introduction of second/foreign language learning in primary school classrooms in seven European countries. The study has been set up in response to the rapid expansion of provision for early languages learning that has recently occurred in Europe and many other parts of the world. It aims at clarifying what can realistically be achieved in European classrooms where relatively limited amounts of curriculum time are allocated to second/foreign language learning. Included in the study are schools from Croatia, England, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. For an overview of current research findings, klick here.

“Visions of Languages in Education”

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

New publication: Doff, Sabine; Hüllen, Werner & Klippel, Friederike (Eds.) (2008). Visions of Languages in Education – Visionen der Bildung durch Sprachen. Berlin, München, Wien, Zürich, New York: Langenscheidt ELT. [MAFF = Münchener Arbeiten zur Fremdsprachen-Forschung; edited by Friederike Klippel, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany]

Public discussion of school education in Germany has been dominated by a move towards purely functional goals. The obligation to compare learning outcomes between schools, regions or even countries may, in many respects, be helpful, but it narrows the teaching in schools. This is particularly true for foreign language teaching. As a consequence, general goals of Bildung, self-formation and the acquisition of cultural knowledge are neglected or even by-passed intentionally.

Therefore, the authors of this volume thought it imperative to redefine the educational goals of teaching English, French, Spanish, Russian, and other languages in schools at the beginning of the 21st century and to ask:

  • Why do we teach foreign languages in schools to everybody and what are the aims of doing this?
  • What exactly is the contribution of language teaching to the formation of character and the acquisition of cultural knowledge?
  • In what way does language teaching support other areas of school education?
  • What are the past, present and future visions of foreign language teaching?


a) Visions for Europe / Visionen für Europa

Werner Hüllen: Karl Magers Vision einer Bürgerschule mit Unterricht in den neu-europäischen Sprachen

Herbert Christ: Didaktik der Mehrsprachigkeit: Die Vision eines Sprachen und Schulfächer übergreifenden Lernens

Daniel Coste: Plurilingual Education, Identity, Citizenship

Michael Byram: Education for International Citizenship: Language Teaching and Education for Citizenship – In Europe and beyond

b) Visions for Learners – Learners’ Visions / Lern(er)-Visionen

Katrin Gut-Sembill: Visionen – Ein Antrieb zum Fremdsprachenlernen

Jürgen Kurtz: Life Skills-based Education in Secondary School Foreign Language Classrooms – Cornerstone of a Challenging Vision

Barbara Schmenk: Visions of Autonomy as a Core Concept in Language Education

Helmut Sauer: Von der Lernerorientierung zur Lehrerorientierung: Die Lehrkraft als Schlüssel zu “Bildung durch Sprachen”

c) Visions and Context in Historical Perspective / Geschichtliche Fundamente

Frans Wilhelm: Goals in Dutch Foreign Language Teaching: A Historical Perspective, 1500-2000

Daniel Tröhler: Zwischen Ideologie und Institution: Die Etablierung der modernen Fremdsprachen im Gymnasium Preußens und Zürichs

Christiane Ostermeier: Französisch statt Latein: Der Reformplan Julius Ostendorfs (1823-1877)

Sabine Doff: Was von Visionen übrig bleibt: Frauen, die neusprachliche Reformbewegung und ihr Echo in den Lehrplänen des frühen 20. Jahrhunderts

d) Visions in and beyond the Curriculum / Curriculare Visionen

Stefan Kipf: Schule im Umbruch – Perspektiven für den altsprachlichen Unterricht

Erik Kwakernaak: Fremdsprachenunterricht in den Niederlanden: Ein Fach ohne Identität?

Henry Widdowson / Barbara Seidlhofer: Visions and Delusions: Language Proficiency and Educational Failure

Claire Kramsch / Michael Chad Wellmon: From Bildung durch Sprache to Language Ecology: The Uses of Symbolic Competence