Foreign Language Enjoyment and Spoken Language in the EFL Primary Classroom

Master's Thesis, 2021

120 Pages, Grade: 2.3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Foreign Language Learning and Young Learners
2.1 Foreign Language Learning
2.2 Foreign Language Learning in the EFL Primary Classroom
2.3 The Role of Affective Factors in Foreign Language Learning
2.3.1 The Role of Affective Factors in Language Learning Theory
2.3.2 The Role of Affective Factors from a Neurolinguistic Perspective
2.4 Foreign Language Enjoyment
2.4.1 Definition
2.4.2 Current State of Research

3. Teaching Spoken Language
3.1 The Role of Spoken Language
3.2 Current Methodology

4. Empirical Study
4.1 Methodology
4.1.1 Research Questions and Expected Outcomes
4.1.2 Methodological Approach
4.1.3 Subjects
4.1.4 Elicitation Procedure
4.1.5 Data Analysis
4.2 Research Results and Discussion

5. Conclusion

6. References

7. Appendices
Appendix 3.1 Teacher Interview
Appendix 3.2 Learner Interview
Appendix 4.1 Jefferson Transcription System
Appendix 4.2 Interview 1: Teacher
Appendix 4.3 Interview 2: S1
Appendix 4.4 Interview 3: S2
Appendix 4.5 Interview 4: S3
Appendix 4.6 Interview 5: S4

List of Figures

Figure 1. Influencing factors and connectors in the process of language development

Figure 2. “A representation of the CEFR’s model of language use and learning”.

Figure 3. MAXQDA Codesystem, Part 1 & Figure 4. MAXQDA Codesystem, Part 2

List of Tables

Table 1: The six reference levels of language learners’ ability and proficiency.

Table 2. Background information on the young study participants.

Table 3. Exemplary sub-questions in the English original language.

Table 4. Exemplary sub-questions in the English original language.

Table 5. Activity No 1: Pick a monster and describe it to your partner!

Table 6. Activity No. 2: Find the five differences!

Table 7. Activity No. 3: Find the lost monster!

Table 8. Excerpt from the Coding Agenda

Table 9. Shortened version of the activity assessment.

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Introduction

Shopping dialogues, conversations, giving directions, introducing oneself, songs, rhymes, and chants.

All of these terms refer to spoken language activities that primary school children stated that they strongly enjoy in the English lesson. It is a well-known fact that the most important competence in foreign language learning (FLL) is speaking (Eddie and Aziz, 2020: 304). Besides listening comprehension or reading and writing, oral speech production helps the learner to acquire a language most effectively (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 28; Eddie & Aziz, 2020: 304, Becker & Roos, 2016: 9; Enever, 2011: 34). It is not only essential for succeeding but also places the focus on the learner who actively performs and speaks in the new language to learn it. The result of active involvement is substantial enjoyment, as Dörnyei (2001: 73) claims. In primary schools, this is especially the case when the activities conducted are designed in such a way that they elicit foreign language (FL) learners’ interest by meaningful implementations or authentic content that applies to their own life (Dörnyei, 2001: 42). For a long time, research mainly focused on the widespread construct of foreign language anxiety (FLA), a negative emotion that hampers the learning process due to fear or insecurity and thus can be seen as devastating in FLL (Loewen, 2015: 162; Gregersen & MacIntyre, 2014: 1). On the other hand, the positive opponent has not been investigated as much but is viewed as crucial in the FLL process, which is why it will be closely explored in this thesis (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2019: 264).

Foreign language enjoyment (FLE) is “the emotion that fuels the second language learning process and that boosts performance in the second language” (Dewaele, to appear 2021: 1). In combination with spoken language, these two factors will be the main focus of this thesis, as two variables that are essential in terms of teaching the English subject in schools (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2016: 215). How do teachers convert spoken language into their lessons nowadays? Moreover, do they gain the desired outcomes of brisk contribution that flows from language enjoyment? Accordingly, this thesis aims to answer these questions in relation to the two previously-mentioned variables. Further, the main aim of this empirical study is to investigate FLE in young learners. It focuses specifically on enjoyment emerging throughout the process of spoken language within the EFL primary classroom (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 28). Besides that, potential reasons for the necessary appearance of the emotion of FLE are identified qualitatively and examined based on an empirical approach. To ascertain how primary school children’s FLE is implemented in the English lessons – especially within spoken language activities – primary school students are interviewed and questioned according to this matter, before spoken language activities are performed by the learners. By examining the outcomes, conclusions can be drawn on what types of oral activities young learners find significantly enjoyable. The overriding purpose of this study is to gain useful knowledge and insights for the primary school teaching profession.

In the current debate, FL researchers discuss and try to determine what methods can most effectively promote FLE. They agree that task-based language teaching (TBLT) and communicative language teaching (CLT) are the most effective teaching methods to convey the FL to young learners successfully (Mackey, 1999: 583; Mackey, Kanganas, Oliver, 2007: 306). Nonetheless, teaching techniques and methods are viewed as only one aspect of important features to be considered in teaching FLs (Pinter, 2017: 12-18). Learning achievements and thus learning enjoyment are also based on other factors, such as the teacher role, classroom atmosphere, and social peer interactions, among other (Bensalem, 2011: 11; Dörnyei, 2001:42). Moreover, it is necessary to acknowledge internal and external components in the process of FL teaching, like the language proficiency level or the age of a learner (Dörnyei, 2001: 40-42). These facets will be examined in this paper and verified in a qualitative research study.

Before outlining the findings of this thesis in the second half of this paper, a theoretical background (see chapter 2 and 3) provides information on FLL, the emotion of FLE, spoken language, and how enjoyment can be transferred and implemented into spoken language teaching. In addition, factors that can evoke FLE is presented, and an overview of different international studies is provided. Subsequently, the participants and the elicitation instruments are described. Furthermore, the results of the qualitative data analyses are presented. Finally, the research findings are discussed, and a brief conclusion is drawn at the end of this thesis.

2. Foreign Language Learning and Young Learners

“[…] The mastery of two foreign languages seems to be a necessity nowadays” (Griva, Semoglou & Geladari, 2010: 3700). Based on this statement, Griva et al. investigated the advantages of FLL. Thus, it was assumed that being able to speak two languages can lead to higher competency levels (Singleton, 2002: 3-5), and convey long-term cognitive advantages as well as academic achievement (Bialystok, 2001: 1-3). Lightbown and Spada (2009: 111) highlighted how languages are learned mainly through imitation. Further, they listed a few statements according to how languages are to be learned: parents correct young children when they commit errors, intelligent people are good language learners, the earlier that an L2 is introduced in school programs, the higher the success rate, most of the mistakes that L2 learners make are due to interference from their L1, and learners’ errors should be corrected as soon as they are made to prevent the emergence of bad habits (ibid.: 111-116). Griva et al. (2010: 3700) indicate that learning should predominantly be stimulating and enjoyable for learners. Among other things, this can be achieved by letting students participate actively in interactive stimulations and physical activities (ibid.). In the following sub-chapters, this matter will be addressed in detail.

2.1 Foreign Language Learning

While learning is a conscious process that takes place through education, acquisition occurs spontaneously and proceeds comparable to the way in which children acquire a first language (L1) (Lalleman, 1996: 3). Lalleman adds that the instruction of FLL can be studied from different perspectives, such as the psycholinguistic, educational or the sociolinguistic perspective (ibid.). They provide insights into the human mind working processes. Its general aim is to contribute to the development of language learning (ibid.: 5). While Lalleman refers to the different perspectives of FLL, Wolff argues that humans learn languages similarly (Wolff, 2011: 4). He claims that L1 as well as L2 learnings have a similar sequence of specific stages (ibid.). While there are individual differences noticeable for each type of language learning, these differences are accounted for by individual learner features (ibid.: 5). FLL researchers have highlighted that it is crucial to consider individual differences and circumstances that appear in the learning processes of foreign languages (Wolff, 2011: 3; Lallemann, 1996: 6). These features can refer to the age or the gender of FL learners on the one hand. On the other hand, motivation and learner preferences are more difficult features to consider (Wolff, 2011: 3). These kinds of differences have an influence on the results of the FL acquisition process and thereby lead to different linguistic skills or abilities in the FL (ibid.).

Dörnyei (2001: 40-42) emphasized the need to acknowledge internal and external learner components for FLL to succeed. He refers to the teacher component as an important factor in successful FL (Dörnyei, 2001: 42). Language teachers need to scaffold new content by using “pictures, diagrams or graphic outlines to illustrate complex ideas” and link what they talk about to learners’ prior knowledge (Gibbins, 2015: 25). Dörnyei (2001: 42) constitutes that since teachers aim at conveying their subject in the best possible way, it is their responsibility to encourage a pleasant and supportive atmosphere by establishing a norm of tolerance, encouraging risk-taking and have mistakes accepted as a natural part of learning, bringing in and encouraging humor, encouraging learners to personalize the classroom environment according to their taste.

Arabski and Wojtaszek (2011: xvi) agree and claim that an important aspect of caring for individual learner needs is the teacher’s involvement to develop learner autonomy. Other researchers’ results have highlighted the role of both parents and teachers in shaping learners’ independence and initiative, including selected psychological variables (ibid.). These features will be further examined in the following chapters.

