How to Learn German - Prepare For the German A1 Level Test
According to CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment) put together by the Council of Europe, A1 level is the breakthrough level. The Framework describes what a learner can actually do with the learned language in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level. CEFR shares many similarities with the US developed ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, thereby providing a substantive and comparative dialogue about language learning and assessment internationally.
German A1 level
A1 level for each language assumes that the learner can understand and use familiar, everyday expressions and very basic phrases. He/she can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. The learner can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
The level is divided into two courses: A1.1 and A1.2. The total amount of teaching/learning hours is around 120-160 school hours.
People from all over the world learn German as a foreign language. The advantage of learning German language in Germany is in the integration process: many people coming from different cultures and speaking areas and attend the classes together, usually in a group of 15 people, and are forced to use the target language since the mother tongue or a media language in the process of teaching is never used. People like to communicate and make friends and become more and more motivated once they start noticing their own progress in learning.
Main Themes in German Coursebooks for Beginners
The main themes in coursebooks for beginners (A1) are greetings, the world and its diversities in nations and languages, food, people and every day basic communication, numbers and counting, cities, villages, means of transportation, family, hobbies, vacations, sightseeing, restaurants and shopping, hotels, clothes and fashion, work and occupations.
Grammar in a Beginner's Level
The grammar integrated in the content in German A1 level (A1.1 and A1.2), assumes the learning of the German alphabet, sentence stress, long and short vowels, question words (where, where to, where from, how long, how much, who, who to, who from, what…), auxiliary verbs to be and to have, conjugation of verbs in present and past tense, separable verbs (German: trennbare Verben) and modal verbs, the imperative mode with sie (formal), nouns, the definite and indefinite articles, singular/plural, negation, adjectives, comparation of adjectives, possessive adjectives, personal pronouns, prepositions, nominative, accusative and dative case.
Teaching German tips!
The methodology of teaching a foreing language without the use of the mother tongue or a media language can be pretty demanding but the CEFR principles encourage learner-centered, task-based approaches to the teaching and learning of foreign languages which makes teaching much easier. Every teacher should use his/her creativity in making interesting games and exercises for adult learners. Learning includes a lot of repeating so these didactic games are very useful for building and using knowledge. Next to usual teaching materials (coursebook, workbook, audio Cds, chalk or whiteboard markers) the teacher should use the world map and the map of the country the language of which is being taught, pictures (for easier acquirement of vocabulary), home-made cards with grammar references and anything else the teacher finds to be useful teaching material.
How to use alternative teaching materials:
- When you want to divide people into groups use coloured cards and offer them to all the participants. If you want a group of four you'll need four different coloured cards. People with the same colour belong into the same group. To make groups of two people for pair work you can use children's memory cards.
- When teaching numbers, you can use a piece of blank paper (landscape page setup) and write down numbers. On another piece of paper (of another color if possible) write down numbers in letters and cut them out in rectangular form. Give the papers to students to put the numbers in letters under the corresponding numbers.
- You can do the same when teaching definite and indefinite articles. On a piece of paper (landscape page setup) write down nouns and on another paper definite or indefinite articles or both and then cut them out in rectangular forms and ask the students to put the corresponding articles to the nouns.
- Take a few dice (with numbers 1-6) and 6 little papers. On one side you write down a number and on the other side what you expect the students to know. For example: ''Conjugate the verb to be'' or ''2nd person plural for live/wohnen'' etc. Each member of the group rolls the dice and takes the card with the corresponding number. The cards are set on the table face down. He/she turns the card and solves the given tasks, the other members confirm or correct. If the person is mistaken then he/she rolls the dice again.
- Let students play the snake game!
What do you need for the snake game?
Material: paperboard, dice and tokens.
Draw a snake on a piece of paper, in one corner make the tail, diagonally on the other side the head and fill the paper with circles one next to the other making the body of the snake. Make the head the starting GO space and the tail the ending FINISH space. Use three colours to colour the snake, for example red, blue and yellow and colour the circles. The red field is the pausing space (three to four fields), the blue field (every fourth field) makes you go two steps back and the yellow field is the field with a task.
On the side you need hand-made cards with written tasks or questions, for example, ''Which is the opposite adjective to old?'' (German: alt ≠ jung) ''When do we use the verb to be in the past tense (in German, Italian etc.[in German: with verbs expressing movement from point A to point B, with the verbs to be and stay, with the verbs expressing the change in status or condition])'', ''Explain the difference between can and know (German: können and kennen), etc.
