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The Teaching of German as an Additional Language in Tertiary Institutions in Taiwan

The research reported here explored the backgrounds, attitudes and professional practices of a sample of teachers of German working in the tertiary education sector in Taiwan using a mixed methods approach involving a questionnaire-based survey, semi-structured interviews and lesson observation and analysis. The overall aim was to determine the extent to which the attitudes and professional practices of the participants reflected awareness of major research-based changes and developments that have taken place in the teaching and learning of additional languages since the heyday of grammar translation. The questionnaire-based survey involved 35 participants, that is, approximately 32% of the total membership (108) of the Taiwanese Association of German Studies and German Language Teaching at the time of the survey. All were working in the tertiary education sector. Less than one third claimed to have qualifications in the teaching of foreign languages in general or German in particular. Almost two-thirds, including some who had language teaching qualifications, were not satisfied with their teaching or with the proficiency gains of their students. While half believed that their teaching was ‘communicative’, almost three quarters reported that they themselves spoke for half or more of class time. Many were dissatisfied with the conditions of their employment, believing that workloads were too high, in-service training provision was inadequate, and research and publication were valued more highly than teaching. Ten of the survey participants took part in follow-up semi-structured interviews, with the information and opinion collected reinforcing and/or expanding on some of the questionnaire data. In particular, the interviewees drew attention to problems typically experienced by teachers as a result of lack of effective training, in-service support and program planning and, in addition, the presence of a demanding compliance regime that was perceived to be largely time wasting. Of 60 classroom sessions recorded in tertiary institutions throughout Taiwan, 55 were reviewed in order to gain an impressionistic overview. Five (5) were transcribed and analyzed in detail. Of the 55 sessions reviewed, 19 were found to involve CLT or aspects of CLT. Of the remaining 36 sessions, half were dominated by grammar translation or aspects of grammar translation and/or audio-lingual methodology or aspects of audio-lingual methodology. The others largely involved straightforward lecturing and/or translation of textbook segments. Of the 5 sessions that were analyzed in detail, 4 were teacher-dominated, with the teacher talking most of the time, generally translating texts or explaining grammar points. Student contributions were largely confined to chorus reading, gap filling and, in some cases, answering teacher initiated questions. Overall, this research suggests that German is taught in Taiwanese tertiary institutions largely by untrained teachers who are, in common with those who have had some training, struggling to cope in the absence of effective program planning and in the face of very heavy workloads and largely unsupportive and time-consuming compliance regimes. Unless tertiary educational institutions begin to take the needs of these teachers and their students seriously, the dire situation so far as the teaching and learning of German in tertiary institutions in Taiwan is concerned is very unlikely to improve in the future.
Type of thesis
Parchwitz, J.-A. (2015). The Teaching of German as an Additional Language in Tertiary Institutions in Taiwan (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9903
University of Waikato
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