The Linguist


The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 35

16 The Linguist Vol/57 No/5 2018 STUDENT MOTIVATION of Key Stage 3 (KS3; ages 13-14) and of Key Stage 4 (KS4; ages 15-16). Through lesson observations, questionnaires, focus groups and interviews, I learnt that adolescent German learners in England seem to be motivated mainly by enjoyment of lessons and a sense of personal relevance. To measure learner motivation, I broke it down into three variables: self-efficacy (i.e. how well learners feel they are doing); learning situation (i.e. lesson-related factors); and perceptions of the value of German. I found that these three variables were positively correlated, meaning that an increase in one correlated with an increase in the others. This implies that to sustain motivation, German learners would need to feel positive about all three of the aspects of motivation I tested. Another more indirect way I used to capture how learners felt about German was metaphor elicitation. Here, I asked students what learning German was like for them, and to think of it in terms of a food and an animal. This allowed me to access learners' often complex, subconsciously held beliefs around German. They came up with amazingly creative and insightful metaphors, which I coded into 'static' (e.g. "Brussel sprouts – everyone hates it"), 'dynamic' (e.g. "eating a gobstopper – hard at first, but gets easier") and 'ambivalent' (e.g. "football training – sometimes hard, sometimes fun"). Ambivalent metaphors were associated with continuing German, static metaphors with dropping it. This suggests that even the most motivated learners did not think that German was unreservedly wonderful, but the less motivated learners felt that it was categorically bad, which raises interesting questions about learning expectations. ATTITUDES TOWARDS GERMAN To explore the relationship between the private, school-based attitudes around German and the more widely circulated public discourses, I invented a task which I called 'Family Fortunes'. It was designed to probe learners' perception of public discourses around German, as well as their stance towards these discourses. The first part was an association task, loosely based on the famous TV gameshow, asking learners what they thought random British people might associate with German, Germans and Germany. The second part Does the portrayal of Germans by the UK press stop pupils wanting to study the language, asks Heike Krüsemann W orking as a secondary school German teacher for over two decades, I became more and more aware of how difficult British students seemed to find learning languages. This was playing out against the background of declining language uptake nationally, which has affected German the most. Currently, fewer than half of all 16-year-olds take a language GCSE. The number studying German has fallen by more than a third since 2010, 1 while German A-level entries have dropped by three-quarters since 1997 to just 3,000. 2 Experts now hold that German as a school subject is "headed for extinction". 3 What my students heard about German, Germans and Germany often did not square with what they experienced in lessons, or through travel and contact with German people. This made me wonder whether motivation to learn German, including uptake at school, was related to public discourses around German. This question became a research focus of my PhD. 4 The 'school' part of my study involved just over 500 learners, their German teachers and head teachers from four English secondary schools; the 'public' part consisted of a large number of articles about German, Germans and Germany from a range of UK national newspapers. The participants were students who were deciding whether to continue with German study. They therefore split into 'continuers' and 'droppers', as well as into the last years The problem with GERMAN One theme that was reproduced across the public and private domains is a view of German as a threat

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - TL57_5-Oct/Nov2018