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Intercomprehension in Language Teacher Education

4.0 Classroom experiments

Before compiling the teacher training modules, it was important for us to consider the students' future careers as foreign language teachers and assess approaches and activities that would address intercomprehension in the foreign language classroom. To that end experiments were designed to find out how intercomprehension could be implemented in the classroom.

As outlined in 3.0 the role of the mother tongue and the cultural dimension of language learning are aspects that are highlighted in the national curriculum guidelines. Furthermore, the fact that the curriculum guidelines emphasize communication and text competence - both of which refer to oral as well as to written language - signals a holistic view of language learning. Therefore, when designing the classroom experiments, we wanted to apply methods that would promote a holistic approach.

We found it convenient to take the three educational stages of compulsory education in Norway as a starting-point: grades 1-4 (learners aged 6-10), grades 5-7 (learners aged 10-13), and grades 8-10 (learners aged 13-16). Experiments were thus designed for each of these three stages, with an emphasis on learners aged 6-10.

4.1 Young learners in L-97

According to the curriculum guidelines, the education of young learners (grades 1-4) is to be based on activities that will create curiosity and the need to investigate. L-97 emphasizes fun and play as crucial factors in the learning situation, factors which will develop the learner's language, cognitive abilities and communicative competence and presumably encourage them affectively and develop their motivation. In a learning situation where fun and play is the basis for classroom activities, there will, according to the guidelines, be an educational atmosphere where on the one hand the child is stimulated and on the other an atmosphere where the playing child affects the learning situation, in other words a mutual and interactive relationship between the child and the learning situation.

Another important aspect in the curriculum guidelines is that topic-based and cross-curricular activities will promote the abilities of the learner and pave the way for the mastering of subject-matter and social relations.

For learners in grades 1-4 topic-based and cross-curricular education will be the major approach to learning. This organization will see to it that topics from several subjects are integrated in such a way as to focus on the individual subjects in turn. The guidelines suggest that 60 % of the school year for grades 1-4 should be organized according to this principle. A natural development will be to move gradually from a completely topic-based organization to a more subject-based organization, so that at the end of compulsory education (at the age of 16) the organization is basically subject-based.

4.2 The active and autonomous learner

With 6- and 7-year-olds we experimented with picture books and found that using such books was gratifying because it highly stimulated and motivated them.

When these pupils became 8-year-olds picture books were still used. In addition we wanted to experiment with a method that would explicitly focus on the active and autonomous learner. Since an overall objective in Norwegian education is to make use of methods that on the one hand aim at integrating various subjects and on the other aim at taking the pupil's own experience and what he/she can offer as a starting point, we wished to experiment with a holistic method that would cater for both these two major considerations.

The storyline method, developed by among others Steve Bell (cf. e.g. Bell 1995 and 1999) is cross-curricular in its character since it provides a structure for the teaching of integrated subject studies. It can be applied with focus on one or more subjects, for example foreign languages. The storyline method therefore meets the requirements of the curriculum guidelines as to cross-curricular and topic-based education. It furthermore meets the requirement that the learner is to be educated so as to take actively part in his/her own learning process and gradually learn to work independently and with his/her own resources as a basis for development; in other words the aim of the educational process is the active and autonomous learner.

According to the curriculum guidelines education is to build on and develop the resources the learner brings with him/her to school. This is exactly what the storyline method takes as a starting-point; it is the learner's image of the world around him/her that will be the basis for further development and learning.

Another crucial point is the concept of the active learner: the learner as the curious, inquiring, inquisitive, and investigating learner, thereby developing his/her problem-solving abilities. The storyline method caters for these things, because it has great potential for development of the competence to become active. The method aims at making the learner aware of problems, at being able to guess and hypothesize, at trying out the hypotheses and assess them according to certain criteria. This process gives the learner the basis for interpreting and understanding his/her experience. It also provides him/her with the basis for giving words and concepts to his/her image of the world around him.

4.3 Six- and seven-year olds

Suitable picture books were chosen to accompany the various topics planned for the whole year. The very first book the six-year-olds met (some were actually only five) was Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni. It is a book that lends itself beautifully to topics like "beginning school", "family and friends", "colours" - topics that are good topics to start the first school year with, and that can easily be integrated in a cross-curricular approach.

Some of the children knew the Norwegian version of this book from kindergarten and were thus familiar with the story. They very quickly picked up words like blue, yellow, little, Mam, Dad, school, most of which resemble the Norwegian equivalents (blå, gul, liten, mamma, pappa , skole). With Dad it may have been the context rather than phonetic similarity that made understanding easier, and with yellow it was probably more the pictures of the two little figures than anything else.

