Level I: Introductory German: Contemporary Germany

German 001, 002, 011


The overall goal of Level I courses within the German Department’s nationally recognized integrated curriculum “Developing Multiple Literacies” is to help students develop cultural and linguistic knowledge that allows them to feel comfortable thinking of themselves as users of German, in listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Level I courses introduce students to cultural notions of time and space as they play themselves out in such topics and notions as talking about one’s self and others (family and friends), referring to activities and events (in present and past story-telling), occupations and pastimes (school, work, and free time), and the world around us (environment, residence, etc.). Comparisons to current German life and society build the foundation for cultural literacy and familiarity with the German-speaking world.

By the end of the course students will be

  • able to use German creatively and independently, based on thorough preparation in the four language modalities;
  • able to understand and produce a variety of text types, from personal and interactional to routine public, supported by reading and listening development;
  • able to communicate effectively beyond immediate and person-centered areas of interest, incorporating broader cultural knowledge into a variety of topics and issues;
  • familiar with authentic materials and audio-visual resources, including the World Wide Web


  1. Textbook and workbook for Kontakte, A Communicative Approach (Terrell, Tschirner, Nikolai, Genzmer), New York: McGraw Hill, 4th edition, 2000.
  2. Audio- and video cassette available in the language lab, ICC 226 and online here.
  3. Packets with supporting instructional materials.

In order to reach these goals, it is important that students participate in all classroom activities and keep up with out-of-class assignments, such as independent projects, partner work, and daily written homework. Throughout this course, we emphasize effective communication through linguistic accuracy. Creativity, breadth of expression (through syntax and vocabulary) and variation of language (“style”) in different social contexts and for different tasks are critical to long-term achievement. Therefore, we favor a communicative approach which highlights critical reading and writing right from the beginning. A balance of activities that are always focused on cultural knowledge will ensure the gradual but continual development of differentiated language abilities in all modalities. Assessment of progress will occur across all modalities and throughout the semester.

Approach and Components

We suspect that this course is very different from any “language course” you may have taken thus far. It probably also differs from many popular notions about what language learning is like – relatively passive memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary lists, with lots of tricky exceptions, with only minor focus on content. Specifically, our philosophy of what learning a language is all about and our goals and approaches require you as the learner to take on roles which may be unfamiliar to you. That new role involves taking responsibility, working steadily, being engaged and creative and all times, taking good risks, working collaboratively with others – and having fun in learning to communicate in a new language.

Most importantly, this course lays the foundation for learning German in a content-based and task-oriented fashion. That content pertains both to the culture of the German-speaking world and to language content – grammar, vocabulary, organization of texts in spoken and written language, and we will learn it through engaging in a range of communicative tasks that involve listening, reading, speaking, and writing in an integrated fashion. This communicative approach does not mean that we will not have to attend to grammar and vocabulary – we most definitely will! – but it means that we will learn those language forms only in order to accomplish certain communicative purposes in specific communicative settings.

Language learning is a long-term process. One does not learn German by learning its sub-components – grammar or vocabulary – perfectly and then just adding these perfectly mastered building blocks one after another. Instead, language learning takes place in a series of ever better approximations of what one ultimately wants to accomplish with the language. Seen from an end point these “approximations” would be called errors or mistakes that should be avoided. But seen from a developmental standpoint, these errorful approximations are part and parcel of learning the language. The problem is not with risking and making errors; the problem is with not overcoming them over time! In other words, progression and progress are among the key things both you and your instructor will be looking for.

In our instructional approach we will make every effort to give you ample opportunities to make those initial trial steps in a sheltered and supportive environment, while also having fun. Perhaps the best way of doing this is with a partner or in a small group, both inside and outside of class. Please take advantage of this kind of collaborative and supportive context which should reduce the risks that you think you are taking and set you on a path for making remarkable progress in a relatively short period of time. Different learners have different learning strategies and styles. We will help you find yours, individually and as a class. Do not hesitate to check in with us when you need help, experience difficulties, – and also when you feel that things are going particularly well! We look forward to making this a very successful and enjoyable learning experience for you.

Topics and approximate class schedule (for intensive class)
Chapter 1 Ein Tag im Leben eines Studenten, einer Studentin
Chapter 2 Zu Hause und unter Freunden
Chapter 3 Persönliches und Persönlichkeiten
Chapter 4 Ereignisse und Erinnerungen
Chapter 5 Bildung, Ausbildung, Arbeit
Chapter 6 Wohnen und Wohnkultur
Midterm test
Chapter 7 Durch Stadt und Land
Chapter 8 Kindheit und Jugend
Chapter 9 Esskultur und Geselligkeit
Chapter 10 Reisen und Erholung
Chapter 11 Wohlbefinden und Wohlfahrt
Chapter 12 Modernes Leben in Familie und Gesellschaft

(The non-ntensive course covers these topics in two semesters)

Modes of Assessment

Student progress is assessed in all areas of language use — listening, speaking, reading, and writing — using a range of assessment instruments.

