Katarína Vilčeková
Is it "das Buch" or "die Buch"?

Tokyo Sprache
Foto: Goethe-Institut/Anja Schwab

the status of German in slovakia

Slovakia’s central location at the heart of Europe is one of the main reasons for its wide-ranging business, cultural and linguistic relations with other countries. As a result of these relations, there have been various ethnic minorities living in Slovakia for many years, including for example a German ethnic minority. Nonetheless, the status of German in Slovakia is deteriorating every year. In schools, German as a subject has been and continues to be seen as difficult, boring and unpleasant-sounding, and as superfluous alongside English. The number of pupils who opt to take German as a foreign language at primary school has been declining for years. The situation has been further exacerbated by a measure implemented by the Slovakian government: the “New State Education Programme” came into force on 1 September 2015, according to which there is only one mandatory foreign language in primary schools, namely English. In other words, German is in danger of disappearing entirely from Slovakian schools. If it is to be saved, new ways will need to be found of motivating pupils to learn German. One of the possibilities could be CLIL – a learning approach that will be explored in the attached text. 

how the attached document came about

This article forms part of my PhD programme. It is an outline of my dissertation on the subject of CLIL and transferences as a phenomenon of language acquisition, which is to be defended at the Philosophical Faculty of St Cyril and St Methodius University in Trnava (Slovakia) in August 2017. The objective of my research is to find out whether CLIL has any effect on the occurrence of negative mother-tongue transferences in a foreign language. Errors can occur for example if a word like “book” has a different gender in the two languages in question. I explore this in my work and attempt to determine the extent to which the CLIL approach can prevent such errors from occurring. Since the research has not yet been completed, the text does not yet make any of my own research results available.
There are several reasons why I chose this topic, and these are described in more detail in the text. Among the most important are the situation in Slovakia with respect to CLIL and GFL teaching, and the current state of CLIL research.
As mentioned above, the situation with respect to GFL learning in Slovakia can be regarded as critical. Applying the CLIL approach in Slovakian schools could bring about an improvement to the situation as described above because CLIL could serve as a strong motivating factor. Slovakian teachers nowadays are in fact becoming increasingly aware of CLIL. More and more CLIL classes are to be found at every educational level, CLIL training courses are being organized for teachers, and many schools are taking part in various CLIL projects. The subject of CLIL is also attracting attention at universities, and especially at Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, where students are also being taught about CLIL as part of their teacher training.
The first systematic research into CLIL in Slovakia was completed in 2012, with further research conducted within the framework of dissertations (see text for further details). The majority of these Slovakian research projects focus on English as a foreign language, however, not German. This was also one of the main factors that prompted this dissertation project, with the result that CLIL based on German as a foreign language is now being studied. 

current CLIL research results

As far as CLIL research in general is concerned, it is enjoying very dynamic development around the world. As recently as 2005, Dieter Wolff had pointed out that CLIL research was still in its infancy (Wolff 2005 in: Pokrivčáková 2012: p. 68). However, these days there are already many studies covering all areas of CLIL. The present dissertation project was based primarily on learner-oriented research, and specifically language-oriented research. Many research findings (e.g. from Lasagabaster (2008), Lorenzo et al. (2005), Ruiz de Zarobe (2008, 2010) and many others) have shown that CLIL learners achieve better results in language tests than pupils from conventional foreign language lessons (Dalton-Puffer 2011: p. 186). CLIL also appears to have a positive influence on the acquisition of the learner’s vocabulary. This was demonstrated for example by research carried out by Jaxenflicker/Dalton-Puffer (2010) and by Menzlová/Farkašová/Pokrivčáková (2012) (Menzlová/Farkašová/Pokrivčáková 2012 in: Pokrivčáková 2012: p. 70). The positive effects of CLIL can also be noted in two other areas of language proficiency, namely written and spoken skills, where the tested CLIL pupils likewise attained better results than learners in conventional foreign language classes (Dalton-Puffer 2011: p. 186 f; cf. also Pokrivčáková 2012: p. 70). As can be seen, the spectrum of research is very broad, and CLIL was shown in almost all cases to have positive effects. It was also found that CLIL pupils make fewer mistakes than other pupils. It has yet to be ascertained which types of mistakes these are, however.    

about the Author

Katarína Vilčeková Foto: Ivana Beneková Graduated in 2014 with a master’s degree in German language and literature and mathematics (teaching training course) from the University of Trnava (Slovakia).
Currently pursuing a PhD at the St Cyril and St Methodius University in Trnava (Slovakia), planned completion: 2017