It did not seem to affect them that the teacher spoke English to them the whole time. Even if some of them did not say anything in English themselves - cf. Krashen's argument that there is a natural "silent period" - they understood a lot and took the instructions the teacher gave them.

The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle was one of the other books used in the autumn term. Both The very hungry caterpillarand Little Blue and Little Yellow are suitable for beginners because of the many repetitions they offer. The very hungry caterpillar was also a book some of the children already knew from kindergarten. The table below shows the topics and books that were worked with in grades 1 and 2.



Books used


Beginning school
Family and friends

Days of the week

Fairytale figures

Farm animals


Sea and shore

Where animals sleep

Little Blue and Little Yellow
(by Leo Lionni)

The very hungry caterpillar
(by Eric Carle)

Each Peach Pear Plum
(by Janet and Allan Ahlberg)
Is anyone home?
(by Ron Maris)
The lady who loved animals
(child's game)

Spot goes on holiday
(by E. Hill)
When I'm sleepy
(by Jane Howard)



Fantasy and dreams


Daily life

Days of the week



Postman Pat
(by John Cunliffe)
Can't you sleep, little Bear
(by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth)
The tiger who came to tea
(by Judith Kerr)
Rose and Dorothy
(by Roslyn Schwartz)

Winifred's new bed
(by Lynn and Richard Howell)

Abigail at the beach
(by Felix Pirani)

Rupert and the hazelnut
(by Mike Trumble)

Some of the books were simply read through, others were used as a basis for several activities to stimulate spoken English. In the second grade books like Postman Pat by John Cunliffe and Can't you sleep, little Bear by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth were worked with thoroughly.

Only in the second grade were the children gradually exposed to text. Familiar pictures from the books the teacher had read to them were glued in an A-4 notebook and single words copied. When choosing pictures and words to accompany them pupils would say for example Jeg har valgt caterpillar (I have chosen caterpillar).

4.4 Eight-year-olds

The class teacher designed a teaching programme based on the storyline methodology. It was carried out in her class of 8-year-olds (third grade) over a period of four weeks. Since this method was relatively new to her and quite new to her pupils, she decided to use the pupils' mother tongue as the medium most of the time. The primary aim of the experiment was to pilot the method. This setting is an example of interaction, or active cooperation, between the mother tongue and the foreign language mentioned in the final paragraphs of chapter 3, the mother tongue offering a base for the foreign language.

The topic chosen was Farmlife a hundred years ago, a topic that highly motivated the pupils to dig out whatever knowledge they had about life on a farm in the olden days and to find out more about it.

The basic idea behind the storyline method is to create a story; the process includes both telling the story and making characters, building houses, streets, a village - whatever is needed to illustrate the story that the pupils, prompted by the teacher, make up. This means that arts and crafts is very much part of the process; at the end of it the pupils had built the old farm with all its buildings, and they had provided all the people inhabiting this farm and neighbouring farms, and the landscape surrounding the little village.

A very essential element in all this is of course the language used, to discuss how they want to make everything, what the characters look like and are like and what they say to each other. A lot of opinion was exchanged and a lot of creativity mobilized to make up dialogues and to move the story forward.

All sorts of sidetracks can be taken along the way, but it is essential that the teacher has a clear plan for the whole process and that she directs the progress of the story, among other things by posing relevant questions (key questions).

The primary aim of this experiment was, as mentioned above, to pilot the method. It proved to be very successful, because it activated all the pupils, and all of them had something to contribute with. They learnt a lot about life on a farm in former times, and, most important of all - with reference to our project - a lot of language was produced, both oral and written language.

An additional aim was to find out how the pupils would cope with the foreign language they had been learning since grade 1, English, as the medium. Since the pupils were familiar with using English picture books, three English picture books on farm life and farm animals were used: The Snow Lambs by Debi Gliori, The Mitten by Jan Brelt, and Friska - the sheep that was too small by Rob Lewis. On the basis of these books one chapter of the story Farmlife a hundred years ago was created.

In other words, the children were familiar with the genre of storytelling. They were also used to tackling linguistically tricky situations partly by using Norwegian words to make themselves understood, and partly by interpreting English words by means of words from their mother tongue. They had been encouraged to do so in grades 1 and 2, so this method was known to them.

