A historical perspective on gender and foreign language learning
As part of a week-long visit to the University of Waterloo, Prof. Sabine Doff from the University of Bremen is giving a lecture on gender foreign language learning.
This paper deals with the history of foreign language teaching in institutional contexts in Germany that were clearly defined by the learners’ gender well into the 20th century. Whereas modern foreign languages played a negligible role for most of the 19th century in contexts of higher education for boys, making conversation in French and English was traditionally considered to be an integral part of a ‘proper’ education for ‘higher’ daughters (i.e. daughters of the upper classes), in line with playing an instrument or doing needlework. Thus modern foreign languages had an important status at higher girls’ schools (höhere Mädchenschulen), a school type which was nationalised and thus became very prominent in Germany during the last third of the 19th century. Choosing content and matching methodology, as well as defining objectives with regard to learning (about) language and culture in this context, resembled a difficult balancing act between formalistic and utilitarian traditions – this applies to the conceptualisation of teaching at higher schools for girls in general and wasn't limited to modern languages. Unlike in other school subjects, however, the ‘female’ approach of teaching (and learning) modern foreign languages that developed within this continuum prevailed in higher education for both sexes at the beginning of the 20th century. Prof. Doff will deomonstrate that a historical perspective can enrich present discussions on gender and foreign language learning.
Sabine Doff has been professor of foreign language pedagogy at the Universität Bremen since 2009. In addition to the history of this field, Prof. Doff researches bilingualism, intercultural learning, and the teaching of literature and culture.
The lecture will be held in English, and refreshments will be served.