Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Two German wordsmiths

Self-portrait by the Aktiv wordsmith

Konduktive Förderung

In Germany many years ago the term konduktive Förderung was introduced by Fr. Dr. Prof. Karin Weber. It was believed that this would describe what it is that conductors do. I am not sure that it does but that is another story.

I have rarely used this term. I tend to speak in terms of upbringing, lifestyle and education, and conductive pedagogy, just as I did in Hungary when I was training to be a conductor. I simply translated these words for my own use into German.

The children in my groups in Germany, and their parents, have also avoided using this term and we all tend to just say ‘Petö’ in our everyday communication. This is how it has been right from the start here in Nürnberg some fifteen or more years ago. I think it is the same in much of Germany. I am quite happy to stay with this because it keeps everyone well away from any connections to therapy when we speak.

Aktive Förderung

Recently one of our teenagers invented her own new descriptive term for what she thinks it is that we do together. 

This young lady does not have profound problems with her speech but she is sometimes so excited and fast that she trips over her words and jumbles things up a bit. 

I wonder whether this was how she originally created the new term – then, liking the way it sounded, she stuck to it. However it originated it has stuck, and she began using it regularly. Gradually we all began to use her words to describe our work together while in her company and sometimes even outside her group.

We all now do what our inventive teenager calls aktive Förderung – active development, active education, active Petö!

The parents love it. ‘Yes’ they said when they first heard it, ‘Our children certainly are very active!’


  1. You wrote –

    '...the term konduktive Förderung was introduced by Fr. Dr. Prof. Karin Weber. It was believed that this would describe what it is that conductors do. I am not sure that it does but that is another story.'

    Yes, you are right that the term was coined by Karin Weber but I do not think that she did so to describe what conductors do and you are right to have misgivings if you come across it used in this way.

    At the turn of the nineties, at the University of Siegen, Karin was working to develop her own rehabilitation practitioner, based upon what she knew of konduktive Pädagogie/Erzheiung. She created a training programme for the rehabilitators who would deliver this, that was called ScoRe, and its practitioners would be called SCoRe therapists. Here's a quick glimpse:

    In the end, although the course was validated by her university and all ready to go, there was no money to fund the course and so it did not run.

    There were similar less elaborated systems under preparation at the same time, one in Vienna the other in Munich. These did go ahead.

    Karin created the term 'konduktive Förderung' to avoid the problems that Pädagogie created for funding under health insurance schemes of the time. It was snapped up by the other two schemes, for the same reason. At the time Karin was publishing, lecturing and polemicising powerfully for her system, to a degree and at a level unique in the world of German academe, and she made considerable inroads into German academic-professional awareness. This she did to a degree that, when soon afterwards conductors began arriving to work in Germany in some numbers, they met the term 'konduktive Förderung' as an established usage and permitted it to be used to describe their own practice.

    It does not. Karen had very limited access to what they had been trained in. If you want to judge what this was then see her published accounts of the project that she ran with Michele Roche in Königstein. And consider how little had written at that time by anyone, not least conductors, about what conductors actually do. Anyway, she was less concerned about what conductors do than with what her SCoRe therapists would be trained to do...


  2. By the way, your posting reminds me of something that I should be clearer on. Perhaps you could help.

    Your young neologist speaks of 'aktive Förderung'. I guess the relevant noun in German is Aktivität. This in turn slips easily into English as 'activity'.

    But there is another German word Tätigkeit, also conventionally rendered into English as 'activity', and referring to something very different. Taking their lead, I guess, from the Germans, the Russians have aktiv'nost' and deyatel'nost'.

    In English one has to make do with a single word, 'activity', leading to potential fudge and confusion in English translations from the Russian child-development literature. If the English-language CE literature were more sophisticated, then perhaps there would be problems here too.

    My question therefore, to you and your Hungarian colleagues, is whether in Hungarian there is just one word to cover Aktivität/aktiv'nost', and quite another for Tätigkeit/deyatel'nost', or do they make do with a single word to cover both concepts, like English speakers have to.

    I like this young woman's coinage and I think that I understand the sense in which she means it. But the obvious English translation did set me musing once more about seeing conductive pedagogy, as it is too rarely construed and projected, as also a pedagogy of Tätigkeit/deyatel'nost', for which I thank the two of you.