When using Norwegian words, they would often pronounce these words with what they thought was an English pronunciation. They would for example use Norwegian blåste for the past tense of blow, and say "blouste". They might know the English word blow, but not the past tense blew, and since the Norwegian equivalent is a regular verb, their choice "blouste" was a very logical choice.

The word monster is a word that has almost acquired the status of a Norwegian word, so monster in an English text was very obvious to them. Monster may be so common these days that the Norwegian uhyre may be unknown to 8-year-olds. Size and big were examples of words that they had met in familiar contexts - in connection with clothes. These words presented no difficulty either.

With reference to the ILTE project, we wanted to find out to what extent the storyline method promoted intercomprehension in the process of learning a foreign language. The experiment proved to be successful in activating all the children and motivating them to contribute towards a common goal. The ultimate aim in the foreign language classroom is to learn language and to produce language, and in a setting where the process and the individual learner's contribution is the main focus of interest and attention, all sorts of resources that the learner possesses will be activated and brought to the surface.

In other words, what the experiment told us, is that the storyline method provides a truly holistic approach to learning. It challenges the whole scope of the learner's resources, and it motivates further learning and development. These factors are crucial in all learning, and particularly so when facing a foreign language and a foreign culture. Even if the experiment was designed primarily to pilot the method, we still had the opportunity to observe the processes going on in children when they mobilize their capacity to cope with creating a story in a foreign language.

Furthermore, the experiment supported our hypothesis that the genre of storytelling is a valuable and powerful tool when it comes to exploiting the learner's capacity for making use of his implicit and explicit knowledge of language.

This experiment was carried out with young learners in a third grade class. We think, however, that storyline will be successful also with intermediate and advanced learners. Reports from for example the USA, Denmark and Sweden indicate that the method works the way it is meant to work.

The storyline method seemed to be particularly beneficial in the way it would take the young learner's particular luggage and needs into consideration, and in the way it helped create an atmosphere in the foreign language classroom that stimulated the individual learner's confidence.

The classroom experiments with young learners outlined in 4.3 and 4 .4 strongly indicate that a fundamental prerequisite in foreign language acquisition is to make use of methods that challenge the whole scope of the pupil's resources. Using picture books in the foreign language has proved to be successful in capturing the pupil's interest and building up his motivation for learning. And if picture books are put in a wider framework, as was the case when such books were used to create a story (cf Farmlife a hundred years ago), increased interest and motivation seems to be the result. The storyline method was experimented with in order to employ a holistic approach to learning, and the result was convincing.

The method emphasizes meaning rather than form. However, there is no reason why the teacher should not focus on form from time to time. With the very young focus on form will have to be implicit rather than explicit, but as the pupils mature cognitively, explicit focus on form will gradually enter the picture.

4.5 Young learners and intercomprehension

The experiments carried out with young learners indicate that intercomprehension takes place on at least two levels.

First there is the linguistic level. Pupils recognize words and phrases as either identical with or similar to words and phrases they already know from their mother tongue (or from other sources). Examples are Mam, school, sister, Little Blue for mamma, skole, søster, Lille Blå. To produce language themselves, they may for example say things like: Jeg har valgt caterpillar for I have chosen caterpillar, or they may choose a Norwegian word and pronounce it with what they think is an English pronunciation: blouste (blåste) for blew. In this case they may well know the infinitive blow, but not the past tense blew.

Young learners will naturally compare with their native language - Norwegian - and make use of similarities they detect between Norwegian and English. The foreign language vocabulary they encounter will mostly be concretes, not abstracts, and this will assist them in their comparison and transfer of vocabulary. Since both Norwegian and English are Germanic languages, a great deal of common vocabulary will of course make the transfer easy. Even if young learners at the earliest stages only listen to and imitate English, and therefore meet unfamiliar pronunciation and intonation patterns, they are very well able to cope, because the classroom activities are founded on fun and play and motivation is high. The fact that they tended to transfer an English (or what they thought was an English) pronunciation to Norwegian words, demonstrates that an unfamiliar sound pattern was no real obstacle.

Secondly there is the cultural level. Several fairytales, songs and games are found in many countries, and in countries like England and Norway which have so much in common, there is a lot of cultural heritage for pupils to identify with. Also common social structures - as shown by the ability to recognise Dad not phonetically but rather by recognising the same family structure - may be at work and should be included as a socio-cultural rather than as a cultural feature. This common frame of reference will presumably assist pupils - even young learners - in understanding elements of for example fairytales in other languages than English as well, for example German, and particularly so if the fairytale is supported by pictures. The experiment with 12-year-olds outlined in 4.6 illustrates that pictures meant much to the understanding of a German text to these learners, who knew no German.

