German 1

Katsufumi NARITA Professor

Department: Institute of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Class Time: 2006 Spring Monday Tuesday
Recommended for: First year Engineering Students
First year Medical Students

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Course Aims

Classes are generally conducted following a textbook consisting of set texts, vocabulary lists, grammar charts and practice questions. After listening to the grammar explanations in class, students read the set texts at home, referring to the vocabulary lists, and prepare answers to the practice questions. The questions are about the set texts and require answers in German.

In the next lesson I begin with the practice questions orally, asking students to reply in turn; they are allowed to refer to their prepared answers. All students should listen carefully to the other students' replies and then correct their own answers if they are wrong. The key of the lesson is that after the practice questions I also ask questions which are not contained in the textbook. In these cases, students have to think and reply in German on the spot.

For both the practice questions and the additional questions to be asked in class, in the case of a wrong response we move on to the next student rather than correct each answer individually. The next student can then consider what was wrong about the previous answer and give a better response. In this way, the third or fourth student at the latest will arrive at the right answer. I then let several students repeat the right answer aloud so that all other students understand it. There is no time for idling in class. Using this method, we practice and study how fundamental things are expressed in German.

Key Features

Normally you'd say "tips" when advising someone to do something, but in my lessons I have "tips" that I should not do two things. They are not to use audio equipment, and not to give examinations.

Learning a language proceeds from "understanding," over "remembering," to "use". It is unfortunately the case that there are few opportunities to use German in Japan outside the classroom, and as a result we need to get as close to the phase of "use" during lesson times as possible. Without doing so, we will not know why we have to understand the grammar and the vocabulary and how to remember them. The best way to learn a language is to learn it through contact with other flesh and blood humans, the same way as babies who acquire it from mothers and other surrounding people. In the classroom, although they are mostly not native speakers, we have teachers who can speak German, so why not make the most of them. I try to be a partner to any student who is trying to use German expressions he/she has newly learnt. Anyone who has understood what I said in German and can reply correctly in the same language, can be said to have "used" German. Thus he/she can get confidence that his/her learning up to that point has been right, and the sense of achievement he/she can get when he/she can communicate with me in German will lead to a new motivation for learning. I myself read the texts to the students. I cannot do it as well as native German speakers, but I am sure that a real voice is more appealing than a recorded voice of any native speaker of German who has nothing to do with my students. Listening to recorded texts or recording your utterances in German is good practice, but it is just a practice and you cannot say that you are truly "using" the language.

I give my students no examinations because I want them to concentrate on learning the language without having fear of losing their credits. University is first of all a place for learning, and marks or graduation is just a result of that. Some people think that if the teacher does not give examinations, the students do not study, but whether things you learn for tests are really learnt and remembered or not is a fair question. In my lessons, every student will be called on to answer two or three times, and if a student has prepared for the lesson steadily, listens intently to my German and earnestly replies to what they are asked, the student should accumulate a substantial experience of what expressions German makes use of. Students who have learnt earnestly have no need to take examinations. On the contrary, in the courses in the Humanities where it is more difficult to stimulate students to study than in the courses of their speciality, or at the least in my own German lessons, examinations would only motivate them to pass but demotivate them to learn earnestly and are rather counterproductive. This would raise the question of whether students can be appropriately evaluated without testing them, but when the students have to answer my questions in the lessons so often, I can easily see what ambition each student is working towards. Grades are decided on by observing students in lessons, and from my mark book filled in during class. Lessons take place twice a week, and a semester has 15 weeks, so excluding the lessons for grammar explanations each student will answer my questions around 50 times per semester. At the very least, I consider this a much fairer way of allocating grades to students than the one chance of the semester end examination.

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Course Aims

It is often said that to learn a foreign language is to learn the four skills of Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking; however, that does not apply to my classes, in which I emphasize the acquisition of language ability, which is the foundation of these four skills. Language ability derives meaning from a language form and it gives the meaning a language form. In order to develop this ability, we employ the four channels of Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking; but in my classes they are only a means to an end.

"Foreign Language as a Tool." That is a phrase we often hear today. It is said to be a tool for gaining knowledge by reading literature, or exchanging opinions with other people. However, how is anyone able to read technical books or hold conversations without language ability? A tool is something outside of yourself. What is important is not the tool itself, but knowing how to use it, in other words, acquiring language as a psychological function within yourself. How an acquired foreign language – in this case German – is then used is left up to the individual – it may be good to specialize in reading German literature, for example, or it may also be good to simply talk with people in German-speaking countries.

Even if you do not have a concrete use for your German in mind, learning German (or any other second foreign language) is meaningful. For instance, looking at the same forest, Japanese and German would have different ideas, and the same occurrences in the same forest would be expressed differently in both languages. By "culture" we often understand visible things like cooking and clothing or customs and habits; but language as the working of the mind, which captures things in the world and gives expressions to them, is also culture. While objectively observing with a mature mind a language that differs from our own language and also differs from the kind of English to be learnt for the entrance examination, we can gain a wider perspective through experiential learning. In this sense, the purpose of this course is to encourage students to experience the perspective of the German language.

Language is not academic knowledge, but a fundamental ability of human beings. Learning a foreign language extends this ability, and it is an important part of the Humanities that a university should provide for its students.

Lesson Allocation

These lessons are for first year students who are learning German for the first time (as with any other Language and Culture I class) and will be given two days a week. The lessons on one day are called "German 1" and those on the other are called "German 2".

Course Requirements and Recommended Courses

There are no prerequisite courses. These are lessons aimed at beginners.


Narita, Katsufumi "Kotae wa Deutsch" (Dogakusha publishing)

Course Schedule

Session Contents
1 Pronunciation, how to read numbers, classroom expressions and greetings
Lektion 1. Werner Schmidt ist Student. Er hat Ferien.
(regular verbs, complete negation)
3 Lektion 2. Frau Meier liest den Tagesspiegel.
(irregular verbs, nominative and accusative of articles and personal pronouns, partial negation)
5 Lektion 3. Silke hilft ihrer Mutter in der Küche.
(dative of articles and personal pronouns)
7 Lektion 4. Frederik Ringer geht einkaufen.
(familiar forms of 2nd person pronoun and verb forms, prepositions)
9 Lektion 5. Silke und Werner fahren heute zusammen nach Göttingen.
(reflexive pronouns)
(adjective inflections)
11 Lektion 6. Sie müssen nur die Wegweiser beachten.
(auxiliary verbs)
13 Lektion 7. Auch samstags muss ich um sechs Uhr aufstehen.
(separable verbs)
15 Summary


Marks are decided upon observing students in lessons and on the basis of the mark-book filled in during lessons.

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Lecture Handouts

Note: All files are in German and Japanese.

Chapter 1 from the Textbook (PDF, 1909KB)

Chapter 1 Lecture Notes (PDF, 1405KB)


Examples of Lesson Activities:

  • I ask questions before I call a student to answer. I leave a pause before calling on a student, so that all students have to consider their answer.
  • If the answer is wrong, I usually do not correct it but move on to the next student until the right answer is given.
  • The right answer is repeated by a couple of students so that the whole class can understand it.
  • For both the questions written in the textbook and the additional questions asked in class, I let a number of students answer the same questions until they are well acquainted with them.
  • To avoid mechanical repetition I sometimes insert variations into the questions.
  • When students start to tire of one question I move to a fresh one.

A Possible Scenario (An example from Chapter 2) (PDF, 2309KB)

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Page last updated June 6, 2011

The class contents were most recently updated on the date indicated. Please be aware that there may be some changes between the most recent year and the current page.

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