Resource for German grammar

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ymapazagain
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Resource for German grammar

Postby ymapazagain » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:33 am

Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum after being a member of HTLAL many moons ago!

I'm currently studying German and so far I've just been using Duolingo as a fun introduction to the language. I feel as though I am beginning to grasp the grammar although it can still be a bit hit and miss so I am hoping to find a resource, either a workbook or a website, that I can use to systematically work through the grammar and drill it till it really sticks.

Any recommendations?

I also plan to start using Pimsleur soon to develop my speaking skills.

Cheers!
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:01 pm

Welcome Back!
Hello, ymapazagain, welcome back! I look forward to following your participation in many other discussions concerning language learning.

Introductory Language Courses and Grammar
For a number of sound reasons, most introductory language German courses de-emphasize the study of grammar, providing only a minimal overview of the basic concepts such as gender, cases, verb conjugations, prepositions, adjectives and the like. A more comprehensive treatment of the subject is often reserved for (genuine) intermediate-level courses where the basic concepts are re-introduced in greater depth, coupled with massive amounts of new vocabulary. Beginning students wishing to learn more about grammar early on (and I speak as a grammar freak) often turn to specialized books on the subject.

Pimsleur and Grammar
As you have mentioned that you are using the Pimsleur Method (a programme of which I am particularly fond), you are probably already aware that the “mysteries of grammar” can seem even more confounding for students who begin their studies with this programme. The problem (from the student’s perspective) is that grammar is not addressed directly as is done in most language courses. Rather, the Pimsleur programme is designed such that the user is supposed to deduce the essential elements of the target language’s structure from its slow-but-certain revelation by example. This approach definitely has its strengths. However, for a language which is heavily governed by a case system (and given that the voice actors do not make an effort at clearly enunciating the case endings), these subtleties of the language can seem a little elusive at times.

Delving Deeper Into Grammar at the Beginner’s Level
My standard advice to beginners is that they should refrain from acquiring an elaborate/advanced grammar before entering the intermediate level of language study. The reasons are that, quite often, the examples used to illustrate a given point of grammar: (1) involve complex sentences which are simply too challenging for the beginner, (2) use vocabulary which is well beyond his level, causing him to divert his attention to a dictionary where he will be confronted with multiple meanings of a word which might not even clarify the situation for him, particularly in cases where relatively common idiomatic expressions have been used in the example, and (3) contain other elements of grammar which are not readily apparent to the beginner, but which are essential to his understanding of the example and the rule of grammar presently under discussion. Consulting an elaborate/advanced grammar before one is truly ready to do so can have the paradoxical effect of confounding rather than illuminating the beginner. That is, these books are an invitation to slide down a rabbit hole where bewilderment awaits the unprepared.

Beginners’ Grammars
I often recommend that the beginner used on a “basic” grammar. While many excellent grammars are available, I would recommend “German Verbs & Essentials of Grammar.” I would suggest that you leaf through the grammar, familiarize yourself with the way in which the information is organized and presented, review the present indicative tense and become notionally aware of the case system without trying to master it. Then, put the book aside, embark on your Pimsleur German studies and return to the grammar as needed. Do not try to become an expert in German grammar at this stage!

Grammar-Heavy Courses
Some introductory language courses place, or would seem to place, a heavier emphasis on grammar than the average run-of-the-mill language course. Courses employing the “audio-lingual” method would fall into this category and perhaps the finest example for the study of German would be the “FSI German Basic*” course. The basic structure of the language is reinforced through the (massive) repetition of sentence-pattern drills. Although the method, and this particular course, have their detractors (I appeal to everyone to resist the temptation of turning this discussion thread into yet another battle over the continued relevance of the FSI courses), the repetition of the drills does work. The procedure might not be stimulating for everyone, but it does work. An alternative would be the “DLI German Basic” course. The notes on grammar are truly the best that I have ever encountered in an introductory language course. Regrettably, the DLI German sentence-pattern drills are suffocatingly boring. Finally, another alternative worth considering is the often overlooked “DLI German Gateway” course. Although the audio-lingual method was not used in this course, it does contain some excellent notes on basic German grammar as well as an impressive quantity of exercise materials designed to support the presentation of German grammar. All three of these courses are freely-available via the Yojik website: https://yojik.eu/

