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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Alexander Burdumy

Bohlander, Christine & Burdumy, Alexander (2018). Designing and delivering a programme of reading skills classes to postgraduate students. Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes 6(2): 245-252.

Author(s) from Durham


Exclusively teaching the receptive skill of reading texts in a foreign language with no training in language production might seem to be a pedagogical relic and to contradict the communicative approach in foreign language teaching. However, it is a much-needed pedagogical tool for equipping postgraduate researchers with the necessary skill of reading academic literature in a foreign language. The aim is to enable learners who frequently have no prior knowledge of the language in a short period of time to independently read texts specific to their research.

This article aims to illustrate the challenges of developing face-to-face as well as online courses for the specific purpose of teaching reading skills in German and other languages to postgraduate students at Durham University and to discuss the underlying pedagogy thereof.

After giving a short history of how these courses were set up at Durham University, we will state the aims and intended learning outcomes of a reading skills course and describe the pedagogical peculiarities and challenges that such courses entail, underpinned by educational theory. We will discuss the issue of vocabulary acquisition, offering practical solutions, and give concrete examples of the materials used, including online resources and materials specifically created by the tutors, as well as pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the German textbooks currently available. We will share our experience in the classroom, with online teaching as well as our provision for self-study. At the end of the paper we will include links to some free online resources for primarily German and French.

This paper aims to contribute to the continuing dissemination of good practice in the teaching of reading skills in German, which can also be transferred to other Western European languages.