Wolfgang Butzkamm

Aus der Schule geplaudert. Die Wirklichkeit des Fremdsprachenschülers.

(Veröffentlicht in Der Fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch , Heft 64/65, S. 78 - 81 )



Seit Jahren sammle ich die Aufsätze meiner Anglistikstudentinnen – ein paar Studenten sind auch dabei - , in denen sie über ihre Erfahrungen mit dem Sprachenlernen berichten, innerhalb und außerhalb der Schule. Es ist kein ausgewogenes Bild, das auf diese Weise zustande kommt, zumal in der hier vorliegenden subjektiven und sehr kleinen Auswahl, aber es ist erlebte Wirklichkeit, gerade auch in ihren Widersprüchen. Mancher Leser vermag wohl auch ein Stück Unterrichtswirklichkeit an seiner Schule wiederzuerkennen. Derlei Anekdotisches sollte die Wissenschaft nicht verachten, denn manche systematisch erhobene Daten lassen sich wohl erst im Zusammenhang mit solchen Texten richtig verstehen.

Ich verstehe diese kleine Anthologie auch als Anregung, Schüler - etwa beim Übergang zur Oberstufe – zu einem solchen „stock-taking“ zu bewegen, über die bisherigen Lernerfahrungen nachzudenken, über das, was geholfen hat, ebenso wie über das, was abträglich war. Natürlich wird dabei auch Lehrerkritik anfallen, und das Thema ist mit viel Diplomatie und Fingerspitzengefühl anzupacken. Aber man kann nicht eins ohne das andere haben: Wenn man über das redet, was einem wirklich angeht, kann man sich auch an den schmerzlichen Erfahrungen nicht vorbeimogeln. Jedenfalls scheinen mir solche Reflexionen und solche Erinnerungsarbeit weit mehr in die Tiefe zu gehen als die sog. Lernerportfolios, wie sie bisher konzipiert wurden.

Beginnings

I can remember my first English lesson very well as I was so enthusiastic about this subject. It was a brand new subject which aroused curiosity in me. How would my future teacher teach us the new language? (Edith D.)

Without really knowing what English was all about, I was looking forward to the English lessons at grammar school. There were two reasons why I was so enthusiastic. On the one hand learning English seemed to be something that qualified me to become one of the ”older children” my brother already was. At last my life as a ”real teenager” could start. On the other hand it was something completely new and therefore extremely desirable. (Michaela R.)

All pupils in the classroom were excitedly waiting for the teacher´s arrival. We were all very open-minded towards the new subject. As our teacher entered the room he played the guitar and sang a song by Bob Dylan, his favourite songwriter and musician. After he had finished the song he asked us in German, whether we wanted to learn this song. We all agreed with great enthusiasm.

When my elder brother began learning English at school, we were sharing a room. In the evenings, when he practised his English pronunciation by reading texts aloud and dialogues from his textbook, I listened very carefully and always tried to imitate him. I was so fascinated by the sound of the English language that I often asked him to give me a German translation of certain words or sentences. After a while I was even able to give an account of some of the texts and dialogues from the textbook. (Julia S.)

At the beginning of the school year a group of grade 5 students who had just entered the Gymnasium were asked to produce the poster in German to say what they were looking forward to in their new school. One of the posters had a caption which read „Endlich kann ich Englisch lernen!!“ I took note of the name of the girl who had designed it, and when I met her three months later in the term, I commented that I had seen her poster and how nice it was to find a pupil so interested in English. She made a face and said: „Das stimmt nicht mehr. Wir können ja damit nichts richtiges anfangen. ‚Monny the monster’ sagt dies, und ‚Monny the monster’ sagt das.“ (Candace B., English teaching assistant)

There was a girl who, in the beginning, completely refused to answer the teacher’s questions but just blushed and shook her head. Mr. Jones always addressed her in a friendly way and also the other children tried to encourage her too, but in spite of this support she seemed to be afraid of embarrassing herself. The teacher did not lose his temper and never gave up addressing her. A few lessons later she started making contributions to the lesson by answering simple questions, although she was not willing to take over a part in a dialogue. But the next time they had to act out a short dialogue they had listened to on a CD before, she took over a part voluntarily. (Marion H.)

The sounds of language

Luckily things changed when we got a new English teacher. She was Canadian and the first difference that occurred to me was the sound of her words. It was like music and the words seemed to flow from her mouth very easily. I decided that this was the way English should sound. (Simone C.)

I remember a girl who couldn't pronounce the word 'radiator' and only when she finally burst into tears after several desperate attempts, did our teacher move on to the next pupil. It was awful. (Bernd M.)

The teacher forced us to speak the new words and sounds in front of the class. When we were wrong he corrected us with an intimidating and reproachful glance and we had to repeat the correct version. These pronunciation drills in our first French lessons were really unpleasant and we regarded them as oppressive measures rather than as a necessary support. We were not allowed to laugh when we made mistakes - our teacher did not realise that laughing was sometimes important to hide one's own insecurity. (Kerstin D.)

Movement

But there were other things that we considered funny because we thought that they had nothing to do with learning: at least once during her lessons and every morning during the wintertime we had to get up from our seats and do some simple physical exercises like knee-bends, thrashing one’s arms around, marching around our desks etc. She called these exercises „concentration-exercises“ or „warming-up-exercises“ and we enjoyed them very much. The teacher did the exercises too, and that amused us. We did not realize that during this little exercises, she was teaching us important words like ‘right’ and ‘left’, ‘arm’ and ‘leg’. (Dagmar K.)

English is for singing

I enjoyed listening to English pop-songs. The more words I understood, the more I wanted to know. I started to write song-texts down and asked my mother for the words I did not understand. (Charlotte H.)

It made us feel very proud when we finally sang the whole song and got everything right. (Arndt A.)

I once found a passage which I interpreted as “Watching the world by the spy”. It made sense, because „spy“ could be translated as „kleines Fernrohr“. Later, I found the line in the song was “Watching the whole world pass us by.” I liked to compare my written version with the real ones… I was happy when I got it right. (Christine K.)

Praise and criticism

 I also observed other interesting things. The pupils were very often praised for good reading or for pronouncing a difficult word in the right way. This praise was uttered in English, but telling pupils off was done in German. One could recognize a clear-cut difference between the two. (Iris A.)

It was a shame that she spoke German when she got really angry because we would have loved to learn to swear in French. (Sandra W.)

Unfortunately, almost every time he got angry he would switch over to German. (Julia S.)

 

Boredom, r outine or more of the same

English became a subject we started to dread because of the agony of trying not to fall asleep in class. (Thomas F.)

I cannot even remember one single encouraging event or occasion from the English lessons in the `Mittelstufe'. The only thing I remember is the fact that they were extremely boring. (Anthony W.)

After a few weeks most of were fed up with the boring routine of doing textbook exercises and the monotonous lessons, learning a foreign language had lost a lot of its previous appeal. I tried to make the best out of the situation and "found out" that this stupid method offered the possibility to gain good marks without great effort which, at that time, was one of my main concerns. (Jörg M.)

Another reason was that every teacher based his work as closely as possible on the English course-book. Hence, the structure of the lesson was set by it. If you are restricted only to the textbook it can be very boring after a while, especially when you realize that the teacher introduces the new unit with indifference. (Markus T.)

Going abroad on a school exchange

Today I think that the most important thing was the immense amount of self-confidence I gained. From that point on I had the courage to open my mouth and speak English with or without mistakes. I was no longer sitting at my school bench trying to hide. On the contrary I very actively took part during the lessons and missed no opportunity to say what I had to say.

And when I managed to give an answer and see them smile at my effort, it made me feel so happy that I decided never to travel in a country without at least knowing a tiny bit of the language. I also noticed that now that I knew a few words it was much easier to pick up new words. (Susanne H.)

I think it was very important for us to see we had really learned something which we could use personally. I was exptremely happy when I could speak sentences in French which a French person could understand well and which were grammatically correct. (Melanie W.)