Bare-Knuckled Study of Grammar (Workbooks)
You might be tempted to delve more deeply into the study of German grammar through the completion of a workbook or two, or three, or four. It’s your decision to do so and many members would likely encourage you in such efforts. While my recommendation would be that the beginner should forestall such studies, I will mention a few of the more popular alternatives:

Practice Makes Perfect (German)
McGraw-Hill offers a large collection of grammar workbooks under the “Practice Makes Perfect” series, all of which are so enticingly titled that they are hard to resist (geez, I need that one too!). I have the entire series for German. Paraphrasing myself from a recent discussion thread on the series, the list of titles in the series leaves me with the impression that the publisher is (unfairly) exploiting the insecurities of many students who most likely attend German classes and who are in genuine need of support in matters touching upon the structure of the language, and this, so as to compensate for the abysmal nature of the average course book designed for use in a classroom setting. In my opinion, as a collection, these workbooks are terribly expensive and are no more comprehensive than “Shaum’s Outline of German Grammar” which I also have.

Shaum’s Outline of German Grammar
The Shaum’s series of study aids has helped literally millions of North American senior high school and college students review the essential elements of a broad range of academic subjects and the publisher’s “Outline of Grammar” workbooks are every bit as solid as those covering Algebra and the like. The only drawback that I see for a true beginner is that, because these workbooks are designed to be used at the intermediate level as well as the beginner’s level, and therefore delve into some of the nuances of grammar which a beginner might not really appreciate, they represent an almost unavoidable descent down a rabbit hole where pursuing one problem will lead to more questions and so on almost without end.

A-Grammatik, B- Grammatik, C- Grammatik
A few years ago, Schubert Verlag introduced their A-B-C- Grammatik series of workbooks for the study of German grammar. Although these workbooks are in German, there is an edition containing English annotations (in a smaller typeface). A nice feature is that these graded workbooks (A1-A2, B1-B2, C1-C2) are available with one audio CD. The books are quite popular and for good reason. Should you embark on the use of one of these right now? I have already answered this question.

Deutsche Welle
If these people don’t know German grammar, no one does …
https://www.dw.com/en/learn-german/s-2469

German Resources – LLORG
Complied by the inimitable member reineke whose absence is much regretted.
https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2910/

*FSI German Basic (expansion)
Before embarking on a study of the FSI German Basic course, should you have already completed, say, Pimsleur German I, II, III and should you have developed a level of comfort with the language’s grammar as revealed in the Pimsleur programme, you will not need to begin the FSI German Basic course at Unit 1 … and so much the better! I found the first two units of this course to be particularly poorly-written. I am not saying that the materials are incorrect. Rather, in my opinion, the sentence-pattern drills are devoid of any sense of creativity, so much so that I found it very difficult maintaining my interest in studying with these materials. Fortunately, as of Units 3 and 4, the authors began to display more ingenuity in the crafting of the sentence-pattern drills, vocabulary drills, and other exercises. Why, they’re practically little gems of prose! So then, should you decide to use the FSI German Basic course subsequent to having completed a couple of levels of Pimsleur German, I would recommend that you begin with Unit 3.



EDITED:
Typos, formatting.
Expanded comments on FSI German Basic.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:14 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby David1917 » Thu Sep 05, 2019 12:20 pm

I will only add this option which, like Speakeasy has said before, only illustrates the fact that for a language like German there are almost too many resources to choose from:

Lehr- und Übungsbuch der Deutschen Grammatik - by Dreyer & Schmitt from the inimitable Hueber Verlag. There is a German only version, as well as an English version.
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby ymapazagain » Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:17 am

Thank you so much for your incredibly detailed reply Speakeasy! This was very helpful!

I am yet to start on Pimsleur (though I have used it in the past for Spanish) as I wanted to have a better grasp of basic grammar before trying it, due to the "mystery" that you mention. It was fairly intuitive with Spanish, but definitely less so with German. For me Pimsleur is most useful for developing pronunciation and 'flow.' The better my understanding of the basics the more I can focus on that.

Based on your advice I think I will get the “German Verbs & Essentials of Grammar” as a reference for the few things that I keep getting jumbled up on. Then I will get cracking with Pimsleur alongside continuing to work through Duolingo. I'll save the heavy grammar work for after that.

Out of curiosity I took the placement test on the Deutsche Welle website. I got 75% at A1 which I guess isn't too bad considering I'm only about two thirds of the way through Duolingo.

