Post 1: Determining what’s out there on linguistic relativity

As I started my research, I realized that the first book I intended to read, The Language Hoax by John McWhorter was actually somewhat of a response to a previously published book called Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher. Through the Language glass was published in 2010 and detailed the history of the study of how language influences how and what we perceive, starting with Homer’s descriptions of color in ancient Greece, continuing through Whorf’s theory of linguistic relativity and closing with the recent studies showing how language was influencing thought. Although Deutscher is arguing for the theory that language does have some impact on our world view, one important aspect of his argument is that the differences are not in what languages are able to express, but what they encourage their speakers to express or perceive. Deustcher wrote an insightful analysis on the studies done on the Guugu Yimithirr, a language where directions are always expressed by the cardinal directions, and those done comparing Russian with their two different words for blue and showing how those aspects of language affected cognition. I was fairly convinced at that point that language had something to do with how we were thinking. And then I read The Language Hoax.

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Changes in German Language Education, Blog Post #3: Summary Blog

Well, here I am, at the “final” chapter of this project – and yet I still feel that all I have given you, my loyal reader, is two abnormally-long blog posts and whatever ends up in this one. You may be disappointed after this, and some of you may even get to say “I told you so!” Whatever the case, I can sincerely promise you I am not done. My background in Language Acquisition before this project was minimal, in Pedagogy virtually non-existent; thus, I entered this project basically as a student of German, yet feel that my commitment and effort on it speaks to my newfound passion for the former two fields of study. I will not give-up on these passions easily, and thus plan to return to this research, whether it be next summer or as a graduate student.

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Changes in German Language Education, Blog Post #2: The Textbook Survey

First off, I apologize for this blog coming so late – if there is one thing I have learned from this process, it’s that doing things when you have the time to do them is important; otherwise, you may have to put off what you are passionate about to make room for the passions of those who are either paying or grading you. That all said, let me share the main chunk of what I have done with my research since I last checked-in: my textbook survey.

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Changes in German Language Instruction, 1980-2010

For my Freshman Monroe Project this summer, I will be investigating the many changes that have occurred over the past three decades in the instruction of German language. My research will be done through readings of textbooks and articles, and interviews with current German-language educators. Through this research, I hope to determine the changes that have occurred in the instruction, as well as why these changes have occurred. Specifically, I hope to examine the changes in the presentation of grammatical concepts such as case and the subjunctive mood, both of which are uncommon to English-speaking students learning their first non-native language. Furthermore, I want to examine the changing emphasis on German cultural instruction in the classroom, and whether or not the current greater emphasis takes away from instruction of the grammar. In order to evaluate the several changes I plan to find, I will use the opinions I obtain in the interviews, as well as information from current articles in foreign-language pedagogy and acquisition.