The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #18 November / December 2015
Book Look
The A to Z of Learning German
by Erik Zidowecki
November / December 2015 | 

The A to Z of Learning German: 26 ideas to make learning German more exciting and fun!
by Angelika Davey
Language: English
Item Rating:

All you German learners out there should pay particular attention to this month's book review. The A to Z of Learning German: 26 ideas to make learning German more exciting and fun! by Angelika Davey is available both as a printed book and a Kindle ebook on Amazon.

The author was born in Germany and spent most of her childhood in Lower Saxony until she moved to Wiltshire, England, in 1982. In 2006, she began her own German tuition and translation business. She became interested in writing her own books after writing blogs and translating other's books. In February 2013, she published her first book.

You can find her blog writings and translation services at Angelika's German Tuition and Translation. She can help you with learning German, doing business in German, having your website translated into German, and other services.

The A to Z of Learning German is broken into 26 parts, with each section's title beginning with a letter of the alphabet. That might sound obvious from the title, but it wasn't until I was several chapters in until I realized that. It is a subtle touch to the book which helps organize it.

Each section also has a "Final thought" paragraph at the end, which gives a recap of what was discussed. This is another subtle touch which I liked, neatly tying the chapter into a clean summation.

Angelika's advice throughout the book ranges from the very basic and generic, which can be applied to most language learning, to the more precise and exact, relating specifically to German and German culture.

The first kind is expressed chapters like "Dare to speak", "Listen to some German as much as possible", "Write as much as possible", and "Read as much German as you can". In all the language learning advice books I have reviewed, these four tips - Speak, Listen, Write, and Read - are prominent, because they form the cornerstone not only of learning but of communication itself.

Naturally, Angelika discusses these points, but she also gives you more specific information with regards to learning German. The writing section suggests some software to aid in your practice, while the listening and reading sections give links and suggestions for free sources online to use.

In fact, the book is full of links to countless free online resources a learner could use for everything from listening to music to finding a language partner to help you. She continues this beyond the book by providing a page with all the links on her own website.

There were some new terms and concepts I learned from Angelika that really interested me. First is the term "stammtisch", of which Angelika says "A Stammtisch in Germany is a reserved table for people who meet up regularly in a pub." This sounds like a great way for people who are studying a language - or languages - to get together and share each other's company as well as love of languages. That kind of experience makes me wish (not for the first time) to be living in Europe.

Personal experiences and anecdotes also litter the pages, giving the reader a more intimate look into Angelika's life both as a teacher and language learner. A great example of this is when she talks about eating Zwieback (a crisp sweetened bread) as a child. It was a daily ritual she shared with her grandparents, and its inclusion in the book serves two primary purposes. First, it makes a close connection with the German culture that only a native is likely to experience normally. It also acts as a metaphor for looking forward to our daily routine of studying.

Although I am not German and have never seriously studied German, this section also surprisingly struck a chord with me because had learned the word "zwieback" in some of my cultural studies and loved not only the sound of the word but also the earthy quality of this traditional food. It was one of those gems I always look for in other cultures.

Another cultural reference is yodelling, and Angelika manages to find a use for the stereotypical German form of singing in learning German.

Perhaps the most important paragraph in the whole book to me is the one that addresses the feeling common to most language learners at one point or another over their frustration at being unable to pick up a language which seems to be so easy for the local children to learn:

"Don’t forget that German children hear the German language every day and nothing else. Adult students hear German once a week for an hour or more and when the lesson has finished, your own life takes over again. You work in English, you spend time with your family and friends speaking English. You are very busy and before you know it, your next German lesson is about to happen. Is it really surprising that you can’t remember what you learnt last week?"

There is a lot of great advice and material in The A to Z of Learning German, and even if you aren't learning German, you are sure to come away with lots of ideas and tips for approaching your own language learning. The book is a pleasant read and I would certainly recommend it for your own personal library or getting it for a friend who is learning German!

Book Look
Writer: Erik Zidowecki

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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