Class Participation (20%)

is an essential foundation for learning a language. Consistent and constructive participation will enable students
1) to build up confidence in using German;
2) to experience and learn to negotiate the complex relationship between comprehension and production, between content and language form;
3) to shape intended communicative intentions creatively within the available resources, cognitive, knowledge-based, and linguistic;
4) to learn to negotiate and find a useful balance between accuracy, fluency, complexity, and comprehensibility and appropriateness of a message;
5) to obtain feedback from instructor regarding areas of language use in speaking that need further attention.

Assessment of class participation is based on the following criteria:

Grade Criteria


always well prepared; attentive and volunteers occasionally; tries to use German with classmates and instructor; makes the most of each activity or exercise; shows real resourcefulness and imagination when using the language; responds to and engages classmates in a respectful manner; remains critical and open-minded toward target and native culture


usually well prepared; attentive and volunteers occasionally; tries to use German with classmates and instructor; makes the most of each activity or exercise; completes activities and exercises with some imagination and resourcefulness; makes some effort to engage fellow students; shows some development of cultural sensitivity


adequately prepared and attentive; occasionally needs to be reminded to use German with instructor and classmates; responds and completes exercises with minimal imagination; does not engage classmates beyond the minimum requirements for an assignment


usually unprepared; makes little effort to participate or complete exercises; rarely tries to use German with instructor or classmates


makes no contribution to class whatsoever

Homework (20%)

A sustained and consistent level of preparation for all aspects of classroom work is critical
1) to ensure regular engagement with focused material outside of class, leading to better preparation for class;
2) to practice and improve accuracy of vocabulary and grammatical forms, particularly through writing to learn activities (e.g., work book practice;)
3) to engage in more extended language use that cannot be accomplished in class (e.g., listening comprehension with audio-visual materials, reading comprehension, and beginning writing tasks);
4) to provide an opportunity to work with other students in the class on more comprehensive communicative tasks.

Homework will be graded according to the following criteria:

“check plus” (95%): Homework handed in on time and indicating a very thorough effort as well as an attempt to use and experiment with the language.

“check” (80%): Homework handed in on time and indicating a satisfactory effort

“check minus” (65%): Homework handed in on time but indicating an unsatisfactory effort

Note: Late homework will be assessed a penalty of 20 % each class day. Because of this policy, any homework assignment that is turned in more than 5 class days after it is due will receive no credit.

Quizzes (20%)

At the end of each chapter, quizzes, approximately 20 minutes in length, will assess students’ knowledge in specified areas of thematic and cultural as well as linguistic knowledge. Quizzes will comprise reading, writing, and listening skills. Quizzes cannot be made up.

Writing (10%)

Over the course of the semester you have many informal occasions for learning to write in German (e.g., through workbook assignments). In addition, there are graded writing assignments. In the first semester these tend to be relatively short. They are corrected by the instructor but no second submission is formally requested from you although you are certainly encouraged to write out a corrected version.

Speaking Ability (10%)

You will complete three formally graded speaking tasks during the semester. Approximately 10 minutes long, each presentation allows students, as individual speakers, to use German in a best case scenario. This kind of speaking task will have been modeled by the instructor and students will have had an opportunity to rehearse a similar task in an ungraded situation. Students will have had time to prepare their presentations, shape them for appropriate and interesting content, discuss them ahead of time with the instructor, create visual aids, and plan them well with regard to fluency and accuracy of language use.

Midterm (10 %) and Written Final Exam ( 10%)

While quizzes pertain to highly targeted specific features of the language and expect relatively high levels of formal accuracy, the mid term and final examinations focus on integrated tasks (e.g, reading and listening comprehension, short writing assignments, speaking) and address both language and content knowledge.


You will be allowed a maximum of 3 absences for routine doctor visits and travel for non-emergencies, etc., during the semester without penalty. Beginning with the 4th absence, a penalty of -1% will be levied on the earned final grade for each class missed. In addition, 3 tardy arrivals to class will count as one unexcused absence. The best policy to adopt is to keep your instructor informed if you miss any classes or assignments. Extended illnesses and family emergencies will be treated as exceptions, and absences for these purposes will be excused. Be prepared to show proof of the need for the absences, however, if your instructor asks for it.
Note that quizzes cannot be made up and that any exam conflict must be cleared with the instructor in advance, or no credit will be given.

All courses in the German Department strictly adhere to the Honor Code of Georgetown University. Your work in class and on all take-home assignments should be your own. If you have any questions about what constitutes academic honesty within the framework of this course, please speak with your instructor. In cases of alleged violations, the procedures described in the Honor Code will be followed.

November 4, 2003