I had to speak to them in French. There was no way to get out of it. The first days were really hard. But after a while I understood more and more of what they were talking about. This was a highly motivating experience... When I returned, I was eager to learn more words. (Cornelia S.)

It was on the exchange that I picked up my English accent. I never lost it and I remember my friends later making fun of me speaking English in school lessons. (Christiane S.)

Fortunately we did not merely go on a sight-seeing tour but we had a special programme in the club every evening. We played pool or did a rally, always in German-English mixed groups...I was in what one might call a kind of “England-Fieber”, trying to imitate the accent of the region and trying to catch as many idiomatic expressions as possible. (Andrea K.)

I was really looking forward to spending one week in France with a French family. Unfortunately, that week was one of the most horrible weeks of my life. I soon found out that I was not able to communicate with French native speakers. Also, my host family could not speak a single word of German. I got terribly homesick on the first evening, and I was not the only one. I remember that one of my friends was fetched by her parents before the week had finished. I was scared to use the few words of French I knew because it all sounded completely different when the French pronounced them, and I could not even identify the words I knew when the family used them. (Judith U.)

Klett, Cornelsen & company

Our new teacher insisted on sticking to his textbook in such an idiotic way. Nothing he did, at least as far as I remember, deviated from either the given order of texts we had to read or from the exercises we had to answer. (...) In fact, he treated his textbook as his bible and in turn we were to follow it like disciples. (Anthony W.)

Learning English seemed a waste of time to me then because the teacher used to stick to the textbook in an utterly stupid way. (Anthony W.)

From the beginning of the fifth class I had regular English lessons. Now I would learn all the words that were necessary to understand my favourite songs. But the first lessons were a big disappointment. I cannot remember the book we worked with but we had to learn sentences like: "Peter says: 'Hello Mary'" and "Billy is a boy". This had absolutely nothing to do with the words I needed! ( Josefina G.)

We kept on reading and talking about the characters in the textbook, about their families, their hobbies, their pets and their school life. (Jochen M.)

My favourite activity was doing exercises in the corresponding workbook. During the first three years we had three different English teachers, but nevertheless English remained my favourite subject. When I had copied the new words down in my vocabulary book, I usually did not have to learn them because I remembered them from the English lesson. (Sonja V.)

Games and competition

One student was sent out of the classroom while the other was asked to prepare a list of ten words about a certain topic. Having done so the student had to consider which words the other person was likely to mention in a two-minute monologue about his topic which he had to give on entering the classroom again. Every time the student who was talking for two minutes used one of the words on the list, the second one was allowed to cross out this word....It was a brilliant oral exercise. It was noticeable that the boys especially showed much more enthusiasm as soon as the given work was presented in the form of a competitive game. (Patricia Z.)

He selected four pupils to stand in every corner of the room. Then he would say a German word and whoever responded correctly first, was allowed to move along to the next corner, 'eliminating' the pupil standing there. When there was just one of us left, the other corners were filled up again and the game continued. There was a time limit of about 5 minutes and whoever was still in one corner at the end would continue in the next lesson. We did not think of it as a real competition where we had to beat each other but as a nice game where we could show how good our knowledge of the vocabulary was. (Stephan P.)

Two teams play against each other. The first group asks the second group a word. If the second group knows the translation it gets two points and as a result, has the right to ask the first group. If not, the first group gets one point and can ask group two another word. The first team to get twenty points is the winner. The advantage of this game is that each student has to think of the most difficult words so that it is impossible for the other team to answer. After a while, we were so good that most of the games ended in a draw. (Thomas B.)

In addition to the textbook we had a workbook. This book contained crossword puzzles, completion texts, question and answer exercises and exercises that were supposed to enlighten grammatical problems. I found round about half of these exercises boring and silly. In most of the question and answer exercises we just had to copy the sentences in the textbook to answer the questions. I found that boring and stupid because you did not get any new information. (Claudia K.)

