Angelika Davey: The A to Z of Learning German

Angelika Davey’s new book The A to Z of Learning German: 26 ideas to make learning German more exciting and fun! has been released today for the Kindle but also in paperback format.

Angelika is a German tutor from Devizes in England and can be found online on various location. This e.g. is her website and that’s her Facebook page.

I have been in touch with her online for quite some time now and always find her updates very inspiring so was delighted to help supply a foreword for her new book that provides 26 tips to help you with your German studies. Or indeed any language study though some of sample literature or websites she at times provides are of course more geared towards the German learner.

I’d definitely recommend the book. Very important: This is *not* a book to teach you German but a book that will help you with your studies and gives helpful tips on how to approach them and also provides useful resources.

Here’s my foreword:

“I first began chatting with Angelika online six or seven years ago when I first set myself up as a German tutor in Cork (Ireland). I spotted some of her tweets and liked her style and asked her for advice about what I could do help promote my work.

She was a wealth of information and incredibly helpful to assist this stranger who had sent her this request out of the blue.

Since then we have been in regular touch and she has always been an inspiration with her regular blog posts and updates on various social media pages. It’s obvious that she has a passion and a talent for language teaching that you rarely ever come across. Though I never had the pleasure to sit in one of her classes it is clear that her enthusiasm is infectious for all her students.

This A-Z of tips for learning German (or indeed any language) is a wealth of down to Earth and practical tips on how to approach your daily studies. Though organised alphabetically there is actually also a certain chronological order to it beginning with some general tips on how to organise your studies and moving on to some more specialised hints.

Though by now I have developed my own insight into how best to motivate students, I still found interesting nuggets in there that I am planning to share with some of my students. In actual fact the recommendation to when in doubt mumble has already raised a few smiles, followed by the insight that even when certain parts of the German grammar may at first appear overwhelming there are always little hacks around that’ll help you communicate effectively even when you feel you are not 100% there yet.”

Benny Lewis: Fluent in 3 Months

Fluent in 3 MonthsBenny Lewis is a self-proclaimed failed language learner…. yet is now also a polyglot, having mastered a dozen or more languages in varying degrees.

It wasn’t, however, until his 20s that he figured out how to approach language learning. He failed miserably acquiring languages for the Irish leaving cert and couldn’t speak Spanish even after spending six months in the country.

It’s only when he changed his outlook towards learning Spanish that he made any progress.

He now runs the language hacking website Fluentin3months.com and is a digital nomad whose entire worldly possessions fit into a 50lb bag.

He is one of the few genuine Irish Internet success stories and one of the only Irish guys (if not THE only one) to be invited to a TedX Talk.

He has now consolidated his approach to language learning in a new book published by Collins, also boldly called Fluent in 3 Months and is currently doing an extensive book tour through the UK, Ireland and the US (as well as some other parts of the world) and I took this opportunity to attend the event in Waterstones in Cork where he first gave a little 15-minute presentation, then answered questions from the audience before moving on to the signing.

So…. Fluent in 3 months?

Seems like quite a promise, especially for people who may have struggled with languages before.

Is he selling snake oil?

Nope.

But the title does bear some explaining.

For starters he defines “fluency” as being able to express yourself in a social setting in a flowing style of talking without too many hesitations. In other words somewhere between B1 and B2 is where he would be aiming for.

He acknowledges that there are various other ideas of what constitutes fluency in a language and for the later stages C1/C2 he uses the term “mastery”.

On his site he had once mentioned that the 3 months part of his domain name is not a promise but a goal or a challenge and he is very keen on setting yourself precise targets and mini-missions and if 3 months may prove too short for your goals, then 4 months or 6 months could also do (or indeed just a week or two for smaller challenges).

In the book he emphasises that the 3-month goal is not achievable with just an hour per week here or there but does require full-time studying during that time frame (or at least two hours per day).

So with a minimum of 180 hours (but up to 720 hours if done “full time” properly), it’s safe to say that reaching levels around A2/B1 or slightly higher is indeed within the realm of the possible.

Benny quickly ditches a number of language learning myths. It has e.g. never been scientifically proven that children are indeed better geared towards language learning and there is at least one study that shows that adults are actually far better wired towards acquiring new languages. If kids have one advantage then it is the fact that they are surrounded by better “teachers”, i.e. parents who constantly encourage them and provide non-stop feedback. In other words: if there is a possible advantage, it is a question of nurture over nature.

His main point about acquiring new languages is to speak from Day 1. There really has never been a better time to learn a new language. If you don’t know anyone in your neighborhood who can help you speak, learn and communicate, then there are now scores of opportunities that can hook you up with language exchange partners and tutors online.

He keeps traditional academic approaches focusing on grammar to a later stage in his studies and also doesn’t bother much with reading or listening and film watching exercises at the early stages.

