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The Mother of all Languages?

Wolfgang Butzkamm contributes this article to Jürgen Kurtz’ Blog “Foreign Language Education in the 21st Century”:

For Learners, the Mother Tongue is the Mother of all Languages

After a row of telling anecdotes and analysing the consequences for the language classroom, Butzkamm refers to a colleague:

Robert L. Allen once wrote: “I discovered that even though dragging an elephant into the classroom would undoubtedly make the lesson more lively, the students would still associate the word elephant with their own name for the animal.”

So, let’s forget about the elephants, and let’s concentrate on talking about the fantastic experience of seeing one – or any other animal – after telling our pupils what it is they are supposed to be talking about. I can’t imagine any more pointless waste of energy than trying to explain the meaning of the words “thrush” or “nightingale” in the target language. For goodness sake, it’s a “Drossel” and a “Nachtigall”, and now let’s get on with finding out why they are important in that poem, or what adjectives we can find to describe their song, or whatever else we can do with them, now that we know what they are.

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