2.2 Foreign Language Learning in the EFL Primary Classroom

From the third grade onwards, English is part of the state primary school curriculum as a FL (Griva et al., 2010: 3701). Around that age, young learners usually show motives of enthusiasm and interest in exploration concerning a FL (ibid.: 3700). They tend to be less inhibited or anxious than older learners (ibid.). Nonetheless, Griva et al. argue that a young age alone does not guarantee success in FLL (ibid.). Instead, there are other factors to acknowledge, like the teaching quality or amount of time devoted to the goal of achieving to learn a L2 (ibid.). Therefore, they state that children’s enjoyment in terms of playing games or their openness towards FLs or cultures need to be taken seriously in the language course (ibid.). Griva et al. (2010: 3701) highlight that playing games is a natural activity for children. Hence, since FLL should be linked with natural activities, an effective way to learn a FL at a childhood age can be through games (ibid.). Children learn best by discovery or experimentation, which can be motivated by a playful learning context (ibid.). Thus, this way of learning should be implemented as children can learn a new language as naturally as learning to run, play or jump (ibid.). In further ways, playing games in the FL lesson will support children in developing and improving their oral skills while functioning as a motivation to make the learning acquisition fun and relaxing (Griva et al., 2010: 3701; Lee, 1995: 35). Moreover, the learners’ focus will be maintained, and their interest can be implemented (Griva et al., 2010: 3701.). Since the teaching principles and ways of effective teaching will be explored in depth in the following course of this thesis, the process of FLL by playing games will not be further implemented in this section.

Besides the playful way of teaching whereby language acquisition occurs, learning takes place in conversations (Pinter, 2017: 12). “According to Vygotsky, all learning happens in social interactions with others” (Pinter, 2017: 12). Just like parents support young children’s language by carefully and clearly explaining new information to them, teachers are responsible for regulating children’s learning (ibid.). Therefore, the teacher talk that emerges in the English primary classroom is significant for FLL1 (ibid.). Their language use is often viewed as the main source of language input for children. Because children receive new language input and learn new language forms by listening to the teacher within meaningful contexts, the teacher’s utterances are crucial for the modeling of pronunciation (ibid.). Equally important is giving the learners interaction opportunities with teacher and peers (ibid.). As a result, it is essential for teachers to find the best way to scaffold FL lessons (Van de Pol, Volman & Beishuizen, 2010: 271). They need to choose useful teaching techniques to evoke language from their students and “encourage children to use language meaningfully with each other” (Pinter, 2017: 12).

Another important theory that Pinter (2017: 12) refers to deals with the role of imitation and identification, which was emphasized by the Canadian psychologist Bandura. She highlights that children tend to imitate and copy other people’s observed behavior (ibid.). These intense observations extend to verbal as well as physical behaviors that they see in role models or even fictional characters (ibid.). Teachers should be aware of this condition and thus identify both positive and negative patterns of imitation in their learners (ibid.). As a result, they have the chance to act accordingly by taking over as a role model for the children (ibid.). Thus, they have a positive influence on the learners’ imitation and bring favorable behaviors to their attention (ibid.: 13). In addition to children’s imitations, their overall understanding of themselves is also significant in FLL (ibid.). Their perceived abilities, self-esteem and what they think about their performances and accomplishments are all important factors for their understanding of achieving success. Since children develop their own L2 identity over time, teachers can influence this process in a convenient way within FL lessons (ibid.: 18).

Furthermore, Dörnyei (2001: 41) mentions the classroom atmosphere as another aspect to consider in terms of placing an emphasis on learners in FLL. He refers to the need to make the classroom a safe and supporting environment so that students feel comfortable in their attempts to express unfamiliar content in a L2 (ibid.). Different material such as posters, colorful objects or bulletin boards can play a part in contributing to this (ibid.). Further, he adds students’ relationships with one another as a crucial aspect that can determine whether learners engage in the FL lesson. If classmates maintain respectful and friendly social interactions, it will contribute to a positive learning surrounding. By contrast, if this is not the case and students treat each other disrespectfully or laugh at each other’s mistakes instead, it will be difficult to conduct the lesson2 (ibid.).

2.3 The Role of Affective Factors in Foreign Language Learning

By stating that emotions are “the elephant in the room”, Resnik and Schallmoser (2019: 542) highlight the important role that emotions play within the process of FLL (Dewaele, Witney, Saito & Dewaele, 2018: 677). Mitchell, Myles and Marsden (2013: 280) argue that learners have all kinds of dynamic and negotiable feelings and attitudes about L2 learning, which is why affective factors will be explored in this section. However, along with affective factors regarding the teacher, personal and social factors like culture or religion certainly also have an impact on FLL (Ranjibar & Narafshan, 2016: 13-14). The same applies to motivation, anxiety, attitude, and self-confidence, as well as the students’ learning motivation (ibid.). Due to the crucial role of these factors, the affective side of teachers might be one of the most significant factors in language learning success or failure (ibid.). Within the existing research on affect and emotions, negative ones have been vibrant in FLL research since the 1970s, while positive emotions have not (Dewaele, Witney, Saito & Dewaele, 2018: 677). Kersten (accepted, Nov 2021: 5) also argued that emotions have been found to play an important part in FLL. She refers to Stephen Krashen, who stated within his Monitor Model in 1985 that emotions function as an affective filter that controls whether learners are open towards comprehensible input (Kersten, accepted, Nov 2021: 5). Therefore, Krashen assesses that “a high affective filter would result in low reception and no further processing” (ibid.). She further states that according to more recent findings, emotions have played a central role in the affective system, especially in terms of FLE (ibid.). To provide a brief insight into the meaning of the affective filter hypothesis by Stephen Krashen, it is necessary to note that some affective factors in language learning are like a filter that filtrates the amount of input in learners’ brains (Du, 2009: 162). Therefore, people with a high affective filter lower their intake, whereas students with a low affective filter permit more input into their language acquisition device (ibid.). Thus, Krashen claims that people can only acquire FLs “[…] if they obtain comprehensible input and if their affective filters are low enough to allow the input “in”” (ibid.).

Furthermore, learning and speaking a L2 relates to bravery (Dörnyei, 2001: 40), gaining the courage to try out something new, which is usually acted out in front of others regarding EFL in the primary classroom (ibid.). Therefore, the learners might participate with mixed feelings. Dörnyei (2001: 40) argues that learners constantly need to take considerable risks even when producing simple answers or statements because mistakes are easily made when it is necessary to pay attention to intonation, pronunciation, content as well as grammar at the same time. If the young learners find themselves in a safe and supportive classroom where the norm of tolerance prevails, they are more likely to take those risks since they feel comfortable and are convinced that they will not be embarrassed or criticized for committing errors (ibid.: 41). Oga-Baldwin, Nakata, Parker, and Ryan (2017: 140) suggest that FLL might often be a process of discovery and growth for elementary school children. As they develop positive affect for the L2, a lifelong interest can arise accordingly (ibid.: 140). Thus, it is the main goal in FL teaching to promote motivation by supporting students’ interest, behavior, and positive attitudes towards the L2 as well as making the process of FLL most attractive for the learners (Oga-Baldwin et al., 2017: 140; Böttger, 2005: 79-80). Therefore, motivation is another emotion involved in the process of FLL. It is described “[…] as the desire to engage with a task for its own sake, and is often indexed by personal enjoyment, interest, and feelings of positive affect” (Oga-Baldwin et al., 2017: 141). Teachers can nurture these emotions through conducting experiential learning and maintaining and promoting a positive motivational climate for language learning (ibid.: 140). Researchers state that it is a teacher’s responsibility to trigger interest, provide low-anxiety environments, and strengthen learners’ self-esteem (Dewaele, Witney, Saito, Dewaele, 2018: 678). Hence, it can also be advantageous if the teachers know their classes well, so that they can offer the best possible learning opportunities (Niedersächsisches Kultusministerium, 2018: 10-11). Thus, when teachers merge their students’ interests into the lesson contexts, they can help promote curiosity and relieve fear towards unfamiliar things. Thus, learners can develop enjoyment towards FL and cultural communities (ibid.: 10). Ranjibar and Narafshan (2016: 13) further claim that the relationships between teachers’ affective factors are supposed to be considered due to students’ performance. If this relationship is ignored, the teaching and the learning process will be negatively influenced (ibid.).

The positive psychology approach is a supplementary component that aims at promoting positive emotions in the EFL primary classroom (Dewaele, Witney, Saito & Dewaele, 2018: 677). Its goal is to move away from the strong focus on negative emotions and take positive emotions like FLE into closer account (Dewaele et al., 2018: 677). The latter is the main positive emotion considered in this paper, which is also part of the emotional affective factor domain that includes the mentioned emotions (ibid.). As mentioned in the context of that domain in this chapter, it will be more closely explored in the following progression of this work.

2.3.1 The Role of Affective Factors in Language Learning Theory

The most important aim in L2 acquisition is to explain which factors affect the learning process (Kersten, 2019: 35). In this sub-chapter, the affective factors that were stated in the previous chapter will be explored from the perspective of language learning theory. Nonetheless, there is no unified standard theory of FLL that researchers subscribe (Brown, 2000: 271), although they agree that “cognitive factors (language aptitude, learning strategies), affective factors (attitudes, motivation, anxiety), metacognitive factors, and demographic factors” (Henter, 2014: 373) are aspects on which the FLL process depends. Larsen-Freeman and Cameron (2008: 205) state that “the context of a language learning or language using activity includes intrinsic dynamics of the learner […]”. They list the learners’ cognitive, cultural, social, pedagogical context as well as their socio-political environment as those important dynamics in FL learning theory (ibid.).