Projects

Once we made a Salade Nicoise. The lesson before we had decided who had to bring the onions, the tuna, the French beans etc. Then we prepared the salad as it was described in our course-book. Again, we spoke only French and it worked well. (Gabriela S.)

The last teacher I had really made me love French again. In this class there were only us three pupils and him. We did not use any books but at the very beginning of the course, we were asked to suggest aspects of the French language and lifestyle that we wanted to deal with, and then we came up with our own materials. We did not only talk about cheeses, wines and so forth, we all drove to a wine tasting one day, during school hours, and had great fun. (Guido H. )

Teaching tips

One of these projects was to have some pupils invent a character with a complete biography. Then they had to give a “press conference“, the rest of the class representing the journalists. Although everything was held in English and our vocabulary was not too advanced, some of us managed to make up funny details which had to be spotted by the rest. (Claudia B.)

The structure was written on the board and later on we had to construct sentences. One student had to start, for example with the sentence "If I were rich, I would buy a car", and the next student had to pick up the last phrase of this sentence and complete it by inventing a new ending: "If I bought a car, I could drive to the seaside", and so on. This method served to consolidate the pattern learned before. (Susanne L.)

Before the lesson I had made copies of the song texts and had cut them into pieces. Sometimes I left whole sentences together and sometimes only words. I put the scraps of each text into an envelope and gave one to every student. We went into the language lab. Everybody had to find the right order for the lyrics themselves. The person who did it first was the winner, and received a free recording of the song. In the language lab the pupils sat in front of big desks, they had headphones and could rewind the tape to listen again. The students thoroughly enjoyed this task, and worked intensively. Every single one managed to put the words into the right order. In the end, I had to make several free recordings because almost everybody wanted to keep a copy of the song. (Ursula N. )

Reading round the class, watching out for mistakes

The second reading of the text was turned into a competition. If the pupil reading the text made a mistake, the others could raise their hand and make an attempt at the correct pronunciation. When the word was pronounced properly by one of the pupils, this pupil was then allowed to continue reading. The class liked this kind of competition very much. They frequently requested that other lessons be structured that way. (Gabi Th.)

If you had discovered a mistake and it was your turn to read. you were usually too nervous to read properly because you were afraid of making a mistake yourself. It was not very effective for language learning apart from the fact that we practised reading aloud at home so that we were better in class.

One situation worth being remembered unfortunately happened during one of the lessons I taught. I conducted a reading-out-loud exercise myself, after having introduced a new text with all the vocabulary and given enough listening opportunities both through my own voice and the taped version of the text. Almost all the students wanted to read the text, and since I knew this I had planned enough time for this exercise so that every student could at least read a small paragraph. So when I was calling out the students who were to read one girl in the last row, who I knew quite well since I had spent enough class sessions in the last row when I observed this particular class, started crying simply because it wasn’t her turn to read. It was no real problem to calm her down, and she was to read out the next time and was perfectly happy with the situation then. (Martina H.)

I focussed on pronunciation, and comprehension was unnecessary. After having read a text aloud in class, I could hardly remember what I had been reading.

Learn to use, use to learn

Now the teaching became more message-oriented. The pupils had to tell their neighbours what they had done during the week. Together with the teacher, I walked from student to student and helped them if they needed a word. The new words were written on the board, and repeated by the whole group afterwards. Both students and teachers enjoyed this very much and I received the honorary title "Wandelndes Wörterbuch". (Ursula N.)

It is much more effective to ask and answer “real” questions because only then is one able to forget the fact that one is learning a foreign language. This was not the case in class 11 when answering our teacher’s questions was just a compulsory exercise for us. (Nicole D.)

Once, for instance, he showed us an endless series of slides from numerous summer holidays in France. I mean, that was not really boring, but I will never understand why he decided to give all his explanations and anecdotes concerning the slides in German! (Simone S.)

