|"With every mistake we must surely be learning." [George Harrison]|
Essential Course Components and Logistics
Course Methods, Resources and Advice
What does it mean to be German? How do Germans see themselves? How does the world view the Germans? What about the Austrians and the Swiss? Chances are, if you have had any contact with German-speaking culture, you have probably encountered the question of German identity. In fact, there is even a word that describes Germany’s image: das Deutschlandbild. Try Googling: “Was ist (typisch) deutsch?” or “Deutschlandbild” and marvel at the multitude of articles and surveys. Why do Germans so frequently ask such questions about themselves? Is it because of the relatively late founding of the German state in 1871? the brutal use of racial criteria for citizenship under Nazi rule? the country’s division into two vastly different and opposing political systems during the Cold War? the challenges with reunification? Germany’s role in the EU? the current debates surrounding the admission of refugees? How do most Austrians and Swiss see themselves in relation to Germany?
In this intermediate German language course, we will consider these and many more questions surrounding the topic of identity. We will also consider by comparison, our own personal and cultural identities. How do we perceive and express ourselves? What factors (gender, age, ethnic heritage, etc.) have shaped our own identities, and how have these changed in our lifetimes?
1. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug. ISBN: 1476796637 (paperback) or ISBN: 1476796629 (hard cover). Please get the printed book, not the Kindle or audio version - it is easier to navigate through pages as we work with the book in class.
2. Die Verwandlung by Franz Kafka. ISBN-10: 885302061X or ISBN-13: 978-8853020611. An "easy reader" edition by Black Cat/Cideb Editrice S.R.L., not the original text. This is the NEW 2021 edition, make sure the picture on the cover matches the one below.
3. Your instructor may require a composition book (no spirals or wire), ink pens, at least one non-black pen or pencil, 4x6 index cards, a glue stick. Leave the cover and first page of composition book blank until directed otherwise.
The books for the course should be available at the campus Barnes&Noble store in Michigan Union.
In addition, although all of the grammar review is available online, it might be helpful to have a good reference source for German grammar. If you have a book you used before and it has worked for you - great (e.g. Vorsprung). Another great option is:
Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik by Jamie Rankin/Larry D. Wells. ISBN: 9781305078840 (paperback). This is the most recent 6th edition, but you can easily find earlier editions of the same book, which are just fine!
Throughout the term, we will ponder and discuss the concept of identity auf Deutsch within a series of thematic units: Kindheit und Familie, Geografie und Migration, Kunst und Literatur, Film, Geschichte. Each unit involves three modes of communication:
- the interpretive (one-way communication / comprehension),
- the interpersonal (two-way communication / conversation),
- the presentational (one-way communication to an audience or readers).
In-class activities are designed to provide students with daily interpretive, interpersonal and presentational practice. Each unit concludes with summative assessments in all three modes. The assessments resemble a variety of real-world communicative tasks. Our objective is not to see what students don’t know on a test, but rather to see what students can do in real-world situations. For example, the first theme unit concludes with partners demonstrating their ability to converse in German for 5 minutes, writing an English synopsis of a short German text and writing a zine or illustrated story about a personal experience. Leading up to these summative assessments, our aim is to review thoroughly the grammar, vocabulary and cultural content while practicing all four skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) needed for success in completing the assessments. This means that all the course work we do in and outside of class will be with the end goal in mind.
