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German missionary improves learning

Priest has been credited with devising a method of foreign language instruction

Divine Word Father Arnold Sprenger in his book launch on June 15, 2011 Divine Word Father Arnold Sprenger in his book launch on June 15, 2011
  • Francis Kuo, New Taipei City
  • Taiwan
  • June 17, 2011
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Father Arnold Sprenger, a German priest, missionary and educator, was honored yesterday for his contributions to the teaching of foreign languages among students in Taiwan and mainland China during a book launch at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei archdiocese.

The launch, held to mark the release of a collection of Father Sprenger’s writings, also served to recognize his 46 years of service as an educator and as the founder of Fu Jen’s Faculty of Foreign Languages. The event also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the reopening of the university in Taiwan.

Father Sprenger has been credited with devising a method of foreign language instruction that facilitates greater understanding and more rapid progress among Chinese students.

Professor Huang Cui-e, who presented a paper on Father Sprenger’s teaching method, told attendees of the book launch that a common problem for Chinese students and teachers of foreign languages was that they “dismembered the [foreign] language into only grammars and vocabularies, and thus they dare not speak and write.”

Huang Cui-e, who teaches Japanese, said Father Sprenger’s method aimed to help students “speak in context” as well as “focusing their speaking and writing for communications” by using dialogue, stories comics, dramas and speeches to help motivate students’ interest in learning.

Father Sprenger, who arrived in Taiwan in 1964, taught German at Fu Jen for 23 years before he was transferred to Beijing.

He remained there until June 1989, when authorities cracked down on a pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. He and other foreign professors were forced to leave their teaching posts in the wake of the protests.

Father Sprenger resumed his teaching in Beijing in 1991 and remained until his return to Fu Jen for academic research in 2010.

He said yesterday that his teaching method was developed after seeing so many freshmen students in Taiwan who knew only grammar and recitations after six years of English study. He added that after applying his method, students could write acceptable English after only six months.

Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei said during the event that missionaries and educators have their distinct roles but that Father Sprenger combined them into one.

The archbishop added that if local teachers could adopt the spirit of a missionary, many local educational challenges could be easily solved.

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