Fifth Saarbrücken Conference on Foreign Language Teaching

The Magic of Language -
Productivity in Linguistics and Language Teaching

29-31 October 2019

The theme of the Fifth Saarbrücken Conference on Foreign Language Teaching is productivity in linguistics and language teaching, the productive use of language often being marked by an undeniable magic. This magic does not only consist in the fact that people are capable of understanding each other, provided that they master the same code. It is also true when people talk about things they have never talked about and when new ideas occur to them or when they use notions and words that have not existed before, i.e. when they employ language productively and construct their own world. The relationship between the productivity and the magic of language works on various levels.

Productivity works on the level of pragmatics. Whenever people produce sentences and utterances, they are productive. The linguistic means that they have at their disposal allow them to create language structures and language patterns which aim at communicating information, arousing emotions and, eventually, eliciting reactions in their interlocutors.

Productivity also works on the level of languages for specific purposes. Any newly discovered phenomenon of the extralinguistic world will need to be named and classified. Neologisms, which provide a linguistic form for the corresponding notions, function at the word level and are often times of a specific nature. These languages for specific purposes, then, are productive sublanguages par excellence.

Whereas in the previous examples, the productivity of language refers to linguistics, it is equally present in the realm of language methodology. Whenever teachers instruct their pupils and students to communicate orally or in writing, they boost the latter's productivity. Teachers enable students to overcome boundaries in a language other than their mother tongue and, thus, to enter a terra incognita, which may give them a feeling for their own intellectual potential on the one hand, and a certain awareness of their chances to enter in contact with other people, who they would not have been able to communicate with if they did not master the target language. This aspect also stands for the magic of language as we understand it here.

The magic of language also refers to the interpersonal and intercultural mechanisms which are characteristic of any communication situation. In situations like critical incidents, for example, boundaries, which generally exist between individuals and also between people of different cultural imprints and socialisations, will be overcome. The processes involved will then lead to a redefinition of such relationships and, thus, be productive.

The processes going on in the brains of bilingual and multilingual people are different from those going on in the brains of monolingual people. Therefore, the brains of bilingual and multilingual people develop into structures that are different from the ones of monolingual people. It is clear, then, that productivity has a direct influence on the mental and intellectual development of human beings and their personalities. However, there also exist emotional factors that come into play.

We all may have found that we are “different” in situations when we are speaking a foreign language as compared to those situations in which we are using our mother tongue. Acting multilingually, we seem to have different personalities – one for each language we speak. The fact that speaking or writing in different languages makes us feel different may be exemplified by the question of how easy or how difficult it is to make emotionally charged utterances – e.g., a sentence like I love you – in our native language. When giving it a thought, we will soon notice that it is much easier to make such utterances in a foreign language than in our mother tongue, as in the foreign language, our emotions are redefined and we feel freer in terms of behaviour and use of language.

These few reflections illustrate the fact that language in general and the teaching and learning of foreign languages in particular generally provide us with new insights. This is true for various areas of linguistics as well as for our daily and professional lives and, last but not least, for language methodology. The magic of language, which is closely intertwined with the productivity of language, is the theme of the Fifth Saarbrücken Conference on Foreign Language Teaching. This theme surely is less accessible, less "handy", than other potential themes, but it surely is one that allows creativity to happen and that may generate multiple stimuli for the professional practice of teachers and researchers.

Aiming to provide a platform to bring scholars and researchers together for mutual inspiration and idea exchange, we hope we will have the pleasure of your participation in our fifth conference in 2019.

Deadline of abstract submission in until 31 August 2019 by email to

The duration of the section talks will be 30 minutes plus 10 minutes for the Q&A session.

As the number of time slots available for talks is limited, it is highly recommended that abstracts be submitted in good time.