Language Awareness and Multilingualism at Secondary Schools

Mailin Antomo and Markus Steinbach (University of Mainz)

Die SprachChecker, the German version of Taaltrotters Abroad, is an educational multimedia project for pupils from 12 to 16 years old about language awareness, multilingualism and linguistic diversity. Taaltrotters Abroad is the European adaptation of the successful predecessor developed for the Netherlands and Flanders in 2002. Versions are available in Dutch, German, Finnish and Swedish.

The project consists of a CD-ROM with a movie, interactive games, and lessons and a SprachChecker passport providing more linguistic information and additional tasks. Four main characters with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds guide trough the movie and the passport: Mercé from Surinam deals with the sounds of language. Ahmet, a Turkish boy from Berlin, is responsible for rhythm and intonation, which he connects with rap and emotions. Zuzanna from Poland finds out how words can be combined to sentences and Lukas, a middle class boy from Germany, uses youth language to talk to his friends and sign language to communicate with his deaf brother.

The project invites pupils to look at their own linguistic identity and therefore increases their sensitivity and consciousness towards language. Die SprachChecker covers central questions such as ?What do languages have in common??, ?How do they differ??, and ?How do they influence each other?? and proves that crossing linguistic barriers is exciting. It discusses minority languages, dialects, city varieties, and new linguistic forms like slang or text messaging and shows that we all use different kinds of language.

In our talk we will introduce Die SprachChecker and discuss the relevance of language awareness, multilingualism, and language comparison for language teaching at secondary schools.