This is one of the few points where I may ever so slightly disagree with him. I love to surround myself with various media and foreign language input right from the start and am somewhat dubious whether it really is a good idea to keep everything grammar related to a later stage when it is more difficult to unlearn a number of bad habits but, hey, who am I do argue with someone who has clearly been more successful than me in acquiring a large number of languages? Plus, Benny openly admits that there is not one sure fire way in this regard and the important thing is just to set yourself precise missions and then find your own path to glory and see what methods work for you and which don’t.

All in all this is a fun and encouraging book, primarily aimed at people who have so far struggled with learning languages. Those who have already mastered one or more may not get all that much more out of it but even then one does find occasional nuggets: One suggestion he has for the mastery stages of language learning when a lot of the basics are already in your blood is not to find a tutor but a speech therapist or voice coach to help with the proper enunciation.

The book is kind of an offline summary of his online ideas and will likely introduce him to a new audience that may not yet be all that familiar with him. If you have already followed his website extensively, then a lot will of course already sound familiar.

Still, it’s great to have all his tips and tricks combined in one book.

(The book can be purchased from either Amazon US or Amazon UK.)

Heftromane – Pulp Fiction German Style

Perry RhodanOne of the most important aspects of learning German (or any other language) is total immersion. Whenever possible surround yourself with German texts, music, sounds, advertisement etc.

Of course, having the appropriate literature at your disposial can be challenging when your German skills are not quite as evolved yet.

You may want to upgrade from reading children’s stories but don’t have the skill set yet to approach Thomas Mann’s ZAUBERBERG. So what to read next?

Well, one thing you could try is to start reading Heftromane. Heftroman loosely translates as “novel published as a small booklet” and denotes nothing else but the German equivalent of the “pulp novels”.

These days they generally clock in at around 64 pages. They’re published weekly and are written in normal but not too demanding German which makes them good for intermediate learners. The downside: They are usually only on sale in German railway stations and newsstands and difficult to get outside of Germany.

lassiterThey come in a variety of different genres so there’s something for everyone Crime (Krimi), Horror, SciFi, Fantasy and “Arztromane” (romance novels set amongst doctors) for the ladies. Just don’t expect high literature.

Prior to being known as a Heftroman they were also called Groschenroman (i.e. a “dime novel”). A Groschen in pre-Euro days meant 10 Pfennig and referred to the initial cost for the small books. These days the term is anachronistic (they cost more and the currency is no longer around), but it is still my favourite term for that genre though most everyone else now uses the term Heftroman.

The modern form of the Groschenroman goes back to the 1950s and up to this day dozens of series are still around. These novelettes as a general rule are published weekly on cheap paper in A5 format that easily fits into even the smallest pockets. They are generally around 60+ pages long and can easily be read within a short space of just 1-2 hours. Given that they are not published in the more common paperback or hardcover formats, they cannot be found in general book stores, but instead need to be purchased in news agencies and are most widely available in train stations where the low costs, the special material as well as the short reading period makes them ideal reading material for an average train journey.

jerry cottonThey cover a range of genres. One of the most popular is a long running Sci Fi saga called Perry Rhodan that has story arcs that last 100 issues, so you do want to be around for the long run for this one. Most other series, however, have self contained stories in each issue. Jerry Cotton is a popular FBI action Krimi that has been around for about 3000 issues at this stage.

Other genres include Western (Lassiter), War (Der Landser) and Fantasy (Mythor). At some stage you were even able to find some Trucker novels (Trucker-King)! And in case you now think that reading those novels is primarily a guy thing: There are also a bunch of series around that are clearly addressed towards a female readership with romance as well as Doctor or Heimat novels. The latter being a typical German genre, saccharine sweet weepies set in alpine landscapes full of lederhosen and dirndl clad characters.

Groschenromane are often written anonymously or from German language authors with an English pseudonym to give these series a more international appeal. The publishing houses generally insist on some very strong and detailed guide lines and writing codes. The authors are never anything less than prolific.

arztromanGiven these restrictions and the high output the overall result is less sophisticated than other literary genres and the language appeals to a wide range of audiences who just want to be entertained on a train journey or after a dreary day at the office. They are also at times quite endearingly Germanic in their inability to properly describe the English or American Way of Life.

All of this makes them a great entry drug for the determined language learner who wants to dip his or her toes into some prose but who may not yet be ready to venture into more difficult material.

 

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As it happens, the Thalia Verlag is offering a free download of one their most popular titles: Wolfgang Hohlbein’s AUF DER SPUR DES HEXERS. (You will need to register with them.)

Browse even further and you will discover a range of other complimentary downloads on their website, some Heftromane others regular novels.

Current editions of JERRY COTTON in eFormat are available here. That website also has a range of other Heftromane available for download. (You can search by title or genre.)