Student approaches and attitudes towards writing in German as a foreign language, using corpus-linguistic tools
Linguistic researchers are optimistic about what corpora can offer language learners; however, very little empirical assessment of the direct use of corpus tools is reported on in context, especially for languages other than English. One method of assessing the effectiveness and value of corpus tools is by collecting students’ experiences of using them and establishing if they perceive benefits through using corpus tools. Following a qualitative questionnaire which examined student approaches to writing in German as a foreign language, and a quantitative analysis of their writing, a writing module was designed and instituted at Rhodes University for third-year German Studies students. The writing module made use of both indirect (paper-based) and direct (computer-based) corpus-based methods to teach everyday academic vocabulary and formulaic expressions, based on materials developed for the WHiG project in the UK. This study presents an overview of the students’ attitudes and perspectives (as recorded in questionnaires and interviews), in order to give voice to the qualitative and subjective dimension of foreign language learning, which is often neglected in corpus-based studies. The participating students perceived an improvement in their writing through a changed approach to researching and using everyday academic German.
Keywords: German as a foreign language; student perceptions; teaching with corpora; everyday academic language; Deutsch als alltägliche Wissenschaftssprache; academic writing; students as co-creators of teaching materials.