The linguistic and cultural/socio-cultural levels mentioned above represent familiar aspects of language teaching and learning. In addition to these levels, we can add a third level: recognition of genre. Recognition of genre, as when telling a story, seems to support and enhance intercomprehension on the linguistic and cultural levels. Structural features in stories like sequencing and repetition seem to support linguistic and cultural recognition. From their previous experience of being told stories the six-, seven- and eight-year-olds in our experiments seemed to transfer their expectation that the picture books in English would tell a story. Another type of picture book, for example a child's encyclopedia, would surely not result in that type of expectation.

A similar supporting and enhancing effect seems to be present in recognition of theme. When a class works with a theme like for example "family and friends" (cf comment above on social structures) in several subjects, this cross-curricular approach will benefit all subjects involved, in the sense that experience from one subject will facilitate acquisition of another. Learners seem to transfer experience from one subject to another in much the same way as they transfer experience and expectations when they meet an English picture book.

A definition of intercomprehension from the young learner's point of view which includes recognition of language, culture, genre, and theme, seems to cater for central factors at work in the young learners' foreign language classroom.

4.6 Twelve-year-olds

In addition to the experiment with young learners outlined above, an experiment with a group of intermediate learners was carried out. The idea was to introduce them to a text in a foreign language they did not know.

A teaching unit of one lesson (45 minutes) for four pupils in grade 7 (12-year-olds) was designed. The four pupils were introduced to two pages of a German text, Dachsleben by G. Nelson. None of them knew any German.

At the beginning of the lesson the teacher told the pupils that she was about to read a text in German to them and then read the text while the pupils listened. There was no other introduction. During this first reading the pupils understood nothing - they just smiled as if saying: Am I supposed to understand anything of this? This was rather surprising, because the four pupils were above average intellectually and more mature than their age (12) should suggest. The teacher had expected them to understand something.

The second time the text was read the pupils were told that the teacher was about to read it once more and they were asked to make an effort to understand, to listen for familiar words. This time they were encouraged to listen actively, while the first time they received no introductory encouragement, and consequently they were passive rather than active listeners.

The second time therefore, they listened carefully, and even if they still did not understand what it was about, they recognized some of the words. They could not remember any of these words, but one of the pupils suggested that maybe it was a story about a dog - in Norwegian there is a breed of dog called dachs, a loan-word from German.

The third time the teacher showed them a picture and pointed to it while she read. This time they understood much more. And the fourth (and final) time the text was read the pupils had the text in front of them. They were asked to underline words and phrases they could understand, and it turned out they had underlined quite a few words. They were able to understand the contents, and they could retell much of the story. Examples of underlined words and word sequences are schönen Frühlingstag, Dachsvater, langen Wintermonate, geschlafen, graben, Schnee, blendet ihn das Sonnenlicht, untergegangen, nämlich eine ganze Dachs-Familie, wir. It is interesting to notice that most of the underlined words and sequences of words were not single words, but collocations. This indicates that pupils listen for meaning through word combinations such as noun phrases and predicates, rather than meaning conveyed by single words. These twelve-year-olds were able to explicitly show this through their underlined passages.

In the end all four pupils understood the story, and asked for more lessons like this one. Pupils in grade 7 are to choose between German and French as their second foreign language in grade 8. These four pupils had already made their choices, and the one who had chosen French wished he had chosen German.

This group of pupils had been selected because of their general interest in school work. They were above average when it comes to intellectual capacity and level of knowledge. But since German is a language closely related both to Norwegian and English, it is likely that pupils who take less interest in school work in general than these four pupils would also benefit from being exposed to a German text.

The theme of the book is animals and the environment, and the book therefore lends itself very well to topic-based and cross-curricular teaching, if one should wish to include this kind of teaching unit in a wider framework. Storyline would be a suitable method to apply; pupils could for example build on the story they had already read, or make up new stories - in simple German - with help from the teacher. A story based on Dachsleben could be made into a chapter of the story Farmlife a hundred years ago. In Norwegian school efforts are made to find themes and teaching materials that can be applied in different settings and on different levels.

4.7 Twelve-year-olds and intercomprehension

As with the very young learners described above, these 12-year-olds benefited from illustrations in order to understand the text. They furthermore were better able to understand when they were given the text to look at while the teacher read it. Even if German was totally unfamiliar to them, they could still detect words and phrases that they could compare with Norwegian and English, and thus use their knowledge of the mother tongue and the first foreign language to interpret a second foreign language. With increasing support in the four readings, the pupils were gradually able to comprehend more of what was going on, until they in the end understood so much that they ended up asking for more lessons of this kind.

