ERG SES D 04, Language and Education
School education is supposed to prepare students for today’s multicultural society, which requires a high level of intercultural competence and flexibility. Intercultural competence enables the interaction between representatives of different cultures (Byram; Gribkova; Starkey 2002: 5). Bringing another culture into the classroom, language teaching is the very subject that provides the key competences for successful communication across cultures. Cognitive linguistic research has shown that integration of conceptual metaphor in language teaching bears the potential of enhancing students’ “conceptual fluency” - the knowledge and use of the conceptual system of a language (Danesi 2008: 223) - as well as their productive and receptive language skills (e.g. Juchem-Grundmann 2009; Littlemore & Low 2006; Holme 2004). However, empirical evidence displaying the impact of conceptual metaphor teaching in the foreign language classroom is very scarce. Figurative language has still not been systematically integrated in foreign language teaching and students’ productive vocabulary (Littlemore 2009: 94-95).
This study aims at providing empirical evidence for the hypothesis that explicit conceptual metaphor teaching at school influences students’ language proficiency as well as their intercultural competence. The investigation intends to pave the way for an inclusion of conceptual metaphors in regular classroom materials as they constitute an essential part of language (Tyler 2012: 19) and are part of every area, which needs to be used, learned or understood by language learners (Littlemore & Low 2006).
Earlier research provides hints at the positive effect of conceptual metaphor teaching on language proficiency. In Juchem-Grundmann (2009) the issue has been empirically investigated, targeting language learning at university level. The results showed that the teaching of the conceptual mappings underlying metaphors helps students recognise linkages between already acquired source domain vocabulary and the to be acquired target domain. Learner language grows more productive and fluent while their motivation to use the language increases (Juchem-Grundmann 2009: 165-185). This study intends to transfer the investigation to the school context, in which conceptual fluency – in Segalowitz (2010) even equalised with speaking fluency – might be highly relevant for students. Oral fluency seems to be the most desirable language skill for language learners and a lack of oral fluency hindering successful communication with representatives of other cultures can easily lead to frustration (Segalowitz 2010: 31). This study thus focuses on the influence of conceptual metaphor teaching on oral fluency.
Furthermore, the present study is interested in intercultural competence – a variable that might be influenced by awareness-raising of underlying culture-specific as well as universal concepts of metaphors. Universal conceptual metaphors are based on our bodily experiences (Goatly 2007: 16) and do not differ among cultures. Culture-specific metaphors differ conceptually. Through explicit conceptual metaphor teaching students achieve a deeper understanding of the culture they are dealing with. While we “jump for joy” in Western cultures (BEING HAPPY IS BEING OFF THE GROUND), in China we would rather feel our “heart blossoming” (HAPPINESS IS FLOWERS IN THE HEART) – a manifestation of the calmer and rather introvert Chinese culture and mentality (Kövecses 2010: 216). The variation in concepts between different cultures seems to depend on two factors: the physical environment and the broader cultural context (Kövecses 2010: 218). For a language learner understanding the concepts underlying metaphors in the foreign language could thus become the key to language and intercultural competence.
Boers, F. (2000). Metaphor Awareness and Vocabulary Retention. Applied Linguistics, 21(4), 553-571. Byram, M.; Gribkova, B.; Starkey, H. (2002). Developing the intercultural dimension in language teaching. A practical introduction for teachers. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Danesi, M. (2008). Conceptual errors in second-language learning. In de Knop, S. and de Rycker, T. (eds.): Cognitive Approach to Pedagogical Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Goatly, A. (2007). Washing the Brain: Metaphor and Hidden Ideology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Holme, R. (2004). Mind, Metaphor and Language Teaching. Hampshire: palgrave macmillan. Juchem-Grundmann, C. (2009). “Dip into your savings!” Applying Cognitive Metaphor Theory in the Business English Classroom. An Empirical Study. University of Koblenz-Landau, Koblenz. Kövecses, Z. (2010). Metaphor. A Practical Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. Lennon, P. (2006). Investigating Fluency in EFL: A Quantitative Approach. Language Learning, 40(3), 387-417. Littlemore, J. (2009). Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Learning and Teaching. Hampshire: palgrave macmillan. Littlemore, J.; Low, G. (2006). Metaphoric competence and communicative language ability. Applied Linguistics, 27(2), 268-294. Ministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Weiterbildung (2000). Lehrplan Englisch als Erste Fremdsprache (Klassen 5-9/10). Grünstadt: SOMMER Druck und Verlag. Musolff, A. (2004). Metaphor and Political Discourse. Hampshire: palgrave macmillan. Segalowitz, N. (2010). Cognitive Bases of Second Language Fluency. New York: Routledge. Tyler, A. (2012). Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Learning: Theoretical Basics and Experimental Evidence. New York: Routledge.
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