Another key component of this course is daily work with high-frequency vocabulary (HFV). The research is compelling: knowing the 1,200 most frequently occurring words / word families makes 70-75% German comprehensible. The problem is that when linguists have measured the percentage of HFV in first-year textbooks, they find only 30-40% of those words represented. Our goal is for students to master the first 1,200 words, no matter what textbooks they have used previously. To do this, we will cover approximately 100 words per week in class. It is expected that students will spend around 20-30 minutes per day 4-5 days per week on their own making flashcards and memorizing the vocabulary after we have introduced the words and provided assistance in how to make the most of online or paper flashcards. There will be in-class activities practicing vocabulary as well as weekly quizzes on Canvas to help keep students on track. There are also 3 vocabulary tests, which together make up 10% of the final grade. These tests will cover the following Kernwortschatz (KW) units/lists:
Test 1 (KW lists 1-4) =2% of final grade
Test 2 (KW lists 1-8) = 3% of final grade
Test 3 (KW lists 1-12) = 5% of final grade
Cramming does not work for language acquisition, or for any complex skill for that matter. It takes daily practice in speaking, hearing, writing, and reading the language both in class and at working on your own for acquisition to occur. Because our class meetings give students the chance to engage actively in the language, class attendance and participation are a critical component of the course. In other words, we take attendance and participation seriously. While several excused and unexcused absences will lower the attendance and participation grade to differing degrees (see our website), 10 unexcused absences mean a final course grade of E.
Another important feature of this course is our final creative project to be completed in groups of 3-4 students. Students will work together to create films, role-plays, podcasts, zines / illustrated stories, games, comics etc. Each of the projects should have an oral component that allows each group member to speak for about 3 mins. Whatever format is chosen, the project should be able to actively engage with the topic of identity and should demonstrate that students are familiar with the class themes and materials (ideas, texts, film, grammar, vocabulary, etc.)
Here are a number of excellent videos from previous semesters.
Final course grades calculated by percentage on Canvas will translate into the following letter grades:
Most assessments and weekly quizzes will be graded as pass / fail or meets specifications / does not meet specifications. Please always pay attention to the assignment descriptions on Canvas to know criteria for each specific task.
50% Formative Assessments
(show that students are learning)
50% Summative Assessments
(show what students have learned)
Attendance and Participation
Core Vocabulary: 3 tests
Homework (daily), Online Diagnostic Quizzes, AMDs (3)
Interpretive Assessments (2): reading and listening
Weekly in-class/online quizzes on the core vocabulary and class content from the preceding week: texts, grammar, vocabulary
Interpersonal Assessments / Partner Interviews (2)
Presentational Assessments / Writing, Presenting, Performing, Final Project (5)
- Our departmental website has a lot of resources for learning German
- Best bilingual dictionaries online:
PONS -->best for choosing the right word
dict.cc -->easiest to use, has great "crowd-sourced" pronunciation samples, and lots of handy tools (Note the "Wildcard Search" option!)
Linguee -->shows you translations in context and has great pronunciation
- Useful dictionaries:
LEO provides easier access to noun plurals and verb conjugations, covers more technical terms, and has a great forum for tricky questions.
BEOLINGUS provides messy results, but useful examples.
- If in doubt, check your results by a Google search and/or by comparing German and English Wikipedia entries.
- Monolingual dictionaries / resources: dwds.de, duden.de, canoonet.eu, redensarten-index.de
- Google Images can make vocabulary learning fun. Do an image search of a word or phrase you want to learn. dict.cc offers images, too. Very entertaining!
- Google (not Google translate). If you wonder about a phrase you have created, try googling it. If little pops up, chances are it is awkward. For entertaining fun, type a German word in the Google search bar to see what Google wants to add to it. Adventure awaits!
- For titles, concepts, idioms, try Wikipedia, then click on Deutsch in the lower left column. Wikipedia sites in German are amazing resources for harvesting vocabulary on any topic.
- If you want a paper dictionary, try:
- Langenscheidt Standard Dictionary German(Get the paperback version: much cheaper and easier to use!)
- Harper Collins Beginner's German Dictionary(Helpful usage examples; especially easy to read and use)
- Rankin/Wells. Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik (grammar text), 6th Edition. All the grammar you are required to know is in the course materials online, but this book is an excellent reference.
- Zorach & Melin: English Grammar for Students of German, 6th ed.
- Jones & Tschirner: A Frequency Dictionary of German (ISBN: 0-415-31632-4) The gold standard in high-frequency vocabulary lists. New edition due Oct. 2019.
- Gabriel Wyner: Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It (ISBN: 0385348118)
We expect you to check Canvas regularly for:
- Assignments in your assignment calendar (even if there is nothing to submit!)
- Assignments are due at the beginning of your section's class time.
- Announcements: Enable notifications and check your email inbox daily OR: visit Canvas daily to check for new Announcements.
- Gradebook: Please check regularly to make sure you have gotten credit for all assignments you have submitted, tests you have taken etc. Notify your instructor within a week of a grade being entered if you think there may be a mistake.
- ==> Gradebook comments from your instructor do not generate email notifications ==> log into Canvas to see them!
In case for any reason some class meetings need to be shifted to Zoom, the following expectations apply:
Attendance at online class meetings is required during the scheduled class time. Please read through following expectations:
- Find a place where you can participate in class uninterrupted and where you can freely speak out loud and practice your German during class.
- If possible, arrange a working space with a desk. Ideally, you will have a space for a notebook and writing supplies for in-class writing assignments and notes, and for any books we are working with.
- Before the class starts, please close all unrelated programs on your computer and mute your phone.
- We expect you to utilize both video and audio feeds while in class. This is a language course and a great deal of communication depends upon facial expressions and body language. It’s difficult to build a relationship with a name on a blank screen. We should be able to have direct eye-contact with you.
- Please give some thought to your environment. Lighting should be adjusted so that your face is not in shadow. Be aware of your appearance in general. Don’t wear a hoodie that blocks a portion of your face from view. When the weather gets hot, we still expect you to dress as you would dress for an in-person class (but pajama pants are OK!).
- Set your device on a flat surface. It’s distracting when students have their laptops on their laps or beds, for example, and the image shifts with every move. If you do need to leave the class, please mute your video, then step away.
- Your environment should be quiet.
- We ask that you do not eat (or smoke or vape!) during Zoom class meetings. Again, it’s distracting. Having a beverage at hand is fine.
- If connectivity issues interfere with your ability to meet these expectations, please email your instructors immediately.
Breakout Room Advice
- If you are in a Zoom Breakout Room and you finish the assigned task before the rooms are closed, please reverse roles with your partner(s) and repeat the task that way (if possible), and/or simply keep repeating the task until the room closes. This repetition will be very beneficial to your learning, and for developing fluency. If repeating the task does not make sense, improvise a conversation in German :)
- Note the "Ask for help" button, which appears in your Zoom Toolbar when you enter a breakout room and allows you to ask your instructor to join your breakout room to answer any questions you may have!
- Speaking and listening in class are a very important part of this course. We will keep track of your attendance and participation by an "A&P Tally" grade on Canvas, as follows:
- Each class hour, you will earn two "attendance points" for coming to class, and two "participation points" for participating actively.
- If you miss a class hour unexcused, you lose all four attendance & participation points for that hour.
- If you miss a class hour for an excused reason (e.g. self-quarantine, connectivity issues (for online classes), documented medical, psychological or family issues; religious holidays; family events such as weddings, funerals or graduations; job interviews; musical performances or athletic events in which you are participating, etc.), you will still earn all four "A&P Tally" points for that hour.
- As a courtesy to your instructor, please explain ALL absences, even if the reason is e.g. oversleeping, or work for another course, a trip, going to a concert etc.!
- Lateness: Loss of 1-4 points for that hour, depending on how late you were.
- Inattention (inappropriate cell phone or laptop use, "zoning out," etc.): Loss of one or both participation points for that hour.
- Difficulty participating: The "A&P Tally" grade is primarily an effort grade, but it does have an achievement component. If you are in class and making an effort to participate, but you have noticeable linguistic difficulties understanding and carrying out partner activities and/or responding when called on in class, you will lose 2 (or 1) participation points for every four class hours.
- BUT: We expect mistakes! Research has shown that language acquisition happens in a predictable sequence of stages. Each stage is characterized by certain patterns of useful mistakes! ==> Difficulty participating (on an ongoing basis) may reduce your A&P grade. Making mistakes will not!
- Absence Make-Ups/Participation Bonus: You can earn 2 make-up/bonus participation points for attending events such as
- Attending your instructor's office hours for more than 30 minutes
- Occasional special events, as announced by your instructor
- You can earn a maximum of 10 make-up/bonus points in May, and up to 10 more in June.
- If you know you will have to miss some classes during the semester, please contact you instructor in advance and inquire about attending the class you will need to miss with a different section of 231.
- Your instructor will enter "A&P Tally" grades weekly--please check these. If you wish to contest an "A&P Tally" grade, you must do so WITHIN ONE WEEK.
- ***If you have lost a net total of 40 or more points (the equivalent of missing 10 class hours unexcused) in your "A&P Tally" by the end of the semester, your FINAL COURSE GRADE will be an AUTOMATIC E***
- We will translate your final "A&P Tally" grade into your actual Attendance & Participation grade for the semester as follows:
- "A&P Tally" of 96 percent or more ==> 96 percent for the final Attendance & Participation grade (i.e. an "A")
- Only in very exceptional cases ("A+" level of participation throughout the semester), your instructor may enter a higher final grade of 97-100.
- 95 percent or less: Your final Attendance & Participation grade will be the same as your "A&P Tally" grade.
- "A&P Tally" of 96 percent or more ==> 96 percent for the final Attendance & Participation grade (i.e. an "A")
Similar to how your A&P grade is tallied throughout the semester, your homework scores will be recorded, and a final homework grade will be given at the end of the semester.
- Your final "Hausaufgaben Tally" grade will translate into your actual Homework grade for the semester as follows:
- "Tally" of 96 percent or more ==> 96 percent for the final Homework grade (i.e. an "A")
- In exceptional cases, your instructor may enter a higher final grade of 97-100.
- 95.99 percent or less: Your final Homework grade will be the same as your "Hausaufgaben Tally" grade.
- "Tally" of 96 percent or more ==> 96 percent for the final Homework grade (i.e. an "A")
The best and most motivating way to learn all aspects of language (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, fluency, etc.) is by speaking. We will use as much class time as possible to let you speak. We use a lot of partner and group activities designed to let you actively practice vocabulary, so that you can speak for most of each class hour. You will learn the most by relaxing, having fun, and experimenting with new words and structures without worrying too much about mistakes. This will save you a lot of memorization time before the tests - AND it will make it much easier to learn and practice grammar!
We spend very little time explaining grammar in class, but we will constantly be practicing it. Research has shown that grammar is learned most efficiently and lastingly by using it to communicate, not by explanations and drills. You will read grammar explanations at home before/while taking the diagnostic quizzes. There are many grammar resources available on-line. When the class needs it, your instructor will provide explicit explanations. Please ask questions.
Language Learning Anxiety
Researchers have found that about 1/3 of students feel anxious when learning a new language, in part because their limited language proficiency keeps them from "being themselves" when using the new language. They suggest two things that may be helpful in this context:
- Know that you are not alone. Consider letting your instructor know how you feel.
- Anxiety is often connected to perfectionism. As we will keep telling you throughout this course, your goal in speaking German should not be to "avoid mistakes," but rather, to "keep talking"!
- ASK QUESTIONS!! For every question you ask, there are likely to be several people in the class who will be grateful you asked it.
- Course Coordinator: Vera Irwin (3420 MLB; firstname.lastname@example.org); Language Program Director: Hartmut Rastalsky (3214 MLB). Your instructor may pass some questions on to Vera or possibly Hartmut. Let Vera know if you find a great learning resource!
- Take a look at the "Reading Strategies" page on the Resources site. Above all: (1) Skim texts once before you read them thoroughly. This will save you time: it is the first thing you will hear in any speedreading course. (2) Fight the urge to look up every unfamiliar word. Use your knowledge and common sense to help you fill in the gaps. Remember how efficiently you do this in English e.g. when you are having a conversation in a noisy place!
- Find a study partner. You'll have more fun, you can share pizza (or Bratwurst), two heads are better than one, and you never learn a thing as well as when you try to explain it to someone else. Research data shows that students who work in study groups are more successful language learners.
- Set aside a time every day to think in German about what you are doing ("Ich stehe auf. Ich putze mir die Zähne. Ich bin der/die Beste..."). This is great practice for the oral exams. Look up words for things you care about.
- Explore the many resources on the Resources site, including Self-Study Advice.
This class depends on all of us being comfortable interacting informally with each other, experimenting with the language, taking risks, and being playful. That means that what is important in every college classroom is especially important for us: an environment in which everyone feels welcome and respected. That means thinking about the things we say, not perpetuating stereotypes, and apologizing if you said something you didn't mean. It also means that we really want you to let your instructor know, in class or outside of class, in person or via email, if something happens in class that makes you uncomfortable, so that we can talk about how to make things better.
- If there are students in your section whom you know from your previous German course(s), then of course it's great if you continue to enjoy working with these old friends. But we also hope you will make an effort to meet new people in this section!
- In this context, please bear in mind the University of Michigan's non-discrimination policy: The University of Michigan is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.
One simple way to maintain an open and inclusive classroom environment is to be mindful and respectful of our classmates’ gender identity and preferred pronouns for class discussion and speaking activities. This will also be good practice for all of us to have before visiting the German-speaking countries. The German language does not yet include any generally accepted pronoun options for non-binary gender identities (in part because the case system makes this complicated), but many options have been proposed. If you identify outside the gender binary or have any other concerns about gender pronouns, your instructor will be happy to meet with you to find a solution that empowers you to comfortably participate in in-class language practice. This will include planning for how best to communicate this solution to your classmates, and how to set realistic expectations in a context where language mistakes of all kinds are an important and expected part of the learning process.
In the German language, nouns denoting people and professions also frequently have different forms based on a binary grammatical gender (e.g. der Student = the male student, die Studentin = the female student). In addition to being inherently problematic as regards non-binary gender identities, this has in the past led to absurd conventions such as using the male plural for mixed-gender groups, or ignoring the female forms of nouns when making general references to students, members of a profession etc. Your instructor will attempt to model an inclusive use of gendered nouns. This can be difficult to do consistently in German, and people differ as to how it should be done. Your instructor may also intentionally use multiple approaches. Please let your instructor know if you have any questions about this as you proceed through the course!
The University of Michigan recognizes disability as an integral part of diversity and is committed to creating an inclusive and equitable educational environment for students with disabilities. Students who are experiencing a disability-related barrier should contact Services for Students with Disabilities https://ssd.umich.edu/; 734-763-3000 or email@example.com). For students who are connected with SSD, accommodation requests can be made in Accommodate. If you have any questions or concerns please contact your SSD Coordinator or visit SSD’s Current Student webpage. SSD considers aspects of the course design, course learning objects and the individual academic and course barriers experienced by the student. Further conversation with SSD, instructors, and the student may be warranted to ensure an accessible course experience.
If you begin to notice a disproportion between how hard you are working and the results you are achieving, but you are unsure whether or not to contact SSD, please consider the following:
- A diagnosis from SSD may make you eligible for accommodations that will help you more accurately demonstrate your abilities in all your courses.
- In addition to diagnosing a disability and recommending possible accommodations, SSD can direct you to advice and resources that may help you to minimize the effects of this disability over the years, and to harness the abilities and talents that often accompany such disabilities.
- It is possible that SSD may not diagnose a disability. This may help you to decide on next steps, such as contacting Academic Advising or Counseling Services, or seeking advice from your instructors, your family, your friends, or others.
Students may experience stressors that can impact both their academic experience and their personal well-being. These may include academic pressures and challenges associated with relationships, mental health, alcohol or other drugs, identities, finances, etc. If you are experiencing concerns, seeking help is a courageous thing to do for yourself and those who care about you. If the source of your stressors is academic, please contact your instructor so that we can find solutions together. For personal concerns, U-M offers a variety of resources, many of which are listed on the Resources for Student Well-being webpage. You can also search for additional well-being resources here.
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual misconduct — including harassment, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. We understand that sexual violence can undermine students’ academic success and we encourage anyone dealing with sexual misconduct to talk to someone about their experience, so they can get the support they need. Confidential support and academic advocacy can be found with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) on their 24-hour crisis line, 734.936.3333 and at sapac.umich.edu.
Alleged violations can be non-confidentially reported to the Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Very important: All work submitted, including all homework assignments, must be original student work produced for this course, with proper quotation and citation of the contributions of others. When in doubt, cite (see below)!
This course is governed by the prevailing Codes of Student Conduct and of Academic Integrity of the University of Michigan and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA).Violations of Academic Integrity will be taken seriously and can in serious cases result in a failing grade for the course and/or referral to the LSA Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education. Official LSA policies on Academic Integrity, and also a quiz on Academic Integrity, can be found at: lsa.umich.edu/lsa/academics/academic-integrity.html
The written work that you submit for this course are where this policy crucially applies. This means:
- You will get the most out of writing for this course by creatively making the German you have learned "your own." When you write about a German text you have read, look for opportunities to express the ideas from the text more simply in your own words.
Note all of the following situations in which you should put words or phrases in BOLD (or, alternatively, underline them) in your essay, and then CITE the source at the end of your essay or a homework assignment.
- You can ask your instructor or some other proficient speaker 3 or 4 specific questions on how to say something. Cite their name and the date you got help.
- You may ONLY use an online translator like Google Translate for single words and short phrases. Clearly indicate these, include the English phrase you were checking, and then cite the translating tool. **Important: If your essay is clearly above the level of your work in class and on tests and homework, your instructor will hand it back to you and ask you to rewrite it.
- If you consult any additional resources (e.g. Wikipedia or other online sources), even if you did not quote from them directly, cite these.
- Put any direct quotes in quotation marks.
- If you have no sources to cite (you didn't look anything up in a dictionary, no one helped you, and you consulted no other sources), please write "I did not consult any outside sources for this essay" at the end!
- Situations in which you DON'T need to cite:
- It is good practice to look up the genders and plurals of nouns, and the conjugation patterns of verbs you use in your essay.
- We strongly encourage you to use a German spellchecker for your essays.
Homework: You are allowed (and even encouraged!) to get help from others and to collaborate with classmates on homework; if you use online translators (only to look up individual words and simple phrases) and other sources, you must cite them.
NOTE ON HOMEWORK SUBMISSION FORMAT: You instructor will specify preferred submission formats for any written assignments (Google Docs vs. snapshots of handwritten pages, Word documents etc.). Stay tuned for further information from your instructor.
LSA is committed to delivering our mission while aiming to protect the health and safety of the community, which includes minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Our entire LSA community is responsible for protecting the collective health of all members by being mindful and respectful in carrying out the guidelines laid out in our Wolverine Culture of Care and the University’s Face Covering Policy for COVID-19. Individuals seeking to request an accommodation related to the face covering requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the Office for Institutional Equity.
In our classrooms all students are expected to adhere to the required safety measures and guidelines of the State of Michigan and the University of Michigan, wearing a face covering that covers the mouth and nose in all classrooms, and not coming to class when ill or in quarantine. It is important to also be thoughtful about group gatherings as well as about classroom activities and exercises that require collaboration.
Any student who is not able and willing to comply with campus safety measures for this [in-person/hybrid] course should contact the course instructor or their academic advisor to discuss alternate participation or course options. Students who do not adhere to these safety measures while in a face-to-face class setting, and do not have an approved exception or accommodation, may be asked to disenroll from the class.
For additional information refer to the LSA Student Commitment to the Wolverine Culture of Care and the OSCR Addendum to the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities on the OSCR website.