Another aspect that would have been interesting to examine, is the pupils' own reflection on what they could understand with increasing support from the teacher. Twelve-year-olds, and particularly these twelve-year-olds, who were mature for their age and bright pupils, have reached a level of cognitive development where they would be in a position to reflect on their own performance - at least with some help from the teacher.

So, if we compare with the very young ones, recognition of language is definitely at work. The cultural element in this experiment one could claim is represented in the illustrations. On the other hand, illustrations are associated with picture books, so from that point of view, intercomprehension would be linked to recognition of genre. Since the story was about an animal often found on or near a farm, and since they had worked with the topic Farmlife a hundred years ago, it could be maintained that recognition of theme is also a factor here. This experiment with twelve-year-olds illustrates that the four intercomprehension factors discussed in 4.5 - recognition of language, culture, genre, and theme - will be operative and overlap to a smaller or larger degree, depending on how a lesson or a series of lessons is designed.

4.8 Fifteen-year-olds

To investigate how 13-16-year-olds (grades 8-10) could cope with a text in an unfamiliar language, an experiment involving 40 pupils in two 10th grade classes was conducted at a lower secondary school. The pupils were asked to make educated guesses with regard to cognates in an unfamiliar language based on their prior knowledge of their mother tongue and other languages. Since English is obligatory all through compulsory school and German a popular elective in lower secondary, a French text was chosen to represent the unfamiliar language. One pupil who had been brought up bilingually (Norwegian and French) was given a Spanish text. This pupil then had a cognate language to work with, but the rest of the group, who worked with the French text, had a more demanding task since their reference languages were all Germanic languages (Norwegian, English and German).

The pupils were given two tasks - to summarize an understanding of the text, and to focus on individual words and relate those to English and German, as well as to their native Norwegian. In other words, they were asked to make an attempt to recognize words in the French (Spanish) text which could be linguistically tied to English, German, and Norwegian, preferably as cognates. Since no oral exercise was involved, the pupils had to rely merely on what they could detect of familiar combinations pertaining to orthography. They were, however, encouraged to try to produce sounds as they were working, as an aid in decoding words.

The teacher who conducted the task was convinced that the assignment should not be a chore, but rather an incitement to similar exercises in the future. The idea was to put the textbook aside and allow the pupils simply to play around with vocabulary, its spelling and visual impressions.

The text was about the French province of La Provence, and was accompanied by a small map with drawings of various objects relating to certain areas of the province - be it a palm tree, a castle, a horse or a bottle of perfume. Even if such a picture would represent a bit of help in achieving correct results, one must also bear in mind that no pre-reading activity took place. In spite of this, the pupils on the whole managed to come up with fairly good interpretations of the text, some even with excellent ones. There were pupils who thought that certain words were very difficult to define, but then again, guessing was part of the strategy involved. By distinguishing words like région, sud-est, fruits, soleil, température, moyenne, heures and others, they were able to write down coherent sentences in Norwegian explaining important information about La Provence in general. In addition, judging from the listing of vocabulary in columns picked out from the text, it is safe to conclude that Norwegian pupils at this level can, with educated guesses, recognize cognates and even sound patterns in an unfamiliar language. Their knowledge then is based on one or two foreign languages (English and German) as well as their native Norwegian. The table made by one of the pupils is shown below.























































The same pupil made the following summary of the French text:

Jeg tror at teksten handler om en region i syd Frankrike. Der blir det meste av verdens parfyme lagd. Det står også om hvor mange kilo blomster man trenger til å lage en kilo essens med parfyme. Det kan også hende at det står om eksportartikler som frukt og nougat, altså sjokolade. Jeg tror også at det står nedover ett eller annet med at det er veldig mye sol der, altså mange soldager. Gjennomsnittstemperaturen i måneden ligger rundt 22 grader. Det står kanskje at det er ca 3000 timer med sol i året.

They were encouraged to make educated guesses, and this summary is very good, both in terms of content and the fact that the pupil is able to write a coherent summary. He/she makes use of phrases like jeg tror - det kan også hende - jeg tror også - det står kanskje (I believe - it may also be - I also believe - it says perhaps) in order to make his/her text coherent and to underline that this is guessing on his/her part.

Most of the summaries were much less comprehensive and to the point than the one quoted, and some of them were very brief, for example Teksten er om hva man dyrker hvor (The text is about what is grown where).