Robinson (2005: 46-73) claims that two specific complementary theories are essential in the process of FLL: the transition theory and the theory of property. The latter describes the features of knowledge from one point to another, while the transition theory deals with the relations between cognitive abilities, learning processes and mechanisms that are necessary to transfer knowledge from one point to another (ibid.). Besides, the creation of new linguistic systems, learning of discourse and communicative functions of language can be allocated to FLL theory (Brown, 2000: 271). According to the weight of the personality that plays a role as an affective factor, the way people view themselves and thereby reveal themselves in communication can affect the quantity and quality of FL learning (ibid.). All of these listed categories point back at communicative competence as the ultimate goal in FLL (ibid.: 274). Thus, they form a framework for a FLL theory (ibid.). Kersten (2019: 35-57) explains the influencing and affecting factors that play a significant role in the language development of young learners. In FL didactics, the affective factors need to be recognized to apply certain principles and strategies in the practical FLL (ibid.: 25). Without these insights and references of developmental requirements, L2 acquisition cannot be defined (ibid.). However, affective factors should not be seen as general to understand the language learning process better (ibid.). Instead, the learners themselves including their individual skills and personal features and characteristics can influence the process of L2 acquisition (Kersten, 2019: 35; Ushioda, 2015: 47-54; De Bot, 2008: 166-178). Those affective factors and connections are displayed in Figure 1:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Influencing factors and connectors in the process of language development (Kersten, 2019: 36)

The external influencing factors differ from the social and institutional areas, like the family or the social environment and are depicted in the model (Kersten, 2019: 36). Moreover, the school administration, clubs, decision that schools and other institutions make regarding different programs, learning materials, even methods, settings or working conditions for responsible employees in those programs can all influence learning processes, after all (ibid.). Depending on learners’ different individual skills and personality treats they genuinely inherit, they are affected by those external factors in their own individual ways (ibid.). Those differences refer to individual attitudes, motivation, oral L1 skills, and cognitive skills, such as intelligence or memory performance (ibid.).

While some of these external traits are known to be stable factors, others are affected more easily than stronger ones (ibid.: 36). Nonetheless, all of these factors influence each other and therefore develop themselves in dependence on one another, adds Kersten (2019: 36).

To conclude, all external and individual conditions that are depicted in the model are standing next to each other in a complex dynamic connection in which exchange takes place (ibid.). They move constantly and revolve around each other (ibid.). Hence, this dynamic again affects a learners’ development regarding speech, cognition, attitudes, and further facets (ibid.). Kersten (2019: 36) closes by stressing that these factors not only have an influence on the individual child, but even on every person who is included into the whole dynamic system, such as a teacher who is part of the respective school program (ibid.).

2.3.2 The Role of Affective Factors from a Neurolinguistic Perspective

In order for teachers to successfully convey their subject to students and young learners, they need to be aware of the learners’ cognitive development and their stimulation (Pienemann, 2006: 45; Böttger, 2005: 78). In this way, they can provide the best possible lesson for each learner individually (Pienemann, 2006: 45). Language acquisition can be accelerated when the corresponding linguistic forms are promoted according to the children’s language development, and the linguistic learner variations are controlled in the correct way (ibid.). Regardless the fact that research on the role of the brain in learning and behavior is not a new topic, researchers’ and educators’ awareness and interest have just recently increased when its significance started becoming public (ibid.). Nonetheless, this research is necessary for teachers to react to students with diverse learning needs in terms of FLL (Schunk, 2012: 30).

According to students’ learning processes, the concept of John Carroll’s aptitude model shows relevance for FLL and applied linguistics and can influence achievements of success in FLL (Wen, Biedrón & Skehan, 2017: 1-3, 29; Skehan, 1986: 188). Within that concept, FL aptitude is defined as “[…] an individual’s initial state of readiness and capacity for learning a foreign language, and probable facility in doing so […]” (Wen et al., 2017: 2). Further, aptitude is regarded as an ability which refers to the capability of achievement in learning (ibid.: 3). Therefore, the FL aptitude model looks at the concrete talent for learning a FL (ibid.: 2). Respectively, a connection was found between FL aptitude and general intelligence. Intelligence and analytic ability are coherent, whereas the ability of phonetic coding in terms of FLL is a component that belongs to FL aptitude (Wen et al., 2017: 3-4). Besides, the FL aptitude construct entails four factors that are involved in FLL: phonetic coding ability, grammatical sensitivity, inductive language learning ability, and memorization ability (ibid.: 4). These factors concentrate on the capacities to form associative links in memory, to code unfamiliar sounds, to identify functions that words fulfill in sentences and finally, to create new sentences (ibid.). In combination with the age factor and instructional feedback, the model shows how young learners show higher correlations with memory components than older learners, concerning pedagogical implications for different L2 learning conditions (ibid.: 5).

Regarding the cognitive processes that are involved in FLL, Pienemann (2006: 34) recognized the importance for teachers to know at what point in their development students are able to learn a specific content. Thereby, it is crucial to choose and give all teaching contexts according to the learners’ developmental language status. Accordingly, the students will be able to progress what they learn (ibid.). Moreover, to promote language learning with the increased use of spoken language, learners need to be mentally actively involved in the reconstruction of their achieved language (ibid.). They should not be viewed as “imitation-machines” but as active participants in a creative construction process whose result is called “learner language” (ibid.). Cognition itself can be rephrased as a learning of thinking ability (Amalia, Kohiriyati & Athfal, 2018: 104). “Cognitive development is the development of children’s mindset and capabilities in understanding and solving simple problems” (ibid.). It comprises diverse aspects, like perception, thoughts, symbols or problem-solving, to name a few examples (Amalia et al., 2018: 104). These aspects are all part of FLL. It can be stated that lessons need to take place according to the children’s needs regarding their cognitive level. Hence, their cognitive status can develop well and serve as provision for their future (ibid.: 109).

Sambanis’ neuroscientific recognitions give insight into the connection between FLL and neuro. She refers to learning as a fundamental need of the human brain while the brain itself seems to be insatiable in this respect (Sambanis, 2013: 11). Further, the brain is not made for continuous memorizing and learning of contents by heart (ibid.). Instead, it is optimized for problem-solving which constitutes another teaching principle (Hüther, 2010: 42). Thus, learning does not depict endless gaining of knowledge but rather the construction and optimization of action- and problem-solving-strategies (Sambanis, 2013: 11). Furthermore, researchers agree that learning is not all about cognition, but emotions are just as involved in the process (Sambanis, 2013: 25). Both factors belong together and influence our actions, specifically in terms of language learning. Additionally, emotions can help to direct attention, which is important for learning, states Schunk (2012: 60). The psychic processes of a good feeling and steady concentration can encourage or even cause learning and are responsible for the cognitive readiness of a child (Sambanis, 2013: 50; Almakhan & Manshuk, 2014: 156). For young learners, positive emotions can be beneficial in FLL, because they ensure a competent feeling, challenge in the right measure, and call interest in a task or a topic which leads to fun (Sambanis, 2013: 27). Hence, contents that are cognitively connected to positive emotions will be retrievable for a longer time. However, negative emotions, like anxiety or pressure will result in a lack of attention which then guarantees a weak learning outcome (ibid.).

In terms of learning processes, the neurotransmitter dopamine is involved in positive emotions, as enjoyment (see chapter 2.4) (Sambanis, 2013: 49). In the brain, dopamine works as endogenous reward system (ibid.). In association with this neurotransmitter are fundamental learning influencing factors, like motivation, positive emotions and rewarding experiences (ibid.: 65). The children’s mood and their enjoyment can be influenced by different components, like the weather, temperature, color, food, or the overall atmosphere and surrounding (ibid.: 31). Regarding the context of FLL, these factors can influence the learning process (ibid.: 34).

In general, it can be stated that young learners will experience more fun in FLL if they are in an overall positive mood (ibid.). Hence, they will focus on and are more open towards positively connoted lesson contents (ibid.: 33). Besides, a good mood can be contagious (Principle of Contagion, Pawlak et al., 2003). Learners reflect their teachers’ expression and body language whether they are in a bad mood or have a friendly look on their face and a positive and happy appearance (ibid.). Sambanis (2013: 33) describes this occurrence as “facial feedback” because the students automatically give the teacher feedback on their radiance based on their own reflected expressions.

Another influencing factor that Sambanis (2013: 52) mentions is the inner reward system, which is activated as soon as learners manage to overcome a challenge. This is especially the case if the challenge is located in the area of minimal cognitive overload or excessive demands (Vygotsky 1964: ZPD, Zone of Proximal Development). Rewards can release enjoyment, pride, and long-term remembrance if they happen unexpectedly (Sambanis, 2013: 51). By contrast, expected rewards can cause the opposite: no effect or detrimental impact (ibid.).

