German, the Germans and Germany: discursive representation in UK school settings and the press

by Heike Bruton. Supervisors: Professor Suzanne Graham, Dr Melani Schroeter.

This PhD project explores how German is conceptualised and represented in UK school settings and the press, and investigates the relationship between those discourses, learner motivation and uptake of German in UK secondary schools. The main participants of this study are current German learners from a range of UK secondary schools, who are at the stage of making a decision regarding their future German-learning. Underpinned by a multi-disciplinary theoretical framework, the research instruments (learner questionnaires and focus groups) are designed to probe students’ beliefs and attitudes through metaphor elicitation and emotional response, as well as more traditional Likert-type items. Contemporary teenage German-learners’ discourses around German are then compared with wider discourses currently in circulation. For this purpose, a specialised corpus of 40.000+ articles on German, the Germans and Germany from a range of UK national newspapers was compiled, and methods from the field of corpus-assisted discourse studies (CADS) are being employed for its analysis. Through its exploration of the relationship between public linguistic patterns around German* with those found in grassroots discourses by key players (learners and teachers) in school settings, the study links wider attitudes towards German* with questions about the future of German-learning in UK secondary schools.

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