 

Advanced English: intellectual enthusiasm, the clash of ideas

Our teacher at this time also taught classes in history and seemed to be absolutely dedicated to this subject. He linked English with history whenever possible. For the first time, I had the impression that someone was giving English lessons not for their own sake, but to convey something far beyond the normal foreign language teaching. It was absolutely fascinating and I can honestly say that there were classes in which we forgot that they were not held in our native language. We did not use a coursebook anymore but all subscribed to TIME Magazine. We prepared really interesting articles dealing with politics, music, cinema, art or other topics, at home and talked about them in the next lesson. We were all impressed by what our teacher knew about the background of the stories. We gained so much general education that I felt as though I was being treated like an adult in school, and this feeling made applying the second language so much more natural and easy. The atmosphere was so relaxed that lessons became like discussions with friends, which I had definitely never thought possible. (Holger Z.)

Grammar spells Confusion

It was about that time that I began to hate anything that I suspected to be a modern method. I even preferred the very traditional way of having to cram rules and vocabulary, to those approaches that left you without a foothold, wondering why a sentence ran the way it ran and not another way and asking yourself what was the precise meaning of a word. (Susanne R.)

None of the teachers I had were really able to explain English grammar in a clear way... We pupils couldn’t see the woods for the trees. (Cornelia B.)

Grammar was explained in the mother tongue but the more she explained, the less we understood. The examples we were given were confusing because they were not suitable for the grammatical structures she was trying to explain. (Dorothea S.)

These grammar lessons went as follows. Mrs X filled the entire blackboard with sentences and fairly complex grammatical explanations. While she was writing she expected us to copy everything down into our exercise-books which normally took the whole of the lesson. (Stefanie V.)

Nowadays I wonder why we never had a grammar book. Rules were always written on the board and we had to copy them. I could hardly understand these rules; only the examples made it easier to know what I was supposed to learn. (Kerstin R.)

Words

Both in English and in French the teachers only wanted us to use known vocabulary in our essays. We had to express ourselves using these words which we had already learned. But often I felt a real urge to say something which I could only express with a new word, which I consequently looked up in a German-English dictionary. I still remember the negative reaction when I included these new words in my essays. I considered this to be rather ridiculous, as it merely widened my vocabulary - so why was it objected to? (Sonja V.)

When our teacher gave us homework where we had to write something about ourselves and someone asked for a particular word, she always said we should use the vocabulary we knew. After a while we just invented something because we knew that she was not at all interested in what we wrote but just in grammatical correctness. In my opinion, it was a pity because especially young pupils need to feel that the teacher is not only interested in their learning progress but also in their personality and their interests. (Stephanie H.)

The atmosphere was always very relaxed and playful. We were allowed to ask about all kinds of words including colloquial words or idioms. Our teacher was of the opinion that words we asked about were of some special interest to us. Therefore, he asked us to keep a separate vocabulary booklet for such occasions, this way he thought that we would keep the words in mind more effectively. (Christina Sch.)

Compartmental thinking

The invasion of the Falklands took place in our final year at grammar school, but instead of talking about this event we went on dealing with the texts we were expected to deal with. Looking back, this seems even stranger as the English teacher also taught history. In fact, She never taught us anything about English history at all, apart from the things named in the textbook. (Claudia K. )

Please correct me if I’m wrong

Corrections have to take place at the right time and in the right amount. In some situations - like in a discussion - when it is very important for you, as a speaker, to utter your opinion, corrections can be very disturbing. They are disrupting when you want to prove a point, i.e. when you are message-oriented. Sometimes you really fight with your conversation partner. If mistakes are pointed out to you in such a situation, you have the feeling that the message was not recognized but instead the form of your statement. (Iris A.)

Whenever I wanted to say what I thought about a specific passage of a text, every little grammatical mistake was corrected. What I wanted to say wasn’t important, it only mattered if there was a grammatical mistake or not. I remember that I was very frustrated because my teacher took no notice of my ideas. (Marion S.)

After marking our tests, teachers used to discuss the most frequent mistakes with us. We had to do written corrections as homework, probably to become aware of our mistakes and to make sure that they wouldn't happen again. This was not the kind of homework that I liked and so I always tried to spend as little time on it as possible by doing it carelessly. ( Regina M.)

