Three Languages in the Swiss Primary Section: A Challenge, but not impossible – A Comparative Study
Caroline Briggs Ambrosi de Magistris Verzier compares three different course books for teaching English at primary school level starting in class 3 or 5. Her discussion covers a range of topics from language acquisition in general and as a second or third language to various teacher types and teaching methods, including the role of the teacher within the classroom and the importance of a classroom culture. A comparison between global coursebooks and locally written coursebooks is also covered in depth.
In chapters 5 – 7, the author examines the locally-written textbooks of Canton Zürich (Explorers) and Canton Lucerne (Young World) as well as Canton Vaud’s textbook (More!), a global course book used in the pilot project. Her analysis focuses on the basic skills of language acquisition such as listening, speaking, reading, paying special attention to grammar structures, vocabulary acquisition, language awareness, transfer of languages, learning strategies, songs, text types, phonology, and reading (during , pre- and post-reading activities). The author includes an evaluation of assessment checks, progress reports, and language portfolios of students, and whether extra practice material is provided.
In her conclusion, the author highlights three different methodologies used in the three course books. In particular, she argues that the use of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach that takes cognizant of pupils’ prior language experiences is a winning combination in teaching English as a second or third language. The book underscores the role of the teacher and the importance of teacher training. She warns us not to underestimate teacher-education, regardless of the kind of coursebook used.
The author’s well-researched study has greatly enhanced the discussion on the issue of teaching English as a second or third language in primary schools. I can highly recommend this book, especially because a comparable work in this field hasn’t been written yet. The comparison of the three coursebooks is highly informative and extremely helpful for those schools that are in the process of deciding which coursebook to use. Her writing style is clear and well-organized. As a language teacher, I found her explanations of the wide field of teaching methods very useful.
I plan to use this book as a workbook for myself and hope that it will be available in a printed version very soon.