Next to the reward system, unconscious stimuli can affect the mood, the willingness to learn as well as the learning success (ibid.: 65). Sambanis adds that humor is capable of stimulating positive emotions. It has an exceeding impact on the brain and activates entire networks when it is processed which constitutes positive conditions for maintaining knowledge in language learning processes (ibid.). To take Vygotsky’s well-known research findings into account: “cognitive development is more prioritizing on social aspects” (Amalia et al., 2018: 109). He stated that social interactions form a person’s thinking process and therefore create a cognitive structure, as in forming speech or sharing verbally with peers or teachers (Sambanis, 2013: 111). Social interactions that happen within the cultural environment can also be seen as the origin of higher mental processes, like problem-solving and thus influence children’s intellectual development heavily (Amalia et al., 2018: 109). This stresses the influence that culture has on children’s intellectual development (Sambanis, 2013: 111).

In acknowledgment of the age factor, it can be elaborated that noticeable changes occur in the development of primary school children (Almakhan & Manshuk, 2014: 157). The attention capacity of a child is highly increasing in the third and fourth school year (ibid.: 159). Children are starting to take English lessons in those years because their cognitive development favors it as their attention capacity is not yet sufficiently developed at an earlier age (ibid.). Thinking develops with perception, memory, and imagination (ibid.: 162). Speaking about the age factor, Amalia et al. (2018: 104) find that the right learning activities are effective to improve cognitive development in early childhood. Young children tend to be more active and effective in tasks and activities that are designed as games (ibid.). Teachers and educators are responsible to provide a lesson that is age appropriate, so that the children can develop best (ibid.). Learning activities that prove appropriate to maximize “children’s early age cognitive development” need to be conducted (ibid.: 105). Children need to receive an education that fits their own stage of development (ibid.: 104). For maximum results, education has to be applied regularly because it can be beneficial for children’s brain abilities and intelligence (ibid.: 105).

Finally, to answer the question why some learners learn easier than others, it can be stated that every child has a different potential for thinking abilities based on their parents’ genes and the environment in which the child has been raised and educated (ibid.: 106). Native L1 literacy skills are decisive for predicting L2 learning. Hence, if a student displays difficulties in L1 phonology or orthography, their subsequent L2 learning will suffer too which is one of the reasons why learners’ achievements look differently (Wen et al., 2017: 8). Teachers need to be able to recognize these appearances to react accordingly and promote the learners’ FLL achievements individually (Schunk, 2012: 30).

2.4 Foreign Language Enjoyment

The concept of FLE has recently started to be discussed in the field of applied linguistics (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2019: 264). Boudreau, MacIntyre and Dewaele (2018: 153) refer to it as a “complex and stable emotion” which is separated from the “more superficial experience of pleasure” (ibid.). Accordingly, enjoyment is viewed as more than the state of taking pleasure in something (Resnik & Schallmoser, 2019: 545). It is connected to personal investment or accomplishing something purposeful (ibid.). Dörnyei (2001: 72) explains the importance of promoted FLL in the EFL primary classroom with learners’ longings for moments of success. The lesson needs to be enjoyable so that learners can achieve learning goals and get the most benefits out of their efforts (ibid.). Thus, their active involvement needs to be increased in language lessons (ibid.: 73). It is commonly claimed that enjoyment takes place in the EFL primary classroom when learners’ needs are met within the lesson (ibid.). Moreover, FLE exceeds their needs to accomplish something new or unexpected (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2016: 217). This means that with an accomplishment that emerges with a better result than expected, the accomplisher will feel enjoyment and pleasure (ibid.). Regarding the concept of the positive psychology, negative emotions on the opposite down learners’ thought-action repertoires in the language learning process narrow (Gregersen, MacIntyre and Meza, 2016: 148). As a result, learners act in self-protective ways, as in limiting participation in class or avoiding eye contact when speaking to others (ibid.). On the other hand, positive emotions can broaden learners’ dynamic moment-to-moment thought-action repertoires which leads them to acquire diverse types of personal resources (ibid.).

In general, Dewaele and Alfawzan (2018: 26) state that positive emotions like joy or enjoyment can broaden someone’s mindset over time, while they also “broaden people’s momentary […] action repertoires” and build survival resources (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 26). Especially the former is described to be a key for the discovery of new knowledge in different areas, but certainly in terms of FLL (ibid.). Both researchers argue that positive emotions are understood as something more than pleasant feelings (ibid.). They say that young learners under the influence of positive emotions are able to perceive things in their own classroom environment and therefore become more aware of language input that gives them the chance to absorb more of the respective FL (ibid.).

2.4.1 Definition

Enjoyment: “a complex emotion, capturing interacting components of challenge and perceived ability that reflect the human drive for success in the face of a difficult task” (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2016: 216). Based on this definition, Dewaele and MacIntyre (2016: 216) analyzed the ratings of 1742 multilinguals’ FLE whereas they found that FLE is assembled of a social and a private component (Resnik & Schallmoser, 2019: 545). The former component is linked to the setting, which can include the classroom atmosphere environment for one, or people one interacts with, like teachers or peers (ibid.). Whereas the latter refers to personal feelings and reactions one might have towards the learning process (ibid.). These could either be the thought of FLL being fun and enjoyable, learning interesting things or having accomplished something (ibid.). The following course of this thesis will partly focus on the factors that provoke this positive emotion on young learners’ FLL and offer a holistic view about the response of learners towards that construct.

Based on their studies, Dewaele and MacIntyre (2016: 215) identify enjoyment as a relevant factor for language learning and the communication process. It goes along with the learning effectiveness of a task (ibid.). Generally stated, enjoyment positively correlates with self-assessed ability (ibid.). It has other outcomes than pleasure and inherits the ability of reflecting the human drive for success when difficult tasks are faced. Moreover, FLE has the strength to lead to better learning outcomes, provided that this kind of outcome is self-relevant since enjoyment follows personal investment and matters to the individual (ibid.: 216-217). In relation to FLE and other emotions, Dewaele and MacIntyre (2016: 215-216) emphasize that emotions can change frequently. It is important to secure that emotions are present in the classroom because they can help the children progress in FLL (ibid.). Learners can hate or love aspects about FLL (ibid.). Although, they need to be prevented from acting indifferently towards it or become bored (ibid.). The emotional atmosphere in the EFL primary classroom is an important consideration in the learners’ success (ibid.). Respecting eminently positive emotions, it needs to be acknowledged that they can broaden the learners’ attention. Thus, they can flourish in exploring and noticing things and thereby learn to interact within the language in a playful way which then again triggers young learners’ FLE (ibid.). Generally, enjoyment can evoke exploring language more in the EFL primary classroom and has the purpose of achieving a better performance in the L2, whereas motivation can be an additional helpful factor (Zhang, Dai & Wang, 2020: 3).

Regarding FLE, positive psychologists have formed a new perspective within the field of applied linguistics (Dewaele & MacIntyre., 2016: 2-3.). This perspective assumes that positive emotions are necessary for the long-term undertaking of learning a FL (ibid.: 3). It also focuses on defining problems and overcoming learner deficiencies (ibid.: 2). By fostering greater engagement or increasing appreciation of meaning in life and its activities, the positive component in FLE is trying to be boosted and promoted (ibid.). As learners become older and more experienced with the FL, their FLE automatically blooms and rises (ibid.: 12). Their gender also has an impact on FLE, as female and male learners were found to experience FLE on different levels and ways (ibid.). This will be further discussed in the following chapter.

2.4.2 Current State of Research

Besides Dewaele’s research findings, recent studies have highlighted the importance of FLE in FLL (Zhang et al., 2020: 2; MacIntyre & Gregersen, 2012: 197). These empirical findings suggest that the role of FLE needs to be further elaborated in terms of FLL since it has not yet been fully examined to date (Zhang et al., 2020: 2; MacIntyre & Gregersen, 2012: 197). Nevertheless, Zhang et al. (2020: 3) posit that enjoyment is necessary in learners’ FL development. As previously mentioned, research findings suggest that learners’ enjoyment and motivation support a good performance in the target language (ibid.). Thus, in this chapter, FLE research findings from EFL primary classrooms on an international level will be presented and discussed. In one section, FLE will be compared to FLA which is a negative emotion that occurs in FLL and has been investigated more thoroughly than its positive counterpart (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 22).

Positive emotions are capable of combating negative ones which is vital since negative emotions can cause a decrease of learner attention and less focus on potential language input (ibid.: 26). This would then in turn weaken FL intake (ibid.). Another important aspect in the EFL primary classroom are the long-term effects of positive emotions on language learning (ibid.). They enable learners to act resiliently in challenging communicative situations outside the classroom context. According to Dewaele and Alfawzan (2018: 26), “experiencing positive emotions also allows learners to take some measured risks, to explore and play […]”. Therefore, it becomes obvious how positive emotions have a crucial impact on children not only in the EFL primary classroom but even in their daily life once they have experienced these emotions in the classroom (ibid.). Further, Bensalem (2011: 11) asserts that positive emotions need to be taken into consideration in FLL because they facilitate language learning. Additionally, FLE is seen overall as a powerful FLL motivator (ibid.). To measure this emotion comprehensively, scales have been developed to measure three variables of positive emotions: learning experience, peers, the teacher (ibid.).

