Dear Students of German,
Welcome to Grenzenlos Deutsch, an online, open education resource for introductory German! We have designed this curriculum with you in mind, and have done so with an eye toward making it possible for you to learn German without first spending several hundred dollars on a textbook.
Grenzenlos Deutsch (GD) is:
- Interactive. The activities are intended to give you opportunities to practice some of the skills you’ll be learning along the way. In addition to whatever your instructor may assign, please feel free to complete them as often as you find helpful.
- Cultural. Each lesson includes readings and/or video that relates to some aspect of DACHL culture (D- Germany; A- Austria; CH- Switzerland; L-Liechtenstein). As of Summer 2019, most of our content is focused on Germany and Austria, but we look forward to adding additional content soon.
- Inclusive. One of our goals is to make it possible for you to talk about yourself and your life in German, and thus we introduce basic language for talking about LGBTQIA+ identities, complex family structures, and lifestyle choices such as veganism, vegetarianism, and intentional communities.
- OER. Grenzenlos Deutsch is an Open Educational Resource. This means that all of the content, including photos and videos, can be used, reused, and shared. The only limitation is that attribution must be given to Grenzenlos Deutsch and the resulting product cannot be used for commercial purposes. This means that you are free to use images and video with attribution for class projects.
The Structure of the Curriculum
As you will see once you begin your work, the GD curriculum is divided into six content areas, or modules. You will study topics such as family and friends, shopping and food, travel and transportation, location, the environment and sustainability, and social justice. Each of these modules is comprised of three units, or Einheiten. The idea is that you will go through the curriculum and do all the Unit Ones in the suggested order, perhaps in a German 101 course, and then return to the same topics at a higher level of difficulty in the second units. The third units are for enrichment and build in choice for you and your instructor: what topics of particular interest would you like to explore further? Are there other topics you would prefer to skip? The additional units build in that flexibility.
Each unit of GD is divided into lessons (Lektionen) and expansions (Erweiterungen). While you should complete whatever activities your instructor indicates, the general idea is that you will cover a lesson during class time and then use the expansion as homework to practice and solidify what you did in class. You will notice that each lesson and expansion has multiple sections, including speaking, listening, reading vocabulary work, structures, writing and cultural information. The authoring team is an experienced group of German instructors, and we wrote the curriculum to mirror the type of sequencing that we find productive in a language class.
Because this curriculum is online, you will need a computer, tablet, or smartphone for both in-class activities and homework. You will also need an internet connection. Because you will be working on the computer, we have included in internet searches; watch for the icon that signals an internet search activity. We also think it’s important that you do some activities by hand on paper (if possible), so you will occasionally see an icon that indicates a pen-and-paper activity.
GD is actually a collection of websites. To move from one module to another, click on the “Curriculum” button at the top of the page. Select the module or content area you are currently exploring. Once you have selected your module, when you click on the “Curriculum” button again, you will see the possible units and a cascading menu to select your lesson. You can watch a short video about the site navigation on our home page. Chances are, your instructor will link directly to lessons and expansions using your Learning Management System (LMS). The home page of each unit provides an overview of the topics you’ll be covering and provides links for quicker navigation to each lesson. The menu at the top of each page will allow you to jump to specific sections within the lesson or expansion.
Please note that the recommended browser for the integrated H5P activities is Chrome; Safari can cause some problems with the interactive features of the curriculum, so we recommend avoiding it.
PC users need to use HTML codes (alt+132 = ä, alt+129 = ü, etc.) to enter special characters into H5P. Here is a useful link with those codes. Mac users can use the simple short codes (option+u then type the vowel that requires an umlaut; option+s for ß).
As you probably know, learning a language means learning a lot of vocabulary, especially at the outset. So, a note about the vocabulary in GD: we have purposely not included a vocabulary list with English definitions, since we want to encourage you to think about the best way to memorize vocabulary and for you to create your own structure to learn (although we have of course provided some vocabulary exercises for each lesson). At the end of each Erweiterung, you will find a list of the important terms in the lesson for your guidance; these words have been introduced in context through out the lesson and expansion. Yes, we know you would like to have definitions for these words, but we are committed to introducing vocabulary words in context and through images so that you learn them using that communicative and integrated approach. You can work with your instructor and classmates to come up with ideas for learning key words and phrases. Some suggestions for you:
- Make paper flashcards. Use different colors and/or write in different corners of the card to identify different genders or parts of speech.
- Make your own virtual flashcards using a free program like Quizlet. Include images as prompts. (Or use existing quizlet sets: Dr. Pascale LaFountain has created an excellent set of Quizlet vocabulary sets for Grenzenlos Deutsch; those sets are available at: https://quizlet.com/lafountainp/folders/grenzenlos-101/sets for German 101 and https://quizlet.com/lafountainp/folders/grenzenlos-102/sets for German 102).
- Categorize vocabulary into word clouds on paper. What categories make sense to you?
- Create a Wiki, either on your own or with your class, to gather and expand upon your vocabulary work.
- Use pictures to learn—you can use our pictures or find or create your own.
- Write by hand. Many students learn through the act of writing, so write down words multiple times to help solidify your memorization.
- Use post-its and post words around your room in locations where you see them frequently. Use different colors for different parts of speech or genders.
- Speak the words. You could even record yourself speaking the words and then listen to the audio track as you walk to classes.
- Experiment! Try different strategies and reflect on which work the best for you.
Grenzenlos Deutsch centers many of the lessons around authentic interviews with German speakers. The authentic nature of the listening texts means that the audio and video materials are challenging—and they will challenge you in a way that prepares you to communicate with native and near-native speakers, with various accents and varied speed of speech. As you listen to the videos, be patient and don’t worry about understanding every single word. Use the activities provided to identify key pieces of information, perhaps listening multiple times, each time for a different piece of information. Know that with practice, your listening comprehension will grow and you’ll have gained true proficiency in listening. Talk with your instructor and classmates about listening strategies that will help you with this challenging (and yes, occasionally frustrating!) work, and know that you are building skills that will serve you well as you continue to learn, speak, and understand German.
The videos are not subtitled. The authors of the curriculum made this decision after serious debate and consideration because we want to ensure that students build listening (rather than reading) skills. Video and audio transcripts are available, so should you require this support, please talk with your instructor.
Gender and Pronouns
Grenzenlos Deutsch strives to be particularly attentive to questions of gender in the German language. We believe that if you are going to learn how to talk about yourself in the German language, you need the vocabulary to capture your whole self and all of your diverse identities, including diverse gender identities. In GD you will see some things that you don’t usually find in traditional grammar guides, like the non-binary pronoun options xier and they. For decades, activists and language innovators have worked to undermine the rigid gender binary of the German language and offer alternatives like the Binnen-I, the gender gap and gender star (you can find an overview of these on this page of GD) or other creative formulations like those listed on https://geschicktgendern.de. We make use of these in GD and also introduce two options for non-binary pronouns: the English they as a singular German pronoun and xier, a pronoun developed by Illi Anna Heger as a German equivalent to the singular they. Neither xier nor they has yet achieved widespread use in Germany, so if you travel abroad or speak to other German speakers, they might not use or recognize them. However, we wanted to introduce you to some pronoun options that you can use in your classroom; we encourage you to work with your instructor to find pronoun options that you are comfortable with. The Nonbinary Wiki lists many different gender neutral pronoun options for German. The German language continues to evolve, and we will update GD to reflect the changing landscape and language of gender identity.
We hope that you have fun learning German with this new curriculum!
The Grenzenlos Deutsch Team