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This issue of CDTL Brief is the first of a two-part Brief that features the teaching practices of the 2004/2005 Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) winners.

August 2006, Vol. 9, No. 3 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Learning German Beyond the Classroom
 
Ms Rita M. Niemann
Centre for Language Studies
 

I consider myself very fortunate to be a German language teacher at NUS. My students hail from different countries, backgrounds and faculties. These differences, together with varied student motivation, interest and expectation, make the class vibrant and heterogeneous. However, in spite of the obvious differences, all students have one goal in common—they want to learn a new language and they want to learn more about the cultural background(s) of the German language.

German may not be a leading world language but the latest figures from the European Union show that the number of students learning German as a foreign language is higher than 20 years ago and, in fact, German is the most taught second foreign language in more than one third of the European member states. German is therefore often called a language of encounter, and this is true not only in Europe.

Encounters with other speakers of the language—be it with native speakers, speakers of German as a second or foreign language or other learners—can be considered crucial to maintain a high level of motivation among students learning the language. Apart from the German language teachers and some exchange students from German speaking countries, moments of authentic encounters are rather rare at NUS. Sources of information about all things German are generally available in the form of written text or recorded audio and video. But clearly, textbook knowledge and classroom experiences, as excellent as they might be, cannot compete with first-hand encounters.

The best way to offer first-hand encounters with the language is, of course, by complementing the already highly interactive and communicative German language classes with language immersion cum home stay programmes at a partner university in one of the German language speaking countries. Over the past decade, more and more students took part in such three- to four-week long programmes during the NUS term break (May to July) and in student exchange programmes. However, not all students can afford to go for such programmes and most can only go once during the course of their undergraduate studies.

A more widely accessible and certainly more affordable way to immerse students in the target language and culture is to organise encounters with native speakers and fellow learners of the language from different proficiency levels. Such contact opportunities will no doubt contribute positively to a holistic language learning experience for all. Although they cannot easily
be integrated into classroom-based foreign language learning activities on a regular basis, all opportunities, when they present themselves, need to be carefully considered.

A more widely accessible and certainly more affordable way to immerse students in the target language and culture is to organise encounters with native speakers and fellow learners of the language from different proficiency levels. Such contact opportunities will no doubt contribute positively to a holistic language learning experience for all. Although they cannot easily
be integrated into classroom-based foreign language learning activities on a regular basis, all opportunities, when they present themselves, need to be carefully considered.

The RAP-workshop1 was conducted by artistes from Berlin with generous financial assistance from the Goethe-Institute Singapore. The workshop matched participants’ interests and learning needs perfectly as participants were encouraged to write rhymes using basic to more advanced texts in German and to speak or sing the texts to a hip-hop beat.

Writing rhymes in a foreign language is not only a challenge for language learners of all proficiency levels, it also enables learners to discover something new about the language and makes them more aware of the sound of the language. Moreover, it allows students to use the language freely and creatively without having to conform to the ever so important linguistic rules. During the workshop, the RAP-artistes would go around, listen to the texts, give feedback and provide support mostly in German. Next, students had to find a beat to match their texts and practise singing or speaking it with the correct pronunciation and in tune with the beat. This probably proved to be the most difficult but also the most fun and rewarding part of the workshop. At the end, the RAPs were recorded and will be presented to students on an audio CD.

The BlindCycle Tour 2005/2006 project2 was not only learner-centred and task-based like the workshop, but also very much process-oriented. Students taking LAG4202 “German 6” learnt about the tour from a German newspaper article that was read in class. At that point in time, the tour was already approaching Malaysia and reaching Singapore soon.

The eight students agreed spontaneously to make a report on this extraordinary tour as their project topic and set off immediately to divide tasks and responsibilities according to each team member’s strengths. Students soon managed to contact the leader of the tour via email, developed a number of interview questions, planned a meeting with the cyclists and even contacted the editor of Impulse (a magazine for the German speaking community in Singapore) to ask if the magazine would be interested in an article about such an extraordinary tour.

At the end of the project, the group was extremely proud of their achievement—a beautiful presentation, a video interview and a published article in a German magazine. More importantly, the project presented opportunities for a group of NUS students (from Singapore and Indonesia) to use the German language to communicate with native German speakers for a very authentic purpose! And, who knows, maybe one or two of them will accompany Sebastian Burger and his team on their next cycling tour through China.


1. This was the second RAP-workshop offered to students at NUS. More information on the RAP workshops is available at: http:// www.musicisthelanguage.de/13.0.html (Last accessed: 15 August
2006).

2. Students’ project presentation, video interview and magazine article on the ‘BlindCycle-Tour 2005/2006’ are available at: http://courseware.nus.edu.sg/e%2Ddaf/rmn/LAG4202/LAG4202_ AY0506_ SemII/Interviewseite.htm (Last accessed: 15 August 2006).

 
 
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Inside this issue
Shy Teachers and Large Groups
   
Education is not Education without Research
   
Learning German Beyond the Classroom
   
My Teaching Philosophy and Approach: Connecting Teaching with the Real World
   
Desire is the Root to All Learning— Light My Fire!
   
Content Reduction vs. Independent Learning