How to pull an ill - Sloganizations in Language Education Discourse

Sloganizations in Language Education Discourse
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, May 8-10, 2014
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Zydatiß
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Anglistik & Amerikanistik: Didaktik Englisch (CLIL)
Prospecting for „Durchgängige sprachliche Bildung“ in the German educational system – or: How
to pull an ill-defined concept out of a swamp of opaque pedagogic terminology by … (yeah, … by
grabbing whose hair?)
As far as I can see it can’t be „one’s own hair“, ie. „Sprachliche Bildung“ rescuing itself by staying on
the chosen path. The epistemological „Münch-hausen“-trick will not work; because this idea lacks a
comprehensive theoretical foundation, guiding both teacher education and classroom
implementation. The notion also floats about in a swamp of educational conditions and objectives
competing and contradicting each other: see notions like Risikoschüler, Bildungsnähe / -ferne, soziale
Herkunft, Entmischung, Betreuungsgeld etc.
To make my position clear: We need a fresh start for what is also called „Bildungssprache“ in
German-speaking contexts: perhaps a „new hairdo“ (to be grabbed); namely one inspired by a
mixture of Vygotskyan sociocultural theory and Hallidayan functional linguistics. Vygotsky’s theory
places cognition and learning firmly in interactive social settings emphasizing the mediating role of
„cultural tools“ (esp. language) and verbal thought. Halliday’s approach convincingly accounts for the
situated meaning-making of communicative language use by relating texts / genres (ie. discourse),
linguistic subsystems and lexico-grammatical realizations.
The central thesis of my presentation will therefore be that „Bildungssprache“ is not a „sociocultural
capital“ (Bourdieu) a learner (solely) ′inherits′ from his / her elders – no, it is an advanced academic
literacy which (for a growing part of our students) has to be developed cumulatively in subjectmatter teaching by systematically integrating content and language learning. The focal claim will be
substantiated by presenting prototypical tokens of academic texts and tasks that can be encountered
or offered in secondary content teaching. A „knowledge society“ has to promote „durchgängige
sprachliche Bildung“, indeed it has. However, if ′it doesn’t deliver′, there will probably be no
Münchhausen available to pull it out of the swamp of serious economic repercussions.
M.A.K. Halliday (1985 / 1993): An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.
L. Vygotsky (1978): Mind in Society. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP.
M. Schleppegrell (2004 / 2010): The Language of Schooling. New York & London: Routledge.
P. Gibbons (2009): English Learners’ Academic Literacy and Thinking:
Zone. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Learning in the Challenge