Teacher & Classroom Environment

Based on different studies, participants often mention the teacher as an important contributory variable for FLE in the EFL primary classroom (Dewaele & Dewaele, 2020: 57). FLE is promoted when learners are in harmony with their teacher and peers (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2016: 13-14). In their research findings, Chengchen et al. (2018: 192) discovered that the teacher’s praise, personal attention, and encouragement of learners are correlated with learners’ enjoyable experiences (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2018: 27; Chengchen et al., 2018: 192). As studies showed, teachers’ pedagogical practices affect a positive classroom atmosphere in which learners are involved and engage positively (Chengchen et al., 2018: 192). These results are explained with teacher-dominant FL classes in which students rely largely on their teacher (ibid.). They await useful feedback with focus on their teacher because the learning processes and interactions are led by them (ibid.). Dewaele and MacIntyre (2016: 14) define a good teacher as somebody who is able to create a friendly low-anxiety classroom so that learners are encouraged to participate in the lesson, to play and experiment with the L2. Accordingly, fear can be reduced and the level of FLE rises (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2016: 14; Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 28). Furthermore, teachers were found to contribute to their students’ FLE when they inherit the right amount of enthusiasm, have humor or an overall sympathetic appearance that shows that they are having fun at what they do (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2018: 27). This can impact how children face the subject (ibid.). It is a teacher’s responsibility to see the vital role that is played by positive classroom dynamics among learners and teachers, particularly in settings in which communication and meaningful interactions are considered (MacIntyre & Mercer, 2014: 156; Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2019: 264). Next to these findings, teachers also have the power to influence learners’ test results and performances. Thus, it is crucial for them to radiate strong positive emotions when addressing learners in the FL (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 37). Further, the teachers’ steady use of the FL can promote positive attitudes (ibid.: 28).

In view of the research of Dewaele and MacIntyre (2014: 13), North American learners in the United States seem to enjoy their FL classes more than Asian students which might lead back to differences in teacher training courses. Nevertheless, the teacher seems to be one of the main causes for emotions in the EFL classroom (Bensalem, 2021: 26). The way they practice their teaching plays a major role in FLE (ibid.). Therefore, Bensalem (2021: 26) demands teachers to proactively promote learners’ positive thoughts to ensure that any negative thoughts concerning failing or some kinds of difficulties vanish as far as possible. As a result, learners are able to experience higher levels of FLE once they achieve successful FLL experiences (ibid.). Since students with a rather positive attitude tend to be more involved in the learning process and make the best out of learning opportunities, Bensalem suggests that teachers need to make sure that they design activities that involve all students regardless their proficiency levels and interests (ibid.: 26-27). As the teacher focuses on a positive atmosphere, the students’ self-awareness a high-risk tolerance will be affected positively (Sambanis, 2013: 34). Thus, the learners’ FLE potentially increases, while negative emotions, like anxiety decrease or at least will not have the chance to play a dominant role (ibid.).


Chengchen et al. (2018: 192) state that next to teachers that depict a crucial variable in learners’ FLE, peers can also boost FLE (ibid.). They were found to play a significant role in the events of the classroom (ibid.). It is assumed that peer relationships, if supportive and mutually respective are able to foster children’s adaptive behaviors which also applies to their learning- and problem-solving skills (Butler & Liu, 2019: 146). According to Dawaele and Alfawzan (2018: 27), peers can either boost or destroy the FLE depending on their behavior. “The emotional atmosphere of the classroom is an important consideration in the learners’ success”, explain Dewaele and MacIntyre (2019: 264). According to Butler and Liu (2019: 145), several factors need careful consideration when judging primary school children’s FL developmental stage. Since children’s environments include several layers, such as family, school, or their own beliefs, the whole picture needs to be captured to keep track of their development (ibid.). For one, to comprehend the role of context in primary school students’ English learning, their English study friend relations need to be observed closely (ibid.). Overall, peer relations not only inside but also outside of the classroom can be seen as exceedingly influential on young learners’ academic learning (ibid.). As Gifford-Smith and Brownwell (2003: 249) put it: “Friendships serve as key contexts for social, emotional and cognitive development”. This statement does not apply to any specific country, but EFL classrooms from all over the world since friendships are essential for humans from across cultures (Butler & Liu, 2019: 146). Butler and Liu (2019: 145) conclude that children’s language development involves complicated and dynamic interplays between children and their multi-layered environments.


Considering the gender of students in the ELF primary classroom, Dewaele and Alfawzan (2018: 27) mentioned that females experience significantly more fun in the FL class than their male peers. Based on research, female learners represent higher levels of both negative and positive emotions than male participants which could be attributed to girls’ emotional nature (Bensalem, 2021: 12, 25-27.). They claim to learn things that trigger their interest and declare that they are proud of their FL performance, which is something their male peers do not claim as much (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 27). Besides, they enjoy expressing themselves or learning something new (Bensalem, 2021: 14). They experience more enjoyment and excitement in a positive FL classroom environment that gives them the opportunity to be creative (ibid.). Thus, they argue that knowing a FL is “cool” (ibid.). On the other hand, female learners worry more than their male counterpart in terms of making mistakes or lacking confidence in terms of using the FL (ibid.). The teacher component as a component of joy was specifically named by male participants (ibid.: 23, 26.)

Even though, Bensalem (2021: 11-12) agrees to these findings, he highlights how gender differences might differ between countries. In the study that involved Turkish as the L2, no gender differences for FLE were found (ibid.). Nonetheless, male learners featured higher levels of FLA than female students which indicate inconsistent results (ibid.). The findings are explained with the excuse that gender as a sociocultural construct impacts how FL learners perceive emotions in different countries (ibid.: 15). Nevertheless, apart from the gender, other components like the year of study did not play a role as a significant factor on FLE (ibid.: 25).

The Social and Private Level of FLE

On top of this, Dewaele and Alfawzan (2018: 31) discovered two different dimensions of FLE, namely the social and private level. The latter refers to learners’ thoughts, like “I am a worthy member of the FL class.”, “In class, I feel proud of my accomplishments.” or “It is cool [and fun] to know a foreign language” (ibid.). FLE-Private takes the self into account and combines the emphasis of private pleasure due to personal progress, excellent performance, and interesting experiences in EFL learning (Chengchen et al., 2018: 191-192; Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 31). By contrast, social FLE focuses on the outside, friendly peers, and a positive environment (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 31). Both kinds of FLE are affected by certain aspects that play a role in successful learning and teaching: emotion and empathy (going out from the teacher), motivation, autonomy, habits of the mind, character strengths and self-factors, like self-concept or self-esteem (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2019: 264). Greater learner-engagement in the lesson just like increasing meaning of life within the activities to boost enjoyment in the FLL need to be possible (ibid.).

Self-Perceived Proficiency

Bensalem (2021: 20) tested his participants on self-perceived proficiency and realized a significant relationship between self-perceived proficiency in English and FLE. In this testing, the linear relationship between English proficiency and FLE was displayed as small effect size (ibid.). After conducting interviews with the participants, the influencing variables of FLE were revealed (ibid.). Some classroom activities seemed to be enjoyable while others caused anxiety. Several participants uttered that group activities constituted a source of joy for them (ibid.). They referred to TBLT as enjoyable as well as standing in front of the class or completing group activities, which is an aspect that especially male learners mentioned (ibid.: 21). Other factors that have been found to have the ability of boosting the enjoyment of young FL learners are debates, group presentations, and activities that give the students a choice in shaping an activity somehow, ensuring it matched their own concerns and interests (ibid.). Moreover, as a tool to become energized and prompt sympathetic laughter and alike, music proves to be appreciated in the FL classroom, whereas some speaking activities that made students stand up and address their classmates in plenary triggered anxiety (Dewaele & Afawzan, 2018: 27, 21; Bensalem, 2021: 22, 25-27). Male and female learners agreed that good grades as well as self-confidence in someone’s ability to achieve something great are factors that cause enjoyment (Bensalem, 2021: 23, 26). Hence, good grades would bring pride and respect, even regarding the own parents and the family (ibid.: 26).

To continue with the matter of international studies regarding FLE, studies from Chinese EFL lessons were found. Chengchen et al. (2018: 183) determine that the premise for FLE lies in cognitive and motivational benefits, as well as the overall long-term well-being of the learners and their personal development in terms of building social bonds (ibid.: 183-184, 194). FLE is not only a crucial factor in FLL that brings more joy to the learners (ibid.: 184). In fact, it inherits “[…] the ability to broaden individual’s momentary repertoires of thoughts and actions and build their psychological resiliency and personal resources” (Fredrickson, 2001: 218; Oxford, 2015: 371). Hence, FLE combines two key aspects in language learning: language exploration and play (Chengchen et al., 2018: 184.). Furthermore, Chinese participants embrace particularly non-traditional teaching strategies. They name multimedia use, role play and so forth (ibid.). Thus, the class becomes more attractive, interesting, and easier comprehensible which serves as a trigger for willingness to engage (ibid.). However, enjoyment for one student might not be enjoyment for another, especially in terms of students with rather low FL proficiency (ibid.: 193). Those might feel frustrated more easily when asked to use the FL for communication in class (ibid.).

Summarized, Chinese participants report that enjoyable classroom episodes depend on the teacher’s pedagogical practices, the classroom activities used, private realization of the own learning progress as well as teacher and peer recognition of the authentic use of the FL (ibid.). FLE can be directly boosted by teacher intervention or indirectly by allowing peer interaction and creating a pleasant classroom climate that benefits the well-being of the students (ibid.). Regarding the data that was gathered in China, Chengchen et al. (2018: 194) mention that “although the study was conducted in a Chinese EFL context, the results can be transferred onto other EFL contexts”. The previous listed findings from other countries can confirm this statement.

