Teaching of Spoken German

The following summary was sent to the list by Dr Sheila Watts (sw271@cam.ac.uk) on 31 March 2000.


Dear Colleagues,

Thank you very much for responding to my questionnaire on oral German. This is a digest of the responses for those who are interested.

Representatives from a total of 34 institutions responded, of which four were in the Republic of Ireland, 24 'old' UK universities and 6 'new' UK universities. Some questions led to slightly ambiguous answers, unfortunately, and of course, some respondents gave more detail than others. The digest covers the main points.

Does your institution offer separate tuition specifically in spoken German (conversation classes)?

Yes - 30
No - 4

The 'no' answers gave similar reasons: 'tied in with essay-writing'; 'more integrated'; 'not called conversation, integrated into Sprachpraxis'.

If YES, to students in which years / courses?

All - 29
The not all answers were: 'only first years', 'only final years', 'only first and final years', 'only second and final years', 'only higher levels'.

Is spoken German tested in an oral exam at the end of each year (or in each examination period) at your institution?

Yes - 32
No - 3
(the figures don't add up because this question intersects with the previous one).

The 'no' answers are for institutions which don't examine oral every year, but only in years 3 and 4, 1 and 4, 4 only and, in one case, a 'conditional' oral which depends on level of written results.

Is a specific content, e.g. dissertation, a specified theme etc. tested at any or all of these oral exams?

Yes - 25
No - 5

This was a difficult question, as the answers show, since there were rather different notions of what a 'specific content' might be.

On the yes answers:
2 prepared topics, chosen by self/examiners; prepared topics; topics in 2nd and 4th yr; 4th yr; Referat (content tested less than language) + presentations; prepared topics; finalists on dissertation and topics; phone call for first years, in later years presentations, dissertation discussion; presentations on course content; presentation on agreed topic; prepared topics, and oral presentation in class; own topics; own topic at appropriate intellectual level; course content; student-chosen topic; only in finals; prepared topics, though content not really examined; choice of topic by student; topics from Deutschlandkunde and prepared topics, one set one free; approved topics, summarise and discuss video; topics free or linked to German Studies courses; specified theme; simulated job interview + Streitgespräch; summary, presentation and job interview; oral presentation, presentation and discussion of text; topic prepared from list, then preparation based on document in final year; topics are specified but no marks are given for content; set topic; mini-Referate; specified themes; prepared chosen topic.

Does your institution offer courses in which spoken German is an integral, examined part of the package? (e.g. courses with an examined oral presentation)

Yes - 25
No - 5

I discounted this question in my paper because I felt the answers were too ambiguous, and that I should have specified more clearly what I meant by 'integral'. 10 institutions replied yes, to all students at all levels. There were four indications that presentations were tested for students in law, business studies and management.

Is your final year oral exam explicitly tied in to the year abroad in terms of either content or timing? (e.g. based on work experience abroad: held at a different time to other exams, closer to the period spent abroad etc.)

Yes - 10
No - 24 (of which 'Use of uninitialized value in concatenation (.) or string at E:\listplex\SYSTEM\SCRIPTS\filearea.cgi line 455, line 67. not all students go abroad': 4)

These answers were the most differentiated and interesting in many ways. Five institutions have an oral which is timed to be earlier in the year, of which the most extreme is one institution which holds final-year orals in October, then one in December, two in January, and one at the end of the first semster. Two respondents mentioned that this was done 'at the request of finalists'. Another 4 respondents consider this timing desirable: they say that it is 'being introduced', 'under discussion' or 'not done for logistical reasons' despite being thought desirable; in one case the modular structure of the institution was blamed for not allowing this degree of flexibility. Only three respondents mentioned content and said that the oral was all or partly based on discussion of the year abroad: one instiution 'debriefs' its students and videos this session for use by future students who are deciding where to go.

Once again, thank you all very much for some very informative responses, and especially to those who wrote very full descriptions of their practice.


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Last modified: 31 March 2000.