Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why students learn a language at university

In the first session at the Australian National University Educational Research Conference on 'Language learning: motivation and student retention', Dr Gabriele Schmidt reported research which showed that students were selecting German language studies out of general interest for travel, not for vocational reasons. The details are published in her book "Motives for Studying German in Australia: Re-examining the Profile and Motivation of German Studies Students in Australian Universities" (Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2011).

In response to this the courses were changed by removing traditional classroom instruction and replaced with more interactive activities. The conclusion was that there was no need to separate students into culture and services courses. However, this seems to me to have implications for government support for language studies. The assumption has been that language studies are of value for furthering international trade. If students are not enrolling for vocational purposes, it would be tempting to cancel funding to schools and universities for language studies. However, a follow-up study might find that graduates do find their language studies of use later, even if it is not why they selected them.

Re-examining the Profile and Motivation of German Studies Students in Australian Universities

Schmidt, Gabriele

Series: Duisburger Arbeiten zur Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft - Volume 84

Year of Publication: 2011

Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2011. 190 pp., num. tables, 5 graphs
ISBN 978-3-631-60791-6 hb.
ISBN 978-3-653-01092-3 (eBook)

» Linguistics
» Germanic Languages and Literatures

Book synopsis

The last comprehensive study of the motives for studying German in Australia was conducted in the late 1980s. The main objective of this thesis is not only to fill the gap of recent data but at the same time to analyse the new data in the context of relevant theories of language learning motivation. The data analysis focuses on students' demographic backgrounds, their motivation to learn German, and on their expectations towards course content. Where possible, the new data is compared with former studies in order to investigate what changes have occurred over the last two decades. It will be shown that these changes are primarily a reflection of changes to higher education policies. Overall, the thesis establishes a theoretically informed and data-based platform for curriculum development which will assist German Studies programs in designing their courses for the future.


Contents: Analysis of the profile and motivation of German Studies students in Australian universities - Data to relevant theories of language learning motivation - Changes in Australian higher education - Data-based platform for course design.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

Gabriele Schmidt has been a lecturer in the German Studies Program at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra since 1996. She received her Masters degree from the University of Bielefeld, specialising in German as a Foreign Language. Before she joined the ANU she worked for six years at the Institute for International Communication (IIK) at the University of Düsseldorf (Germany).


Duisburg Papers on Research in Language and Culture. Vol. 84
Edited by Ulrich Ammon, René Dirven and Martin Pütz

No comments: