Wolfgang Butzkamm has long been an advocate of what he calls ‘enlightened monolingualism’, calling for language teachers to draw on the conscious and sub-conscious systemic and lexical L1 knowledge of their foreign language learners. In this guest post on the German SLA blog “Foreign Language Education in the 21st Century”, he explains why the ‘Mother Tongue is the Mother of all Languages’.
If you want to learn more about Butzkamm’s work, find links to his publications, and watch video recordings of some of his lectures and of classroom practice, go to his website: http://www.fremdsprachendidaktik.rwth-aachen.de/index.html

Foreign Language Education in the 21st Century

by Wolfgang Butzkamm, Aachen University (RWTH), Germany

Ethnographers and anthropologists have entertained us with amusing stories of cultural practices. These practices, which may seem quaint to some of us, are real nonetheless, as real as the differences between languages. For instance, we are interested in the rites, simple or elaborate, developed in many of the world’s cultures, to predict the future. Ways, basically, of asking the gods. As we marvel at these strikingly different practices and beliefs we ignore what is common to them. I mean of course, the apparently universal human need to see into the future, to decipher what is ahead of us, what is to come, in order to help us make the right decisions. We tend to overlook that there is a common ground here, same as we overlook the core concepts behind the various expressive devices of different languages. Essentially, all languages dance the same…

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