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Authentic Materials for Language Acquisition

Hallo, schön, dass du da bist! is a wonderful, informal German expression to communicate appreciativeness for someone’s attention or presence—the equivalent of saying, “Hi, nice to have you here!” And indeed, it’s nice to have you here!

The road to language proficiency is multifaceted. As educators, we understand that creating intentional situations within our classrooms is crucial for the comprehension and production of the target language. As a high school German teacher, I understand that not only is it necessary to create intentional situations optimal for language production, but it is also imperative that we foster a safe, low-stakes environment for our students, so that they feel comfortable in developing their skills (think low affective filter). Things as simple as making our students feel welcome by saying, “Hello, it’s great that you’re here today” or utilizing media in which students’ backgrounds are represented can play an important role in making a student feel safe and more willing to interact within the target language, even at the beginning levels. Let’s explore the role of authentic media in language production and resources that I have found useful in my work.

 

Implementing Authentic Resources for Language Acquisition

According to Merriam-Webster, authentic is defined as “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features.” By this definition, we can deduce that authentic materials are those derived from the target culture or those that are replicas of something that would be found in the target culture. According to Dr. Fernando Rubio from the University of Utah, the amount of time and the kind of classroom activities may predict success regarding a person’s ability to acquire language more than age does. This leads us to the idea that an immersive, i.e., authentic environment will naturally invite students to produce within the target language. (ACTFL Brief).

In his 2001 academic paper, Language Acquisition in the Classroom, former German Language professor at Universität Leipzig, Dr. Erwin Tschirner, argues that multimedia plays a fundamental role in language acquisition, especially for those situations where the learner has little or no face-to-face access to native speakers. In addition, Dr. Tschirner claims that linguistical input is necessary but insufficient in developing productive competence. In layman’s terms, this means that educators must create situations within the classroom utilizing an assortment of authentic resources. Luckily, educators have access to a wealth of authentic print and digital resources—many which are kostenlos, or free of cost—that can serve as immersive anchors that set the stage for producing language output.

Whether in the classroom or through personal enrichment, Vista seeks to offer support for educators at all levels. When faced with an overwhelming number of resources, however, having a curated list to start with can lighten a teacher’s workload. To support Dr. Tschirner’s claims that multimedia is fundamental in language acquisition, here are three resources that have been instrumental in my high school German instruction.

 

Authentic Resources for Classroom Implementation

Deutsche Welle Deutsch Lernen

Deutsche Welle (DW) is a well-known German media company that produces specialized media for language learners. One of my students’ favorites is Nicos Weg, which is a progressive video series that follows Nico throughout his journey in Germany. Although designed for language learners, I have found that the situations presented in this series are authentic, given my experience as a non-native German speaker. DW also offers advanced media for advanced learners.

 

Goethe Institute Deutsches Kino

The Goethe Institute is responsible for the advancement of German language and culture. With this mission, they seek to provide modern, authentic representations of German-speaking cultures. One way they accomplish this is through their online media platform, Onleihe. On the platform, there are over 100 classic and current German films, all of which are completely free! Current themes that interest students are available. Films can be implemented as projects.

 

Mosaik

Vista’s multi-level German program utilizes a combination of structured classroom instruction with engaging and culturally relevant, authentic material. One of my favorite features is the Zapping video series, which presents authentic TV commercials and public service announcements. In the later levels of Mosaik, Zapping is replaced with Kurzfilme, or short films. As a teacher, I appreciate the guided lessons that accompany each selected video, which help students interpret, analyze, and respond to the media within the target language.

Authentic Materials for Language Acquisition - 1

Wrap-up

 

While these resources are specific to the German classroom, there are many others that serve the same function for other modern languages. Vista’s programs offer a robust curriculum with authentic media at their core in order to deliver engaging experiences. All in all, paring your educational experience with modern, authentic resources is a sure way to increase engagement within your classroom. Intentional planning with select resources will help you create a structured classroom in which students feel safe, are engaged, and are more willing to interact in the target language.

 

Viel Spaß beim Unterricht!

Learn more about Mosaik here.

 

 

By Gio Macías

 

Also read: Pre-AP® Support in Introductory Spanish Courses:

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