How to play?
Roll the dice to see who goes first. The player with the highest number on the initial roll will start the game.
Starting from the GO space, each player on his or her turn will roll the dice and advance that number of spaces.
Take the action required by the space you have landed on.
If you land on the yellow space take one card from the top of the pile and solve the task or answer the question. If you succeed, you stay where you landed until it's your turn again, and if you fail, you go back to where you were before landing on this last space.
Who reaches the FINISH space first is the winner.
Learning German tips!
- When German grammar is concerned, the most important for a learner at the beginner's level is to learn the articles together with the nouns because there are only a few common rules about their usage and the rest is pure ''coincidence''. Usually, at the end of a coursebook there is an alphabetical word list, of course without translation. It is recommended that you write down the translation next to the words using the dictionary book or online dictionary in your mother tongue. Then mark all the nouns with fluorescent markers in three different colors depending on the grammatical gender (masculine, feminine and neuter). If you have time and frequently use the computer write them down separately in tables – this is a lot of work, but it's done during a longer period of time and it's very effective in memorizing genders.
- Take the audio CDs that you got with your coursebook and listen to them repeatedly while you are doing housework, cooking or routine work in your home. Usually people never listen to these (not even once) but you will be surprised how much of it spontaneously impresses into your mind. Listening is a very important part in language learning because one fourth of your A1 exam includes understanding based on listening.
- Find extra learning material like books with grammar exercises and little handbooks or pocketbooks with a simple and interesting plot corresponding to A1 level. These little books are specifically made to facilitate language learning and to help you determine what you've learned. Inside you can find also some grammar exercises and questions concerning the text with answers at the end so that you can check whether you've understood well what you've read. But remember, find the time at home for homework, grammar exercises and use the time in school (course) to speak as much as you can.
- If you spend a lot of time surfing on the net and you like to chat with people, find a penfriend in Germany (or elsewhere) and use German (or the language you're learning) to communicate with a native speaker. Don't worry because you're a beginner – Google will provide you with a number of dictionaries you can use like for example, EUdict, The Free Dictionary, LEO English-German dictionary and many others.
- If you have the opportunity to get DVDs showing original German films with subtitles or American films/films synchronized to German but with the subtitle in your native language, be sure to use it! Reading and listening at the same time is a very efficient way to acquire a language.
The A1 exam for German language
The exam German A1/Deutsch A1 (Start Deutsch A1) is based on the joint work of two institutions: the Goethe Institute and telc Gmbh. It's divided into four parts/tests:
(1) Listening [20 minutes]: here you've got three parts with 15 tasks;
(2) and (3) Reading and writing [45 minutes – cca. 25 minutes for reading and cca. 20 minutes for writing]. The reading test has three parts (15 tasks). Based on what you've read you need to mark the statements following the text as true or false or choose between statements a and b. The writing test has two parts; in the first part you'll read a short text on the basis of which you are asked to provide certain information by filling in 5 blank spaces in an application form (usually of a travelling agency). The second part assumes writing a letter to a friend or a formal letter to a tourist or travelling agency, hotel etc. based on three guidelines. You are asked to write down approximately six sentences (2 sentences for each guideline, circa 30 words),
(4) Speaking [cca. 15 minutes].
This test is divided into three parts. In the first part you are asked to present yourself providing information about your name, age, country where you come from, place where you live, languages that you speak, your occupation and hobbies. In the second part you are invited to speak with your partner (other student taking the exam), that is to ask and give information on certain topics. The teacher/examiner offers cards with face down and the student takes one card and reads the written word, for example, newspapers (German: Zeitung). This student has to ask two-three questions based on this word and the other student has to give answers:
A: Lesen Sie oft Zeitung? (Do you often read newspapers?)
B: Ja, ich lese oft Zeitung. Jeden tag kaufe ich Die Welt und Frankfurter Rundschau. (Yes, I often read newspapers. Every day I buy Die Welt/The World and Frankfurter Rundschau.)
A: Haben Sie heute Die Welt gekauft? (Have you bought Die Welt today?)
B: Nein, ich habe gestern Die Welt gekauft. (No, I bought Die Welt yesterday.)
Each student takes turn twice and then you've got the third part in which you are offered cards with pictures on the basis of which the students are asked to formulate questions and answers.
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