A Study of Language Awareness in a Danish Teaching Context

This thesis describes a teaching experiment on language awareness in a Danish upper secondary school. A short interlingual language awareness course has been designed which is suitable for the implementation of the new subject almen sprogforståelse – ‘general linguistic comprehension’ – a subject which is going to be introduced into upper secondary schools shortly, but the contents of which are still unclear.

The design of the course and experiment is based on considerations of current language teaching practices in Danish primary and secondary schools, as well as on a discussion of research on language awareness and language acquisition. The language situation in the Danish school system is peculiar, in that the teaching of the Danish language seems to be neglected to a large extent. This means that students lack the ability to fully exploit the possibilities of their mother tongue and that their general language awareness is impeded.

The aim of this teaching experiment was to establish a method of implementing ideas of interlingual language awareness in a course which can improve students’ language awareness and linguistic competence. The course was based on Danish in comparison with other languages, both languages which were familiar to the students (English, French and German) and more exotic ones (Hungarian, Warrwa and others). To measure the effects of the course, both an experimental group and a control group were used, and specially designed tests measuring the three categories Danish metalinguistic comprehension (category A), metalingustic comprehension in foreign languages (category B) and written foreign language production (category C) were administered to both groups before and after the course. The results of these tests were analysed statistically, but showed no statistically significant difference between the development of the two groups. A qualitative examination of the results, however, showed that the development of the two groups followed different patterns. Within the experimental group, students who participated actively and who had a low to medium result in the pretest had a high degree of development in both the metalinguistic categories (A & B). It became evident in the analysis that the students’ level in Danish metalinguistic comprehension prior to the course had an influence on the students’ ability to transfer the knowledge acquired in the course from Danish into their foreign languages. On the basis of these results, it is concluded that the course has an effect on both Danish and foreign languages metalinguistic comprehension, but that no clear effect can be shown for foreign language production. This conclusion is further elaborated in a discussion of the qualitative data gathered, and the conclusion of this discussion is that the students’ language awareness has improved to some degree, and that the interlingual approach to language awareness can be useful in the new ‘general linguistic comprehension’ subject. On this basis, the thesis is concluded by proposing a broader strategy for the improvement of language awareness and language competence in Danish upper secondary school.

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Line Krogager Andersen