Grammar teaching in Germany

  • [Ingrid Piller in 1997]
    • Do schools teach the classification of words or the idenfification of grammatical functions (subject, object, etc)? It’s part of the Bavarian curriculum at all levels of schooling; the same goes, I believe, for the other more conservative German Laender (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony).
    • At what age does it start? 2nd or 3rd grade
    • How successful is it? I don’t know how to measure success here but even my mother who had only 8 years of schooling (back in the 50s) can classify words and identify grammatical functions, and can’t believe that someone would want to become a linguist and study such kid’s stuff. On a more serious note: if you do Latin as 2nd foreign language in high school (about 40-50% of the students), you are usually quite good in advanced grammatical analysis by the time you leave school.
  • A paper written specially by Hrvoje Hlebec at the University of Hildesheim, with help from Ursula Bredel and Reinold Funke. Main points:
    • Grammatical analysis is established as a normal part of teaching from first to 10th grade.
    • Linguists and educationists have debated content and methods extensively since Hans Glinz’s work in the 1950s, but have had little impact on classroom practice.
    • “many teachers resist grammar to a certain degree, because they do not believe that grammar instruction generates sustainable knowledge”
    • Since major education reforms (Bildungsstandards) of the early 2000’s, “Analyzing language and language use” (including rather traditional grammar) has officially been seen in grades 1-10 as a support for L1 speaking and listening, reading and writing, but especially for writing; in view of research, it’s not clear whether or how this support will work.
    • For grades 11-13, though, ‘Reflecting upon language and language use’ is an autonomous study demanding ‘a solid knowledge of grammar and semantic categories’.
    • Early grammatical analysis uses word classes and grammatical functions with notional names and definitions (e.g. a verb is a Tuwort, a ‘doing word’).
    • In 1982, the government issued an official register of grammatical terminology which linguists started to expand in 2009.
    • The scope of textbooks includes grammatical analysis, and many teachers use them, but they tend to be grammatically flawed and too deductive, without enough student involvement.
    • Many undergraduate students have poor knowledge of grammar as well as poor writing skills, so universities need to find a way to break the downward spiral of poorly trained graduates becoming poorly equipped school teachers.
  • See also historical material on the role of Germany in developing notations for sentence analysis.

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