Very few of the pupils compared with German words. The pupil whose table is quoted, listed ist in parentheses in the last but one line. Another pupil had arranged his/her words in four columns, one for French, English, Norwegian and German words respectively, but had listed only ist and ein as the German words he/she could think of and compare with.

This may be a coincidence, but it may also indicate that since there are many French words that are the same in English, it was felt to be easier to relate to English than to German. Words like fleurs and heures are very similar in English and very different in German (Blumen, Stunden). On the other hand, words like fabrique, produit and climat are the same in all four languages. So if German was simply forgotten as reference, or left out for other reasons is hard to say. In the experiment with 12-year-olds described in 4.6 where the unfamiliar language was German, the pupils used whatever knowledge they had from either Norwegian or English.

As mentioned above, the pupils were also encouraged to try to pronounce the words while they were working. One of the pupils commented on sud-est: sud-est = sydøst, du hører det ...norsk (you can hear it ...Norwegian). This example gives little evidence, but still one can perhaps claim that both the spoken and the written word can be valuable sources for reference and comparison when unfamiliar languages are dealt with. The experiment with 12-year-olds indicated that spoken German also meant much to their understanding of the text. In the future one might consider to make more systematic use of this "think-aloud technique".

The following school year a follow-up experiment was decided on. This time the setting was somewhat different since it involved a 10th grade class as well as an 8th grade class. Consequently there would be an opportunity to make comparisons between the two grades. The text used this time differed from the one used in the previous experiment. But it was a text about French industry with pictures included, and the task given to the pupils was the same.

All in all, both classes did well, even if there were a few polysyllabic words which a great majority of the pupils missed completely. An argument in their favour may be the fact that the previous groups dealt with a simpler body of vocabulary in general (unwittingly to them, of course), since the reference map with its drawings depicted mainly agricultural products.

The most positive factor in the experiment was the fact that the pupils in the 8th grade class did very well compared with the pupils in the 10th grade. This, of course, can be seen as a mere coincidence. Nevertheless, the finding may also suggest that there is more challenging work of this kind to be done in the future; one may start this kind of classroom work earlier than with 15-year-olds, perhaps 13-year-olds will benefit a lot from the type of activity outlined above.

The teacher conducting the experiments summed them up in this way:

If we, the teachers of English as a foreign language, are to believe what some linguists claim, that a person's second language, like the first, develops globally, not linearly, and that a language is not learned as a jigsaw of tiny bits of mastered skills, but rather as an entire picture that is at first blurred and then gradually comes into focus, then I feel the study at Risum lower secondary school was worth while.

4.9 Fifteen-year-olds and intercomprehension

The results of the experiment with 15-year-olds show that language transfer and language comparison was a heavy factor when decoding the French text. The illustration accompanying the text may have given certain clues as to cultural features associated with the region, but the main clues seem to have been the text itself. Therefore the language factor of intercomprehension seems to have been the crucial one in this experiment. At this level of education (grade 10) pupils are used to working with factual texts, so genre is at play here too. In addition, they have some knowledge of the specific genre of tourist guides to regions, which certainly also have been a help.

Pupils in grade 10 have developed their cognitive abilities to a fairly high level; therefore an activity where they are asked to make educated guesses about a text in an unfamiliar language can give good results. They have experienced learning two foreign languages, their ability to generalize is fairly good, and when the activity is presented not like a chore, but as a rest from the textbook and tasks associated with the syllabus, it can be motivating and stimulating and whet their curiosity.

The activity outlined in 4.8 can be compared to a translation activity, only here it was a question of finding cognates. The results from the follow-up experiment, however, indicate that the pupils were concerned with finding not only cognates, but also the corresponding word, the translation, in the other language(s). One pupil listed for example French beauté, English beautiful, German schön, Norwegian skjønn, another pupil French automobil, English car, German Auto, Norwegian bil. Still another example is French informatique, English information, German Auskunft, Norwegian informasjon. These examples illustrate eagerness to find words, not only cognates. This may indicate that translation used to promote comprehension of several languages may be a fruitful activity, or the other side of the coin: an activity where the same text in several languages is compared. Translation has over the years lost credibility as a useful activity in the classroom - who has not been exposed to the read-and-translate-one-by-one task and thereby lost interest in the foreign language? But translation could maybe gain new ground if applied in a more constructive way, as for example for comparing languages and discovering similarities and differences between them. The experiments carried out with 13-year-olds and 15-year-olds seem to indicate just that.

Next - 5.0 Intercomprehension, foreign language teaching and foreign language learning

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