Foreign Language Anxiety

To close this chapter, the opponent of FLE that has also been strongly investigated will be briefly elaborated in this passage. This opponent will be considered to raise awareness that there is a negative side in FLL to respect that can affect young learners’ comprehension of learning in a similar way as FLE, namely FLA (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 23). It is defined as an emotion that FL learners experience “when participating in language learning and/or use” (ibid.). Dewaele & Alfawzan (2018: 21-23) made findings on the differences between FLA and FLE and the effects of both emotions on foreign language performance (FLP). They discovered the positive overweighing effect of FLE on FLP in comparison to FLA (ibid.). Hence, they stated that FLE matters slightly more in FLP than FLA (ibid.: 21). Researchers who have explored the impacts of FLA in the past obtained findings about the connection between FLE and FLA (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2019: 4). Linguists claim their correlation, although they still operate as two different emotions (ibid.). Both emotions inherit plural similarities and differences (ibid.). For one, FLE is more likely to be related to teachers and teacher practices than FLA and therefore has an immense influence on FLP (Zhang et al., 2020: 3, Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 28). Dewaele and Alfawzan (2018: 40) further view FLE and FLA as related to pedagogical practices. Hence, in teacher training courses, it is crucial to pay attention to these emotional dimensions to prepare teachers for creating positive classroom climates (ibid.). Studies further found that poor relationships among peers, or students and teachers can increase FLA (ibid.: 25). In the same way, bad pedagogical practices have a negative effect on students’ emotions (ibid.: 38). Nonetheless, relations have been found between a level of mastery of the FL and high levels of enjoyment (ibid.). These were connected to lower levels of anxiety (ibid.). Students who tried to actively overcome the effects of anxiety and thus had sufficient resilience to vanquish their negative emotions, managed to reach higher levels of proficiency which led to higher levels of FLE (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 40). Overall, it can be concluded that at higher levels of proficiency, FLE levels increase, and FLA levels decline. This fact professes the reinforcement of FLE and the weakening of FLA (ibid.: 41). Howsoever, since the focus of this thesis is on the emotion FLE and speech production of the L2 within different types of spoken interaction in the EFL classroom, the findings on the negative emotion FLA will not be further specified.

3. Teaching Spoken Language

“One of the most fundamental English linguistic qualities to develop is spoken interaction”, state Eddie and Aziz (2020: 304). Becker and Roos agree and argue that the main goal of early FLL in European primary schools is to develop communicative competence whereas oral skills of speaking and listening are emphasized (Becker & Roos, 2016: 9; Enever, 2011: 33-34). The students’ own practice in speaking the FL enables them to become more advanced in the FL (Becker & Roos, 2016: 9). Additionally, the regular practice of oral output in the FL can generate a stronger second language (L2) self and increasing FLE (Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018: 28). Spoken language within communicative activities as a productive skill needs to be implemented in the English primary classroom to practice FL output (Eddie & Aziz, 2020: 304, Becker & Roos, 2016: 9). Pienemann (2006: 44) further highlighted that the L1 always plays a role within the process of FL learning, and it has an influence on the acquisition of another language. In terms of acquiring a FL, it is not the main factor that the L1 leaves its tracks and traces in the acquisition process; instead, the way in which these traces influence the learning process needs to be regarded (ibid.). Learners are supposed to be supported in their development of a repertoire of vocabulary and fixed expressions that they can use in activities like role play (ibid.). These can serve as a foundation for further learning and language use and are particularly vital at the beginning of FLL (Becker & Roos, 2016: 9). When young learners are trained to develop fluent FL output and basic speaking competencies, they require more than the ability to produce memorized chunks of language (ibid.). The problem that accompanies the need to implement spoken language in primary schools is the false belief that communicative activities are too difficult for young learners (ibid.). This explains why communicative tasks in language pedagogy and FLL have been poorly researched with younger learners (Pinter 2006: 626; Becker & Roos, 2016: 12). Instead, learners need to be given opportunities to use language spontaneously and creatively (Becker & Roos, 2016: 9-10).

Besides, research has demonstrated that using tasks with children can benefit their language development in various ways (Pinter, 2007: 189). For one instance, the repeated use of tasks results in fluent language production, which leads to assisting other peers in communicative interactions (Pinter, 2007: 189; Becker & Roos, 2016: 12).

Based on the research by Eddie and Aziz (2020: 34) in which primary school children were interviewed about effective spoken language tasks, spoken interaction includes communication efficiency and further essential components like intonation, vocabulary, and grammar. These elements are supposed to be part of FL teaching so that students are enabled to use the particular target language in successful communication (ibid.). Spoken language is further viewed as an essential component of daily communication (ibid.). While convenient approaches for spoken language will be described in chapter 3.2, it can still be acknowledged in this section that activity standards in CLT need to be increased to challenge learners’ proficiency (ibid.: 305). Therefore, oral imitation, repetition, or routine development factors are seen as poor arguments for any language learning theory (ibid.: 306).

As trained English teachers genuinely try to promote young learners’ oral output within spoken language exercises and tasks, it might not only be a matter of providing engaging activities, but rather also about taking care of other factors that play an important role in the holistic view of the EFL primary classroom (ibid.). Eddie and Aziz (2020: 307) name the classroom atmosphere as one example of another factor. Even if teachers provide opportunities for learners to speak and practice spoken language actively, learners might simply not be willing to speak up if the classroom climate is unpleasant due to various social factors (ibid.). Thus, it keeps returning to some of the mentioned factors in previous chapters about the overall atmosphere, which crucially contributes to learners’ willingness to participate in the FL lesson (ibid.). Since spoken language depicts a fundamental linguistic quality, teachers need to be aware of the special need to provide a positive classroom climate that can serve as an initial starting point for different types of successful spoken interaction (Eddi & Aziz, 2020: 304-306).

3.1 The Role of Spoken Language

Since spoken language as generally fundamental aspect for FLL has been mentioned and introduced in the previous chapter, the actual relevance and factors that implement spoken language will be brought up more precisely in this sub-chapter. Richards (2006: 9-19, 24) indicated that the process of the communicative use of the target language in terms of spoken language is viewed as a systematic process which starts at the point of encouraging learners first to mimic a model or react to stimuli. By introducing students to speaking up in the FL, starting at a low level will work for successful and effective oral production (Eddie & Aziz, 2020: 305). The learners need to understand that making mistakes and committing errors within FLL brings them closer to their goal and does not keep them from being communicatively successful (ibid.: 307). They can learn from their mistakes and therefore improve their own language performance (Becker & Roos, 2016: 16). By contrast, research findings claim that if students are fearful of harsh judgment, they deny their speech errors as normal aspect of the learning cycle and consider them as disruption to their reputation, and as a target of amusement from their teacher or classmates (Eddie & Aziz, 2020: 307). To prevent that from happening, learners need to participate more efficiently and actively when they can share their opinions, thoughts, and ideas in small groups (ibid.: 311). In this way, they feel more comfortable than in situations in which they ought to speak in front of the entire class (ibid.). Furthermore, students engage well in communicative speaking activities within group work that is enjoyable and kid-friendly which refers to the necessity of the appropriate choice of social forms in the classroom (ibid.). Research also resulted in a more enthusiastic and appreciative mood among the learners based on group work (ibid.: 311-312). Since every one of the peers is requested to speak English, the students are less reserved and more willing to engage actively (ibid.: 312). In communicative activities, they tend to enjoy learning with friends and help each other in terms of practicing dialogues together. They turn out to be less shy because they do not have to be afraid of being made fun of (ibid.).

Another aspect that can impact spoken language activities are real-world situations that can trigger children’s excitement and interest because they can relate to them (Eddie & Aziz, 2020: 312). As a result of their sprouted interest, they are more willing to participate actively and communicatively (ibid.). The same applies for role play (ibid.). Students might look forward to playing a role which might remind them of playing games and therefore does not feel like traditional classroom learning (ibid.). Their excitement is even more triggered when they are allowed to suggest characters and stories for role play because in that way, they actively take part in constructing the task which guarantees active participation (ibid.).

According to a more authentic beneficial experience of EFL lessons, the CEFR has been developed by the Council of Europe (North, 2007: 3). CEFR stands for the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and has been originated at the end of the 1990s (ibid.). It aims at describing language proficiency by scales composed of ascending level descriptors in terms of outcomes and making the most out of linguistic resources (Weir, 2005: 281; Little, 2006: 169). It does not concentrate solely on one language but instead is based language independent (Figueras, 2012: 477). This framework answers questions about what happens in terms of oral communication, what enables people to behave in a certain way in conversations or how language learning takes place (Council of Europe, 2001: 4). It plays a role in terms of learning, teaching and assessment as well as spoken language since it embraces the four common areas of FL competences: reading- and listening comprehension, writing, and speaking (Figueras, 2012: 477). Whereas these competences are again categorized into the basic use of a language, independent and proficient use (University of Cambridge, 2011: 4). For teachers, this framework can help recognize children’s learner level and rank them accordingly (, 2013: 9). Therefore, the CEFR can serve as a help for teachers to understand language levels better and see more clearly what learners need to work on to reach the next level (ibid.). Accordingly, practitioners are likely to reflect on their current practice regarding their “learners’ practical language learning needs […] and the tracking of the learner progress” (North, 2007: 3). The CEFR depicts six language learning levels:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: The six reference levels of language learners’ ability and proficiency in the competence areas of the CEFR (University of Cambridge, 2011: 4).

