Get rid of linguistic rust
CAFE EINKLANG A Fresh Start in German The Open University Preparatory German language course Hodder Stoughton Coursebook Pounds 9.99. Audio pack (2 cassette tapes and transcript booklet) Pounds 15 + VAT
Eleanor Caldwell warms to reintroductions to German for reluctant learners looking for a fresh start
In comparison to their infamous "rusty" French, many adults confess to having forgotten all they ever learned in the German classroom - and now regret it. With increased exposure to German on television and radio and acceptance of its role as a key European language, these reluctant learners are turning back to German with great enthusiasm.
While the informal conversation class suffices for some, a more thorough approach, including reading, writing and grammar skills, is sought by many. Having helped to eradicate much of the "rusty" French with the Overture course, the Open University is introducing its German equivalent, Auftakt.
Auftakt is a self-contained four-part course, with cassettes, videos and course book aimed, in its own words, at the student with "an elementary knowledge of German" or "the equivalent of a rusty O-level". There's that rust again. Prospective students about to enrol in the Open University L130 course, however, might be daunted by the level and pace of Auftakt: a short reading passage about the history and economy of Tubingen and a section on the nominative and accusative cases in the first chapter, for example.
As a confidence, morale and language booster, the warm-up course Cafe Einklang offers a gentle re-introduction to the language. Set in the context of a cafe in Wuppertal, Cafe Einklang starts from scratch with greetings. The seven chapters, set out as a working week, then offer a packed range of skill-based exercises integrated with both cassettes. In each cafe "day", there are about 30 short sharp exercises.
The variety of format of these makes them appealing to the independent learner: gap filling written and aural, reading with questions in English or German, true and false and matching-up exercises, word searches to name a few.
Grammar also has a high profile with good reference sections in each chapter - for many re-learners a necessity. Excellent pronunciation practice on cassette offers the basic training or re-training in oral skills essential for further study of Auftakt. However, the rather 1970s combined photodrawing collage spoils the look of the course book.
With the added dimension of video, Auftakt maintains the same integrated and varied approach of Cafe Einklang. The course focuses on the towns of Tubingen and Leipzig giving a natural context for comparative "vor und nach der Wende" study. The video gives insiders' views of the two towns.
By the nature of conversation, the language is, at times, difficult, but well-crafted exercises ensure that students have a clear focus for their viewing. With much discussion of "die Wende" by the Leipzig locals, students will gain a range of German related to a unique period in history: "eine friedliche Revolution . . . ohne Blutvergiessen . . . in der Zeit der Wende".
On a more general level, discussions on video, cassette and in text on Heimat, stimulate not only descriptions of a town and its attractions, but also opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of die Heimatsstadt. The inclusion of the poetry of Theodor Storm "Die Stadt" and a radio interview with the warden of a hostel for the homeless adds a wider social and linguistic perspective.
There is, above all, in Auftakt, an in-built sense of pace which should appeal to the student who has already got rid of the linguistic rust.