What English course settings might a student in Germany experience? Evan Frendo’s professional development session at ELTABB cleared the cobwebs on CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), a relatively new concept at the primary and secondary school level. I know it well from my own school days at The German School in Washington. Going through the school syllabus in a foreign language means that you become a proficient speaker and writer. You’re assessed on your linguistic abilities as a matter of course, often through a small percentage of any given grade, but generally more indirectly, as you must be able to (re-)produce the content and participate in the whole social context. Teachers running this system will benefit from being fully trained to make the additional challenge to students, which is steep at the beginning, work out. Thinking back to my school days, the teachers coming over from Germany were fully trained domestically, and didn’t have to struggle with the school language.
Now, university students in Germany are increasingly expected to be able to handle their entire syllabus in English, too, without having had this CLIL way in. A new trend at college is to have courses in English, which gives students more practice in preparing to move about in their increasingly international field. Having courses in English also lowers the linguistic barrier for foreign students and makes German colleges more international. The BBC recently reported that German universities are attracting foreign students especially because they are free, and don’t charge more for foreign than for domestic students. The British Council calls German universities the most foreign-student friendly.
So how do the universities provide their students with scaffolding on the way to becoming an expert user of English? They aren’t importing lecturers; so their existing lecturers need to skill up to handle the multiple challenge of teaching content and facilitating learning in an international, mixed level class in a language that is not their own. Universities are traditionally cosmopolitan communities, though. I’m going to Leipzig tomorrow and will learn what parts of the challenge they in fact do see as needing support.Students can also take general English courses, often to earn the necessary credits or pass entry level tests; EAP (English for academic purposes), which prepares students to study abroad in an English environment, teaching presentation, essay and job application skills. ESP (English for special purposes) or “Fachsprache Englisch” prepares pre-service and trainee students to handle the job in English. This table illustrates the main distinctions between the different course types.