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Home » German » German Advanced Grammar Fall 2016

German Advanced Grammar Fall 2016

Advanced Grammar / Communication and Structure in German.

The word “grammar” tends to call up bad memories of middle school language arts classes, with either prescriptive rules telling you that the way you speak your own language is somehow “wrong” or seemingly pointless memorizing of lists of prepositions and things like that. To avoid such discouraging associations, perhaps the name of this course should really be something like “Communication and Structure in German.”

In reality, grammar is not just something to torture students with, it is the basic structure of a language. To speak a language — any variety of any language — requires grammar. Speakers do not utter words in random sequences, but in structured phrases and clauses. Speakers also change vowels, and suffixes, etc., to show things like singular / plural, past / present time, agent or object, etc. But grammar – structure – is pointless without something to communicate. Whatever methods are used to teach and learn grammar, the point of controlling the grammatical structures of a language is to be able to understand what others are saying and writing, and to say and write things yourself that others will understand. “Schnitzel! Pommes!!” might get you some food, but “ik wollen Schnitzel und Fries” might communicate a little better, and  “Ich hätte gern ein Wiener Schnitzel mit Pommes frites und Gurkensalat” would communicate fully and competently not only a restaurant patron’s desires, but also his/her desire to be polite.

The need then is for a course that reviews structures typically covered up through the Intermediate level, covers a few structures that are often not covered in the first two years – such as the passive voice and the Subjunctive I –, goes a little farther than the usual Intermediate course in explaining German word order – but does all this in the context of developing communicative skills.

So we might structure a course something like this.

(Grammatical concepts like adjective endings, the principal parts of verbs, etc., will be addressed multiple times throughout the course, not all at once in one unit.)

  • Communicating about yourself, your family, your friends, your work, your studies, in the present time. Review of case (without much genitive), gender, and present indicative (concept of regular and irregular verbs).
  • Communicating about your past. Telling stories about what happened to you yesterday or last week or last year or in your childhood. Review of case (and focus on prepositions), review of perfect tenses.
  • Communicating about the past more generally. History and narrative fiction. Review of case, now with a focus on genitive; review of Simple Past. Passive voice here?
  • Communicating about things that might not happen, or could have happened but didn’t. Review / introduction of subjunctive II. Subordinate clauses.
  • Understanding and discussing the news. News media. Review of tenses, introduction of subjunctive I, and discussion of complex sentence structures, including relative clauses and the sentence bracket. Discussion of register. News discussed can include politics, sports, and business. This might be around election time.
  • Discussing pop culture.  A few grammatical features of casual spoken German,.
  • Discussing high culture. Read a literary text or two, short ones, very short narratives or poems, with discussion of rare or obsolescent grammatical features like post-posed genitives, genitive verbs, the dative –e, etc. Another look at sentence structure.

“Advanced” is a somewhat misleading term, and another reason for possibly changing the name of the course. Most of the grammatical structures covered are things that students will already have been introduced to in earlier courses. “Advanced” may mean that we go into a little more detail about certain things, and a few of the structures covered may be completely new to at least some students, but much of the grammatical material will be review.