At Level A1, learners are able to interact in a simple way, such as asking and answering simple questions about themselves (North, 2007: 4). At Level A2, they can state social functions like greeting people, asking how they are, or making arrangements (ibid.). Level B1 includes giving personal views and opinions or coping with problems in everyday life, like entering unprepared conversations on familiar topics (ibid.). While at Level B2 students account for opinions in discussions by providing explanations and interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity, Level C1 is characterized by learners expressing themselves fluently, spontaneously, and almost effortlessly (ibid.). They produce clear, well-structured speech, showing controlled use of organizational patterns (North, 2007: 6; Little, 2008: 5-8). Finally, “Level C2 represents the degree of precision and ease with language” and how learners make use of a wide range of modification devices (North, 2007: 6).

Apart from the different stages, the CEFR sets a common basis for the elaboration of curriculum guidelines among other things (Council of Europe, 2001: 1). Since the framework provides this basis for the explicit description of objectives, content, and methods, it can improve transparency of courses, syllabuses, and qualification (ibid.). Additionally, in that way, the international cooperation of the field of modern languages is influenced which leads to an overall cultural significance (ibid.). This connection is rated as crucial, since language and culture always go together (Beckner, Blythe, Bybee, Christiansen, Croft, Ellis, Holland, Ke, Larsen-Freeman, Schoenemann & Larsen-Freeman, 2009: 3). Further, the provision of objective criteria for the description of language proficiency serves the bilateral recognition of qualifications in different learning contexts (ibid.: 1-3). As a result, the European mobility can benefit from these processes and from a common goal that is achieved by unity among the members of the CEFR in the cultural field (ibid.: 1-2). Due to the value of the rich heritage of diverse languages and cultures in Europe, the Council of Europe acknowledged the urgency to make an educational effort to transform the diversity from a communication obstacle “into a source of […] enrichment and understanding” (Council of Europe, 2001: 2).

Regarding the principles provided by the Council of Europe for the CEFR, the Core Curriculum (CC) mentions similar guidelines and goals for a prosperous EFL lesson. Concerning the competences, it is the main aim of the English lesson for the students to learn how to act linguistically and interculturally and practice accordingly (Niedersächsisches Kultusministerium, 2018: 7). Thereby, for successful linguistic actions, the ability of reception, interaction and production include the functional communicative competence, the methodological competence as well as the intercultural communicative competence (ibid.). In order to promote and support those competences, they are intertwined and, thus, acquired and acted out (ibid.).

3.2 Current Methodology

This sub-chapter intends to explain how spoken language is currently taught in the EFL primary classroom according to the methods used. The three methodological approaches of CEFR, TBLT and CLT will be stated in this order to give a few examples of fundamental approaches that aim at promoting spoken language in the classroom before referring to the specific guidelines provided by the German ministry of education.

As the previous sub-chapter introduced the CEFR, this chapter will take a closer look at the guidelines set by this framework. The Council of Europe states general measures and principles that need to be fulfilled regarding linguistic and cultural skills (Council of Europe, 2001: 3). The Council demands that learners can articulate in the business of everyday life in another country, exchange information and ideas with people who speak a different language, communicate their thoughts and feelings, and achieve a wider understanding of the way of people’s lives from another cultural heritage (ibid.). Besides, learners and teachers need to be supported at all levels within the principles of the construction language learning system (ibid.). Therefore, language teaching and learning are based on the needs and resources of learners and appropriate methods and materials are developed (ibid.). Next to the support of language learning, the Council targets tolerance and respect for cultural diversity by promoting effective international communication (Council of Europe, 2001: 3). Apart from the CEFR, the German ministry of education also sets guidelines for the appropriate teaching approach in the EFL primary classroom (ibid.). The Council of Europe as well as the CC appeal to help learners develop intercultural and communicative competences (Council of Europe, 2001: 2; Niedersächsisches Kerncurriculum, 2018: 10).

To redirect the focus from the principles onto the actual approach of the CEFR, it can be stated that this approach is attributed to two main factors (Figueras, 2012: 478). First, language learning, teaching, and assessment are connected for a more real-life-oriented approach (ibid.). Second, CEFR is supposed to serve with its open structure to multimodality and adaptions (ibid.). On the one hand, its construction works in “[…] a comprehensive, transparent and coherent framework for language learning and teaching […]” (Figueras, 2012: 479). On the other hand, the framework should be open and flexible to be appliable onto any kind of situation (ibid.). According to the learning outcomes, the CEFR uses the curriculum as an orientation for the action-oriented approach that the framework implements (ibid.: 481). The action-oriented approach deals with strategies that are used to determine how to make the most effective use of linguistic resources in communicative acts (Little, 2006: 169). David Little (personal communication 2012, cited in Figueras, 2012: 481-482) argues that the CEFR level descriptors listed in the previous sub-chapter are used to “define a learning target”, “select […] or develop learning activities and materials” and “guide the selection and design of assessment tasks” (ibid.: 481-482). The CEFR determines that communicative language competencies become necessary within the performance of a language task which is displayed in this figure (Little, 2008: 3-4):

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2. “A representation of the CEFR’s model of language use and learning” (University of Cambridge, 2011: 7).

Figure 2 illustrates the model of language use and learning in which the learner who develops certain competencies reflects different kinds of cognitive processes, strategies, and knowledge (University of Cambridge, 2011: 7-8). The learner is faced with task performance as the languages are used in certain contexts (ibid.: 8). To complete a task successfully, the language user engages in communicative language activities (ibid.). These again engage in their cognitive processes which finally leads to learning (ibid.).

Next to the approach of the CEFR, there are two more approaches that will be presented in the following. First, it is valid to acknowledge that “teaching is more than following a recipe” (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: x) or one particular approach. Instead, teachers shape methods according to their own beliefs and level of experience (ibid.). Thus, learning conditions and how a method is implemented in the classroom depends not only on the method itself but on other variables, such as the teacher (ibid.). Starting off with one methodological approach, CLT can be named here (Eddie and Aziz, 2020: 304). CLT was first developed in the 1970s and has the elaboration and implementation of programs and methodologies as its primary focus (Littlewood, 2013: 1; Thornbury, 2016: 224). Both factors promote the development of L2 functional competences through the learners’ participation in communicative situations (Savignon, 1990: 210). These situations could be lifelike communicative or real-world scenarios, role play, peer interviews, information gap activities, and group- and pair works that help learners develop spoken language within CLT effectively (Eddie and Aziz, 2020: 304; Celce-Murcia, Dörnyei & Thurrell, 1997: 141). The teaching principle of meaningfulness can be implemented by creating real-world activities or in personal interactions when students are trained to ask something to and from others or share their own opinions or ideas in groups (Niedersächsisches Kerncurriculum, 2018: 11-12; Eddie & Aziz, 2020: 312). Therefore, Larsen-Freeman (2000: 125-128) claims that the following principles need to appear in an English lesson to promote CLT: authentic language use, the steady use of the target language for classroom communication and introducing games that have features in common with real communicative events which meets authenticity. All of these principles are supposed to generate creative speaking (Chen, 2019: 345-346). Nevertheless, the most obvious characteristic of CLT is that all actions that take place in the lesson are performed with a communicative intent regarding the communicative competence (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: 126-129; Richards, 2006: 2). Within these communicative activities, the speaker is supposed to receive immediate feedback from the listener or the teacher on their performance (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: 129; Storch & Aldossary, 2019: 123). In this way, meaning is negotiated, and learners enhance their language use (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: 129). Additionally, teachers can train their students into giving appropriate peer feedback for language learning (ibid.). This can be practiced in small groups (ibid.). Group work ensures a maximum of communicative practice because they usually tend to feel more comfortable speaking in groups than in plenary (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: 126; Bensalem, 2021:21). Moreover, teachers should tolerate learners’ errors and view them as a natural outcome of communicative development (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: 126-128). When working on fluency, teachers should address a mistake at a later point instead of interrupting learners right away (ibid.). Larsen-Freeman (2000: 127-128) adds that teachers act as facilitators within setting up communicative activities. They also function as advisors during activities to answer questions and monitor performance (ibid.). Teachers’ overall goal in CLT needs to be to enable the students’ skills to communicate in the target language and perform their lessons respectively (ibid.: 128).

CLT is continued to be used in its “classic” form within course books or other teaching resources until today (Richards & Rodgers, 2001: 174; Ellis, Skehan, Li, Shintani & Lambert, 2020: 3.) Besides, it has impacted other language teaching approaches and methods that subscribe to a similar philosophy of FLL, grew out of this overriding approach and are used to convert the goal of CLT (ibid.). One of these approaches is TBLT (Ellis et al., 2020: 3; Richards & Rogers, 2001: 108-109). As the name of the approach states, including tasks into the English lesson is the primary focus (Ellis et al., 2020: 3). Richards and Rodgers (2001: 174) state that TBLT represents the importance of “specially designed instructional tasks as the basis of learning.” When learners are engaged in the use of authentic language, spoken language can be promoted by having learners perform a series of communicative tasks (Ellis, 2017: 109-111). TBLT focuses on students performing tasks with a non-linguistic outcome that requires them to produce oral output (ibid.: 108-109). Hence, the learners are primarily focused on meaning and the linguistic content (ibid.). They apply their own linguistic resources on contexts that are provided through TBLT (ibid.: 111). By doing so, they develop fluency in their use of the FL (ibid.: 112). Further, TBLT asks how an information can be put to meaningful use, so that it can be learned along the way (ibid.). The intention is to use the language to learn it (Richards & Rodgers, 2001: 155; Kersten & Rohde, 2013: 94). By performing tasks that inherit an interest content, meaningful use of the targeted forms helps learners to acquire new language items, like integrating those forms into their grammar (Müller-Hartmann & Schocker-von-Ditfurth, 2007: 46). At the same time, interesting context and real-life situations can induce creative speaking because the learners may feel more connected (Baihaqi, 2016: 2). Moreover, giving the learners time to plan and think before they start performing a task is important to consider as well (Ellis, 2017: 120). Accordingly, they feel encouraged to speak and improve their fluency (ibid.). On the contrary, when learners are focused on accuracy while speaking, pressure might hinder them in the process (ibid.). Therefore, they need to be allowed to perform tasks without any time pressure (ibid.). A helpful teaching tip that Ellis (2017: 122) refers to is not to be afraid to focus learners’ attention on their form while doing task performance. A quick “time-out” can facilitate learning and will not interfere with the communicative flow (ibid.).

In comparison to the guidelines of the CEFR, the German ministry of education (2018: 9) highlights that learners are supposed to be trained to use short and simple chunks for oral speech production which is applied in the two methods above. In terms of participation in conversations, they use the FL in cooperative learning forms, as in information gap activities (ibid.). Like the CEFR, the CC also refers to the need of implementing intercultural communicative competences that find expression in thoughts, feelings, and actions (ibid.: 10; 18). Thereby, the learners become aware of their own cultural identity and develop a certain appreciation for their own culture and foreign cultures. In that frame, cultural awareness takes place (ibid.: 11). At the end of year four, students can speak by using simple acquainted useful phrases (ibid.: 18, 29). They are able to repeat songs or chants in groups or individually, talk about themselves within describing trusted objects and skills, share questions, desires or wishes, give short instructions, and make use of auxiliary equipment, like pictures, realia, or sample sentences for creative and spontaneous speech production (ibid.).

Overall, researchers genuinely agree that learners benefit from task-based interaction regarding their process of language acquisition (Mackey, 1999: 583; Mackey, et al., 2007: 306). A few features CLT and TBLT have in common are the meaning-focus, an open communicative purpose, some type of a gap as well as a clearly defined non-linguistic outcome (Ellis, 2003: 9-16, Ellis & Shintani, 2014: 135). Both approaches aim at conducting English lessons in a way in which the language is not learned so it can be used (Richards & Rodgers, 2001: 155; Kersten & Rohde, 2013: 94). Instead, language itself is the instrument that is used to learn the L2 (ibid.). The use of the language is focused rather than the practice of its correct usage (Ellis & Shintani, 2014: 43). CLT and TBLT have similar features since they are connected in their characteristics (Ellis, 2003-9-16). Nonetheless, the most important difference between the two methods is the focus on developing the ability to communicative in the target language in CLT (Larsen-Freeman, 2000: 128). Whereas in TBLT, the goal of CLT is carried out within task performances (Ellis et al., 2020: 3). As this chapter has demonstrated, CEFR, CLT, and TBLT depend on each other in their methodology and lean on the language curriculum in their constituents (Ellis, 2003-9-16).

4. Empirical Study

The previous chapters have provided some insights into the relevant factors involved in successful FL teaching in the third and fourth grade in primary schools. The focus was placed on the enjoyment that students experience during performing tasks within the English lessons. Overall, the study that was conducted within this thesis, examines the factors that contribute to primary school children’s FLE in the EFL classroom with a focus on spoken language activities. The study that is presented in the following sub-chapters will be described in detail regarding the methodological considerations, the research questions behind the study, the methodological approach that was being used to collect the data, the participants who took part in the study in which the data was elicited and analyzed. Finally, the results will be presented and discussed.

4.1 Methodology

4.1.1 Research Questions and Expected Outcomes

In order to fulfill the objectives of this thesis as well as the title of this paper, the research questions presented in the following have been developed:

Research Question 1:

Do primary school children enjoy English lessons and in what why? If not, why?

Research Question 2:

Do children enjoy speaking activities in the EFL primary classroom, and if so, why?

Research Question 3:

What types of speaking activities in the EFL primary classroom do learners enjoy, and why?

The first question aims to ascertain whether primary school children generally enjoy English lessons. It further asks them to give reasons for their specific answer. Therefore, they can give examples or describe experiences and situations in which they have felt enjoyment. Although it is expected that all participants rather enjoy English lessons, an additional question was added in case that some participants would answer the question in a negative way: “If not, why?”. In this instance, the participants are asked to reasonably explain their state of mind, as well, so that the interviewer would get an impression of the rationale. It is expected that the learners state their overall enjoyment in the English lesson, because the English subject is implemented in a playful and game-based way which usually contents children (Griva et al., 2010: 3701). Nonetheless, one might further expect that weaker learners do not enjoy the English lesson as much as stronger learners due to a lack of talent or ability.

Furthermore, the second question is concerned with the speaking activities in particular. As it has been mentioned in the theoretical framework of this thesis, it is a well-known fact in FL research that spoken language activities and oral communication promote FLL (Eddie & Aziz, 2020: 304; Becker & Roos, 2016: 9). Therefore, this study aims to ascertain what young learners think about oral tasks, as well as determining the reasons for either their fondness or neglection in this matter. It is expected that learners savor speaking activities as they give them opportunities to talk in the FL and engage actively with it, which sparks their interest and excitement in the subject (Becker & Roos, 2016: 11).

Finally, the third question is connected to the second question but directs the concern specifically towards the oral communicative task type that learners especially enjoy in the classroom. Besides the activity type that is inquired, the participants are requested to give reasons for their opinion. It is expected that the learners prefer spoken activities which include some sort of a task and a relatable content because that triggers their interest in the subject (Eddie and Aziz, 2020: 312). Thereby, teachers can benefit from the outcome, and are given an insight into ways to improve English lessons according to students’ preferences.

4.1.2 Methodological Approach

In this section, the research design and the methodological approach that is used in this study will be explained. The study is carried out as a qualitative content approach based on Udo Kuckartz (2018: 13-27). This approach is used as this study’s research design to find answers for the research questions that are listed above. According to Kuckartz’ five phases of his approach, this study was carried out within a planning phase, developmental phase, testing phase, coding- and evaluation phase (Kuckartz, 2018: 45). Regarding this scheme, first the RQs were formed based upon the literature review, categories were developed as well as the interview questions (ibid.). Subsequently, the interview questions that were formulated according to the RQs were tested in a pilot study (ibid.). After conducting the study, all materials were coded, and the data was evaluated within the last phase (ibid.). While proceeding, the RQs were continuously focused to keep a logical structure (ibid.).

The study was conducted qualitatively, as the aim of this study is not to measure the level of enjoyment of primary school children in the EFL classroom when performing oral activities but rather to ascertain what factors trigger FL learner’s enjoyment in the English lesson, specifically what kind of spoken language tasks (Nunan, 1992: 4; Mackey & Gass, 2016: 216). Thus, descriptive data, known as soft data, is used in this research instead of statistical data which refers to hard data (Mackey & Gass, 2005: 2-4). Qualitative research includes “any kinds of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification” (Strauss & Corbin, 1990: 17). Rather, findings arrive from real-world settings (Golafshani, 2003: 600) in which the “phenomenon of interest unfold naturally” (Patton, 2001: 39). Individual characteristics are explored as individual cases are the aim of this type of research (Meindl, 2011: 27). When collecting the data, the quality is more relevant than the number of participants (Mackey & Gass, 2005: 163). Hence, a natural and holistic setting is emphasized to present the phenomena (ibid.). The chosen methodological approach cannot provide a quantitative comparison, since it only collects a small sample size from the few participants within a closeness to the research field (Nunan, 1992: 4; Mackey & Gass, 2016: 216). Nonetheless, the approach used here can compile information and contextual data in a more detailed and analytical way (ibid.). In comparison to a quantitative approach with the aim of testing certain hypotheses and quantifying data, a qualitative approach focuses on a controlled and naturalistic observation to discover new information (Friedman, 2012: 181). As Friedman (2012: 181) put it: “It aims to build a theory […] from the detailed study of particular instances.” Further, instead of testing hypotheses, they are generated within the inquiry in qualitative content analyses (Kuckartz, 2018: 21)


1 This will be further explained in chapter 2.4.2.

2 This matter will be further elaborated in chapter 2.4.2.

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Foreign Language Enjoyment and Spoken Language in the EFL Primary Classroom
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Foreign Language Enjoyment, Foreign Language Anxiety, Spoken Language, Teacher Role, Task-based Language Teaching, English as a Foreign Language, Second Language Acquisition, Tasks
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Delilah Cawello (Author), 2021, Foreign Language Enjoyment and Spoken Language in the EFL Primary Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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