You might have found out by now that I am a strong supporter of private tuition when it comes to German learning. And while the the books to learn German that I am going to review here are surely well produced and most likely follow some sound logic, it will turn out that working with them isn’t the best choice you can make. But on the other hand they are the most economical option… for the teacher slash school.
When you sit in a language class here in Berlin, you share your teacher with people from all over the planet. When you learn German in your country you probably sit in class with people that share your cultural background but not necessarily the same level of education or professional experience. And what’s almost for sure is that not two of you will have the same goal concerning learning German.
Now let’s take a look at the content of some books to learn German that are used in language schools not only in Germany. I’d like to ask a few questions to begin with:
- When was the last time you wrote a postcard?
- When was the last time you went to a hotel?
- Are you interested in camping?
- Would you enjoy to go to a (German) theatre play?
- How often do you talk about your flat or furniture?
- Do you think workers in a tourist office should be able to understand English?
- What is it with the weather?
- What’s your favorite food and who might be interested in your answer?
- Would you like to know and try some weird German dishes?
- When will you publish your first news-article or German ad?
- Are you maybe interested in history?
I could continue for a while but let’s not go wild, yet. These are only a few questions that I figure should interest you if you decide to learn with those books that I’ve reviewed as these are the topics they cover (among a few! others, that make far more sense.) If you are not interested in these topics, the question is, why should you bother dealing with them?
Don’t misunderstand me. The authors of these books wanted to cover a vast variety of topics to please as many learners as possible and also to make it more interesting I suppose. Which is the right thing to do… if you have to please tens of thousands of people with different goals learning together in groups. To me it doesn’t make much sense to prepare for as many possible situations that we might find ourselves in one day. What makes sense is to take what is there or at least what is reoccurring pretty regularly and learn how to handle that in German as soon as possible.
What’s the sense of being able to read flat-ads if I have already found one for the next year (or half)? And I am sure that when I have to look for them again, the necessity to find a roof and my dictionary will help me out here pretty quickly. What if I have kids? I love to talk with and about my son, e.g. I didn’t find anything in these books.
We are complex being with a high demand for meaningful things. It is painful to waste time with ‘belanglos’* stuff. I personally would like to read interesting short stories right from the beginning. Watch that German Tatort everybody seems to be crazy about and I haven’t written a postcard in ten years (might be twenty).
You get the idea, I hope. It’s not the books that are the problem here, it’s the system of putting plenty of wildly mixed together people together into one room and try to prepare them for about 40 different situations that might or might not concern them…ever. In case you learn German outside of Germany, you might even need less topics covered in these books. It is just ridiculous, I’m sorry. You wouldn’t buy forty different kinds of beverages on stock so you can offer that one special drink to the one guest once a year demanding it.
Stay out of class and hire a private tutor for the same money. Maybe 60 mins twice a week. Get some material that seems interesting and useful for you and a grammar reference using your native-language to explain certain basic structures (no exercises needed). Check out ‘Deutsche Welle German Courses’ as they offer great material for free. It’s like the German BBC. And most important: look for two or three tandem partners (if you can afford the time but at least one). I promise you, you will learn German in much less time than in that school you were thinking of.
In any case, I wish you success in your endeavor to learn German. It’s a lovely language and an even more lovely country (mostly).
With kind regards
Take a look yourself at the content of some of the more popular books and check if what they offer is of your liking: