A strategic approach to reading in German for specialized purposes

Michael Schultz, University of Pennsylvania


Many graduate students need to attain in one or more foreign languages a level of reading competence sufficient for research and professional needs. Prior knowledge and strategic competence appear to be the most significant resources that readers of foreign languages can draw on to compensate for insufficient linguistic knowledge or lack of communicative proficiency in the foreign language. It is necessary to develop, on the basis of accepted models of first-, second- and foreign-language reading, a strategic approach to reading and learning to read in German for specialized purposes. The proposed approach features a drastically reduced grammatical syllabus, systematic development of vocabulary, and explicit strategy training. Reduced grammar instruction focuses on only those elements of syntax and grammar essential to the reading of German expository prose. Vocabulary development in the strategic reading course provides training in recognition of "basic" vocabulary and in procedures for inferring context the meanings of unfamiliar words; it also helps readers develop individual procedures for identifying, organizing and remembering important specialized vocabulary. Strategic reading is predictive reading to satisfy specific purposes; strategy training leads readers to independent articulation of reading goals and activation of relevant and appropriate background knowledge. This approach allows the reader flexibility in interacting with the text; the needs, questions, expectations and goals of the individual reader determine the nature and extent of the reader's interaction with the text and set the standard by which comprehension is to be measured. Readers of German--or of any foreign language--must be encouraged to think about their reading, to relate what they read to what they already know; the reader is an active participant in the reconstruction of meaning. Implementation of this strategic approach entails a drastic reorientation of the attitudes of learners and teachers alike, as well as a reevaluation of the nature and purpose of the graduate foreign-language reading requirement. Strategic reading instruction for academic and professional purposes requires new learning materials, new assessment standards and techniques, and new teaching methods.

Subject Area

Language|Language arts|Literacy|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Schultz, Michael, "A strategic approach to reading in German for specialized purposes" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9211999.