Catching up in German 101/102/103

Catching up in German 101/102/103

This page is written for students in German 101/102/103 who feel that they could do be doing better in the course, or are falling behind. The suggestions are listed roughly in order of priority. After items (0) and (1), there is a numbered list of additional ideas; these are hyperlinks leading to more details further below!

0. Complete all new assignments on time. Work backward through what you’ve missed, and submit work as you get done. This will keep you from falling further behind, and will make catching up a more manageable task.

  • Meet with your instructor to find out which assignments are most urgent for you to catch up on (normally: 1. Vocabulary assignments 2. Video lectures and accompanying assignments 3. MindTap).
  • Meet with your academic advisor to get general advice on study skills, and for advice on the “bigger picture,” e.g. whether you need to drop a course in order to have enough time to do well in your remaining courses.
    • Your instructor may fill out an academic progress report in order to facilitate this discussion.
    • Please see the section on Accommodations for Students with Disabilities in the Kursinformation for your course. If you think this may apply to you, please look into it: these accommodations may help you to study more effectively and to show what you know in all your courses!

1. Review/Preview the German 101/102 Vocabulary Resources, Video Lectures, Worksheets, and Online Exercises

Click here to access the German 101/102 overview page. Scroll past the vocabulary section at the top. Here is how this page is organized:

  • The left-hand column includes links to video lectures summarizing the basics of German grammar. Note the list of topics for each video.
    • Pause the video lectures as needed; watch them multiple times.
    • Afterwards, make up your own example sentences using the new structures, until they feel easy.
    • Make flashcards out of example sentences you find useful! Here is some advice for making flashcards.
  • The center column includes links to online exercises and worksheets accompanying each video.
  • The right-hand column includes links to vocabulary handouts for each chapter, and to online exercises and worksheets practicing that vocabulary. The vocabulary handouts include usage information, examples and mnemonic ideas.
    • Vocabulary is crucial. Spend about 3/4 of your time on vocab practice, 1/4 on grammar.
    • Vocabulary: Use Quizlet (see links above) and the links in the right-hand column to review the chapter vocab, one chapter at a time, 20 minutes at a time, ideally 2-3 times per day, so that you cycle through 2-3 chapters every day. Alternate between Quizlet, reading through the vocab handouts, forming simple sentences with the vocab, and doing the vocab worksheets and online vocab exercises. Do more of whatever you find most helpful!
      • We especially recommend the “Learn” mode in Quizlet. Use “Options” to turn on the audio. 
      • The MOST useful thing you can do is to form as many simple sentences as you can, as quickly as you can, with the words you are practicing. If you are using Quizlet, form a sentence with each word that comes up. If you can’t think of a sentence quickly for a given word, just skip it: for vocabulary learning, quantity beats quality, i.e. you want to “process” as many words as possible in each study session. Multiple short sessions are better than one or two long ones. Specific advice for forming simple sentences quickly is here!
    • Video Lectures: Watch one of the video lectures in the left-hand column every day. Cycle through the video lectures multiple times until the material feels familiar. After each lecture, try the accompanying exercise/worksheet in the middle column.
      • If you are in 102, the 101 video lectures are also important for you to review. Review them all, and review especially the Kapitel 5 & 6 lectures repeatedly.
    • Try to work quickly, without distractions; if necessary, find “white noise” or “ocean noises” on YouTube to block out conversations etc. around you.
    • Time permitting, look ahead at the video lecture and vocabulary for the next chapter, using the same procedures as above. Work quickly and don’t worry about understanding everything: a quick preview will make it easier for you to absorb this material when the time comes.

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2. Review the basics: Pimsleur German. Great for improving listening & speaking skills!

3. Duolingo and HelloTalk – daily practice and German conversation partners

4. Listening practice: German Audio on Netflix; extr@ auf Deutsch; Lernen to Talk Show; “Videos zum Spaß”

5. Graded German Reader; More Reading Options

6. Subscribe to Mango or Yabla German via the LRC

7. MORE Self-Study advice and resources

2. Review the basics: Pimsleur German. Great for improving listening & speaking skills!

Pimsleur Level 1 may feel easy, but may be a good starting point for building confidence and fluency in speaking and listening.

Pimsleur uses an audio-based approach to teach a wide range of languages. You can find Pimsleur CDs in most public libraries. Look for something like “Basic German” or “Conversational German” or simply “Level 1,” and if you like it, look for the “Complete Course” collections, which exist at three levels. The basic idea is that you are taught how to say a few words, and then systematically asked to form sentences with them, e.g.Say “Let’s meet at half-past five.”There’s a pause for you to say it if you can, then you hear the model answer, then you repeat that, then you’re prompted to say the next sentence, etc. Every few sentences, another new word or phrase is introduced. The method is slow and methodical, but very effective at getting you to actually become comfortable using what you learn. It will only work if you attempt to say each sentence when prompted (and then repeat the model answer). Note their advice to repeat each lesson until you have mastered 80-90% of it before you move on to the next lesson!

If you like Pimsleur, I recommend using it in combination with a flashcard program, where you can enter words and phrases you want to be sure to remember, and with an online dictionary.

If you like the Pimsleur approach but find it too slow, you could experiment with the German materials by Michel Thomas, which use a similar approach, but proceed more quickly (but also less systematically).

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3. Duolingo and HelloTalk – daily practice and German conversation partners

Duolingo is a free app (for Android, iOS and even Windows phones) with the explicit goal of making language learning fun and addictive. Practice vocabulary, grammar, speaking and listening. Constantly being improved.

HelloTalk is a free app (Android and iOS) for finding conversation partners around the world and at home. Enter the language(s) you speak and want to learn, then find partners by language, location etc.

Links to Duolingo, HelloTalk, Italki and other resources are here.

Also: don’t be shy about talking to real people: German tourists and exchange students, friends and family members who speak German, etc.!

Finally, you can talk to yourself in German– out loud, or in your head. Tell yourself in German what you’re doing, what you’re seeing, what you’re thinking. It’s fun, makes you more mindful, and will help you learn to talk about the things that are most relevant for you!

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4. Listening practice: extr@ auf Deutsch; Lernen to Talk Show; “Videos zum Spaß“; German Audio on Netflix

extr@ auf Deutsch is an entertaining soap-opera spoof. The German is simple, clear, and useful, and the videos are captioned to help you follow along. An exaggerated laugh-track lets you know when a joke has been made, and some of the jokes are funny.

The Lernen to Talk Show is a series of 4-7 minute videos filmed once a week by a student who went to Germany for a year in 2011/12, to document his progress in the language. Each episode is carefully subtitled (and often also annotated) in ways that also show you some of the mistakes he makes as he speaks. I recommend working through these in order, starting with Week 1.

Videos zum Spaß: These videos are organized in accordance with their correlations to the chapters of Vorsprung. The links are accompanied by explanatory notes, ranging from general comments to detailed transcripts with translations. Choose what you like and use the related videos on YouTube to find more!

Netflix: Watching Netflix in German is probably less productive than the three suggestions above, aber es macht Spaß :) For shows produced by Netflix (Dark, Stranger Things, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt etc.), there is a language menu at the lower right of the screen where you can set the audio (but unfortunately usually not the captions) to German. You’ll learn the most by setting the language to German and the captions to English and actively correlating what you hear with what you see.

  • Here is a complete list of Netflix original series. Many more series are available in German (and with German captions) on Netflix in Germany/Austria/Switzerland, but Netflix is very strict about attempts to fool it into believing you’re in Germany when you’re not.

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5. Graded German Reader; More Reading Options

Extensive reading is a great way to build vocabulary and learn how the language works. The key to this is to look up as few words as possible, in order to read at close to a normal pace. Look up words only if (a) you’re lost, or (b) you really want to learn that particular word. A few ideas:

  • Graded German Reader (by Crossgrove & Crossgrove): Well-thought out progression from texts for complete beginners to anecdotes, stories and fairy tales – but VERY expensive (over $100 for a 240-page paperback) ==> look for a used copy, or an older edition!
  • Dual Language books in German with a facing page translation. Entering “Dual Language German” or “Parallel Text German” on Amazon will show you various options. Unfortunately, most of the available texts are VERY difficult.
  • German versions of easy-to-read books you like and have already read. This may be too hard at this point, but could work if you find a German version of something very easy and familiar. Harry Potter is definitely too hard at this point – but if you want to try it, here is a page with links to vocabulary lists and chapter outlines for the Harry Potter series, which can help you read this book more efficiently.

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6. Subscribe to Mango or Yabla German via the LRC

Click here to request a free subscription to Mango or Yabla. This is a great opportunity to access these valuable resources for free.

Mango Languages is an online language learning resource based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Here is a video overview of how Mango works.

Yabla allows you to watch their library of authentic German videos (TV clips, music videos, etc.) with various features to promote listening practice:

  • You can slow down the audio. The pitch will be corrected so it still sounds fairly normal.
  • All videos are accompanied by German and English captions. For easier texts, hide the English ones. Click on words in the German captions to look them up in an online dictionary.
  • The “loop” button allows you to play a certain segment over and over (click “Loop” at the point where you want the loop to end, then click on the progress bar where you want it to start)
  • Click “play game” to see some fill-in-the-blank activities based on segments from the video clip.
  • New clips are added each week. You can browse their library without signing in to see what’s available.

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7. MORE Self-Study advice and resources

Here is much more self-study advice. If you have time, scan the list to see what resonates with you.

Viel Spaß und viel Erfolg [=success] in Deutsch 101/102/103!

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