The German language classroom is a space where students have the opportunity to critically engage with current cultural, political, and personal issues. In my classes, I aim to meaningfully connect discussions of cultural topics with other facets of language acquisition, such as grammar, vocabulary, and style. These are not separate but closely entangled areas in a student’s development. By providing students with a space in which they can express their passions and interests, as well as acquire and apply the necessary instruments to deal with complex concepts, I strive to empower students to critically reflect on their environment and the world they live in.
With these goals in mind, my approach to teaching is application-centered and discussion- based. While my students have to review grammatical structures and vocabulary at home, we dedicate classroom time to the application of what has been read. Rather than testing isolated structures, I challenge students to apply grammatical concepts to cultural topics. After reviewing the superlative, for example, I encourage students to write a travel advertisement for Austria or Switzerland and to use as many superlative-structures as possible.
Furthermore, to invite students to participate in discussion, I devote ten minutes at the beginning of each class to a spontaneous conversation that evolves around the students’ answers to every-day questions. If the student answers that they went to a Broadway show, for example, we spend the next ten minutes discussing the show or other shows that students have recently seen. This leads us to a debate regarding the show’s political implications and the broader value of Broadway theatre. This open and adjustable approach to the beginning of class enables each student to speak naturally and to guide the discussion into a direction of their choice.
In addition to creating a culture of active student engagement, my assessments reflect my commitment to creative thinking and group-projects. While I regularly ask students to write their own poems and stories, to enact debates, and to make audio-recordings, I also incorporate diverse original sources, such as news fragments, popular music, and film excerpts, through which students come to a detailed understanding of German life and language. History and contemporary culture play equally important parts in this endeavor.
As a German Literature scholar focused on diversity, it is important to me to expose students to diverse resources and to make them aware of alternative ways in which language can be used and how it changes and adapts to dominant social norms over time. For example, I not only teach the commonly used plural „Studenten,“ but also make students aware of the more inclusive alternatives: „Student*innen,“ „StudentInnen,“ „Studierende.“ In the culture sections, I focus on historical female figures and make works by women a core element of my course.
By reaching linguistic fluency and developing tools for critically engaging with their surroundings, my classes become equipped with a higher mobility in an increasingly globalized world. I urge students to participate in intercultural exchanges, for example NYU Berlin, which facilitate a nuanced application of structures gained in the classroom to real-world conversations, ultimately allowing my students to become engaged global citizens.