Thank you for your recommendation too David! I certainly won't be running out of ideas for resources any time soon. Cheers :)
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby Cavesa » Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:59 am

I would like to add just a few notes to Speakeasy's wonderful overview:

1.Introductory Language Courses and Grammar:
Yes, it is definitely true, that they have been deemphasizing grammar, but much less dogmatically than in some other languages. A part of the public (both the students and teachers) kept demanding a bit more attention to grammar. So, the individual courses of seemingly similar style can vary a lot in their approach. Themen Aktuell is not one of the newest works, but it is still up to date (including a cefr level), it doesn't shy away from grammar but doesn't overwhelm the learner (at least not too much :-) ), and it comes with bilingual workbooks which include bilingual explanation of the grammar features of the language. I recommend having a look at the series.

Curiously, some authors and publishers of the German courses are now forgiving grammar and taking it as a wonderful business opportunity instead of something to hide. Contrary to classroom aimed courses for French or Spanish learners (for example), the German classroom course series tend to include a separate but aligned grammar book these days. Such a book can upgrade an average course a lot, I'd say. Menschen is one of the courses with such a grammar companion.

Assimil also deserves a mention. It chops the grammar differently and introduces it in dialogues... just look up Assimil, there have been lots of threads about it on this forum. It is popular and for a good reason. I think this grammar approach works well for many learners.

2.Pimsleur is not the only audio course. I think Language Transfer tackles the grammar quite well, but I haven't completed the course, so I don't know how far it leads (the author says that the Complete courses cover all the common grammar, but I haven't seen a detailed curriculum anywhere). But the method is based on the learner understanding the logic and adding small pieces of knowledge all the time to the mix. It is free, so you don't risk anything, should you decide to try it.

3.Beginner's grammars: Those A,B,and C books really look good. I have personally tried Klett's Klipp und Klar, which is similar (and easier to buy around here). It is very good, I like the exercises and examples, and it is easy to use with any other resource. I wouldn't recommend most Hueber workbooks for a beginner, I found them a bit difficult to digest. I'd say even the ones officially meant for beginners might be better for an intermediate learner.

4.A missing piece of the puzzle: I am convinced the digital resources are still not good and plentiful enough, considering the importance and popularity of German. I really hope Kwiziq (a wonderful grammar teaching and drilling tool for French and Spanish learners) will make a German course one day in not too distant future. Till then, we've got Clozemaster, the author of which has been experimenting with grammar drills too, on top of the successful vocab course. Expugnator is probably the most experienced Clozemaster user on the forum, his log is filled with useful information. Do not waste money on Lingodeer. Despite all the qualities (it seems to be great for beginners of the asian languages), the German course is usually criticised for being too slow and boring, especially when it comes to grammar. And I agree. It might improve in future, but I definitely do not recommend subscribing to Lingodeer for German.
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby IronMike » Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:45 pm

Welcome (back) ymapazagain!

Have nothing to add to the excellent answers above except: Don't discount the wonderful Master List of Resources section here in the forum.
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby sirgregory » Fri Sep 06, 2019 10:23 pm

ymapazagain wrote:...I've just been using Duolingo as a fun introduction to the language...


Duolingo is essentially a large bank of translation drills. I find it to be fairly good for practicing points of grammar that you're already familiar with but it's very difficult to learn that way with no other reference. Each Duolingo item has a little discussion thread and a lot of the users seem to be completely lost on the grammar. (Same questions over and over, "wait, why is it den Mann" etc). Of course they are lost since Duo doesn't really teach it. The users on the threads that have some clue what's going on have obviously done their own supplementary grammar study.

What I do is make my own grammar outlines (cheat sheets). I have some sheets for verbs and some for the declensions. For example, I have a sheet with tables for the personal pronouns. I don't try to memorize everything at once from the sheet; rather, I refer to them when I'm uncertain about something. I'm finding I need the sheets less and less and eventually I hope I won't need them much at all. I'll usually do a quick review, then do a Duolingo lesson (dative case or whatever) and see how I do. I started out just using the app (this works fine in the beginning for absorbing simple vocabulary), but I've gravitated toward the website version as this is far superior for mastering the basic grammatical points.
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby lavengro » Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:54 pm

sirgregory wrote:
ymapazagain wrote:...I've just been using Duolingo as a fun introduction to the language...