Our teacher used to hand us back our test papers, which had just been done before. He had

made a list of “answers that qualify for execution” as he called it. He would call out a name and ask the particular pupil to read a certain passage he or she had written and correct it in front of the class. Sometimes it was very embarrassing. Once he asked me to have a look at my test and tell the others what my biggest mistake was. I had written “catched” instead of “caught” somewhere. It was a stupid mistake as I actually knew the forms of “to catch” and I couldn‘t quite believe he thought it was anything else but a careless mistake. I was really upset...He would usually ask a couple of good pupils to read out different parts of their test papers. If I belonged to this group it was very exciting, but if I had to listen and did not feel too good about my own mark, then I hated this part of the lesson, as I wanted to forget about the test as quickly as possible and was prevented from doing so. Pupils who never got to read out good passages or, even worse, who only got to read out silly mistakes must have felt rather miserable during these activities. (Charlotte L.)

Good vibes

When I like the person who is supposed to teach me, it is no problem for me to learn whatever I am supposed to learn. If I don’t get along with that person, I seem to take things personally, take corrections or negative statements of any kind to heart and project these negative feelings on the subject - which spoils the fun and makes learning very hard. (Christine I.)

Although I knew little English at that time I somehow felt uncomfortable with her. I had the feeling that she herself was not very good at English, which as a pupil gives you a slight feeling of uncertainty as to whether you can trust what that person teaches you...Our new teacher really was an improvement. She appeared so much more confident in her own English. This impressed me and gave me the feeling that whatever she said was right, which as a pupil you seem to demand. This is when I started getting better at English.

A lot of teachers underrate the value of this feeling of togetherness between students and teachers and also the social part of school life for the language-learning process or any other learning process. I think it is the best and easiest way to create the greatest amount of motivation possible. Students want school to be a real social environment quite similar to their family, only on a different level. (Holger Z.)

But what really made me love the new school were in fact the English lessons. This was not really due to the content of what we were learning, but to our teacher himself. He was a calm and sympathetic man who succeeded in creating an atmosphere of friendship and confidence which I had never experienced before. Nothing that happened in the following years could detach my ideas about foreign languages from that first impression. Learning English and feeling good were synonymous in those days. (Nadja M.)

His methods are so effective, that his pupils very often use English in situations which have nothing to do with the official lessons. I saw pupils performing sketches in front of visitors without any supervision from their teacher. His pupils really give the impression that they not only enjoy speaking English, but they are also able to use it as a real means of communication. I think, this is due to Mr. S.'s attitude towards English. For him, English is fun and he simply loves everything connected with it. (Gabi Th.)

The darker side

In grades 7 and 8 we got a new teacher. He was one of the worst teachers I ever had. He was the absolute opposite to Mr. N. We stopped nearly all discussions in our English lessons, because we almost never had the chance for discussion. Our classroom language had become German again. Almost every day we had the same topics. The first one was Berlin, which was his place of birth. The second one was America and our partner high school in Illinois. America would have been an interesting topic for a 13 or 14 year old boy. But the only thing we learned about America while we watched slides or videos from Chicago or our partner high school was that this country must be the most beautiful one in the world. He was so enthusiastic about the USA and Americans. We never discussed videos or slides we had seen, we just watched them and he gave us information on them in German. (Mark S.)

His mood on Mondays was pretty predictable. It simply depended on the result of his favourite football club. Either he would encourage us to yell the club song with him or, in case of a defeat, provide us with no sign of humour at all during the whole lesson. He found it really funny when we once took an announcement he made seriously. He had proclaimed that we would have to take a really difficult test on the following Monday, if his club was defeated on the preceding Saturday. In retrospect I am still annoyed at the way and to what extent he misused the power he had over us. Children at that age are so easy to frighten and, as far as I am concerned, he frightened me a great deal...Even after the third year, no message oriented communication ever took place. He actually never tried to initiate a real conversation, medium oriented drills are all I can remember. (Norbert M.)

One of my teachers was a woman we called "the dragon". She was frightening, looking harsh and grim. I always feared not coming up to her high standards. As early as grade 6 she informed us who had a future in English and who didn’t. I do not remember if I was one of the chosen but I still remember my panic when she announced her selection. Learning English was not fun with her. She always accentuated hard and joyless work. She used to say: "I had to work hard to become a teacher." She did not allow us the least bit of fun. It was a relief when we got a new teacher. (Robert P).

Whenever he had the chance to drift away from our work he talked about his home. This would not have been bad if he had told us stories about his children or mentioned some funny things that had happened to him but he did not. He used to talk about his wife - how stupid she was, or that she was not able to keep order and that nothing she did was right if he did not check it. Firstly no one was interested in these stories and secondly whenever he explained all those things to us I could not help feeling that actually he wanted to indicate that his wife was standing for all women. (Stephanie G.)

Before our Leistungskurs started, we were taught for six months by the most incompetent teacher I have ever known. Mr X did not care at all for his pupils and their language acquisition. What did we learn in his lessons? Well, Mr X gave us at least one hundred expressions for being drunk. (Karin M.)

Our teacher was an alcoholic and he used to leave the classroom and have a drink of whatever he had brought along in his little ‘Flachmann’. If he had at least taught us French properly, I would not have minded that, but sadly enough we hardly learnt anything. (Kirsten V.)

During our first lesson he introduced himself as “Rudi” and suggested that we should all use our first names. I never liked it if teachers tried to be somehow like friends. I liked to feel respect for them even if I didn't like them. He lost my respect at once not only because of that but also because of his poor English. (Charlotte L.)

 Unforgettable

There is one English lesson that I still vividly remember. We read the text "The day COCO failed", a science fiction short story about the world being dependent on a multi-purpose computer. I thought that the story was absolutely stupid and pointed out in class how much I disliked it. A long discussion started. The lesson was so different from most of the others in which we had dealt with a text. This time the teacher did not have to ask a question to start a discussion. The stimulus came from us, from the pupils. We were so absorbed in the conversation that we did not even notice when the lesson was over. (Claudia S.)

The next day we made a tour into the city of London. What I remember best is a funny little incident I will try to put into dialogue:

Me: (talking to the operator) Could you, please, connect me with Germany, 024...

Operator: Just a moment, please. (After some time) I'm afraid the line is engaged. Would you like to hang on?

Me: Yes. (Replacing the receiver)

It was more than fifteen minutes that I waited for the operator to call me back, when finally I had enough and angrily left the phone box. Besides, there was no time left for a second try, since I was already late for the departure of our bus. (Stefan L.)

To us that glove-puppet in the foreign language lesson was no inanimate object. She was the assistant of the teacher and spoke normal English. In every situation she could act as freely as the teacher moving her. She had that kind of `soul' - namely the one a pupil has, too. Through this unconventional method, we learned to practise dialogues, pronunciation and structure exercises. She was a welcome companion to whom we could all speak without inhibitions. None of us ever forgot her and she was a favourite and an amusing talking point in the so called German `Oberstufe '. (Claudia H. )

Once, a pupil did not know the meaning of the word 'empty' in German and so asked for a translation. Our teacher, sitting on the pupil's desk at that very moment, took the open pencil case lying in front of him. He held it up with the words "OK, now this pencil case is full", and turning it upside down with the contents falling onto the floor and the desk, continued his sentence with "and now it is empty". The whole class burst out laughing and I am sure that after this demonstration none of us ever forget the meaning of 'empty' again. (Anke P.)

This teacher taught English in our first two years and I remember a situation in the second year when she was standing in front of the class with the zipper of her trousers open. A boy asked her: „What is ‘Reißverschluß?’ in English?“, and she answered: „It means ‘zip’. And the boy replied: „Mrs T., your zip is open“. This, I think, shows how some of us tried to use English in our every day language, although it did not always work out. (Silke S.)