Duolingo is essentially a large bank of translation drills. I find it to be fairly good for practicing points of grammar that you're already familiar with but it's very difficult to learn that way with no other reference. Each Duolingo item has a little discussion thread and a lot of the users seem to be completely lost on the grammar. (Same questions over and over, "wait, why is it den Mann" etc). Of course they are lost since Duo doesn't really teach it. The users on the threads that have some clue what's going on have obviously done their own supplementary grammar study.

What I do is make my own grammar outlines (cheat sheets). I have some sheets for verbs and some for the declensions. For example, I have a sheet with tables for the personal pronouns. I don't try to memorize everything at once from the sheet; rather, I refer to them when I'm uncertain about something. I'm finding I need the sheets less and less and eventually I hope I won't need them much at all. I'll usually do a quick review, then do a Duolingo lesson (dative case or whatever) and see how I do. I started out just using the app (this works fine in the beginning for absorbing simple vocabulary), but I've gravitated toward the website version as this is far superior for mastering the basic grammatical points.

I have started tinkering recently with German exclusively through Duolingo and so far am finding it pretty effective for me.

Depending on what level one is at in any particular skill unit, there are more than just translation drills: some exercises in the higher levels within a particular skill level provide just an audio clip requiring the learner to type out in the target language what she or he has heard (which I find super-helpful for listening comprehension); other exercises include cloze-type exercises (a relatively recent addition).

I agree 110% that the website is better than the app. I don’t know the status of Notes on the app currently, but they are always available on the website and I know that previously they were unavailable on app versions. The Notes are essentially what I believe you are describing as the cheat sheets you prepare.

I get a kick out of the Comments section, and it is sometimes bewildering to see users in later units still confused about something that should be well-understood at that point, but I often find the responses to be helpful, and frankly, sometimes I am that guy who is asking a dumb question (or alternatively, the guy who does not have to ask a dumb question because someone else has already asked it and received a sometimes really detailed answer and occasional link to external grammar sites).
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby zenmonkey » Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:24 am

Hammer's Grammar.

The book and the various workbooks. Top notch.
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Re: Resource for German grammar

Postby Cavesa » Sat Sep 07, 2019 12:08 pm

sirgregory wrote:
ymapazagain wrote:...I've just been using Duolingo as a fun introduction to the language...


Duolingo is essentially a large bank of translation drills. I find it to be fairly good for practicing points of grammar that you're already familiar with but it's very difficult to learn that way with no other reference. Each Duolingo item has a little discussion thread and a lot of the users seem to be completely lost on the grammar. (Same questions over and over, "wait, why is it den Mann" etc). Of course they are lost since Duo doesn't really teach it. The users on the threads that have some clue what's going on have obviously done their own supplementary grammar study.


Not anymore, Duo wants to be more and more a toy and less and less of a useful translation based tool.

-Duo has been lowering the amount of the useful (=translation) exercises. It has moved them to the later crown levels first, and those are now being shortened (it is a recent change), while the dumb exercises from the early crown levels are left there. The review (a sort of SRS is being reintroduced) at the crown level 5 is based on the early levels (=the dumb exercises), not on the late ones. It is clearly a part of the dumbing down process that cares about having as many clicking people as possible (to better sell ads), not good results.

-Duo German has been one of their best courses but that is going to change. The new volunteer tree failed the testing (that's what we were told), and a professional one, like French and Spanish, is being made. The professional trees are much slower and much more focused on vocabulary than grammar. Yes, it is there, but chaotically spread over the tree and very slowly introduced. Targeted practice of individual grammar features is almost impossible, as they are chopped in pieces and hidden behind skill names based on vocabulary. The huge and fast grammar section at the end of the changed Spanish tree is just a relict from the previous phases that they didn't erase, otherwise the learners are being taught the grammar very slowly and with some catches (in case of Spanish, the overuse of personal pronouns, too slow introduction of some verb forms which can lead the learner to learning something wrong, etc. Hard to tell, what will the German problems be). But they've made it clear, that hiding the grammar from plain sight is the goal.

On the contrary, Kwiziq has naturally expanded their method with writing exercises, so far for the individual words, and it is possible it will go for whole sentences in future. The only problem: there is no German course yet, even though we know it is high on the list of what the users keep asking for. So, hard to guess, when will we enjoy the superior and awesome Kwiziq instead of the toy Duolingo. Speakly also lets the users translate (parts of the sentence in writing, whole sentences as a sort of a classical card), but grammar is taught very unsystematically.
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