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Learning German: A Journey through Language and Culture

Explore German cultures as you master all the skills needed to understand and speak basic German.
Learning German: A Journey through Language and Culture is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 176.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Way to Learn German! With about two weeks of studying German, I am very pleased I selected Dr. Pfrehm's "Learning German." It is pragmatic and filled with everyday language that made me feel comfortable right away. In addition, you get to learn about the culture and visit different cities in Germany to really get a feel for the country. I recommend this course without reseveration to anyone who wants to learn German.
Date published: 2022-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Methodology Employed to teach German Dr. Pfrehm employs conversational German dialogue in various German cultural settings to convey his teaching of the German language. I found this methodology very effective and helped me to grasp the grammar of the German language much easier.
Date published: 2022-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun, painless way to learn German We just watched the first 5 lessons last night. It was entertaining as well as very helpful for learning German. We're looking forward to watching more!
Date published: 2022-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! I’m relearning German after 40 years of non-use. This course has been an excellent refresher for me, and I think equally valuable for a great time learner.
Date published: 2022-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable Lectures I love foreign languages but I shied away from German until now, because it is so different from the Romance languages, but the instructor makes the material clear and memorable.
Date published: 2022-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course! Highly recommended! This was just what I wanted. Over 50 years ago, I had studied German but since then have forgotten almost all of what I had learned. Viewing this course was a perfect way to get me started on my journey to relearn the language. Recommended for both those who are new to the language and those who want a review. The teacher is outstanding.
Date published: 2022-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from German course For the price, the course is a great bargain. However, one should realize that this course by itself is really insufficient to learn German. One must use the internet, this book, and other workbooks to obtain a fundamental understanding of German.
Date published: 2022-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great pace, great explanation Hmmm ... my motivations are several ... Of my mom's family, they are almost entirely German ... of my dad's family, his mother was half German-half English ... his father was at least half German through his mother and we do not know who my grandfather's father was ... so there's one motivator. I am looking to get a PhD focusing on Ancient Near East history; most programs require German or French so going with German (will eventually do French) ... I study theology and love Dietrich Bonhoeffer ... German ... and finally, though I used to absolutely suck at learning languages when I was younger, I've grown to love learning languages and am a bit of a linguaphile ... So, regarding this class: I've only watched 2 videos so far but the professor's presentation style really works for me. I love seeing the different historical sites and cultural settings to put some German in a more useful context. I think the pace is perfect, myself. For those saying "the pace is too fast" ... I took Spanish in High School (no, this does not help me with French because Spanish pronunciation is straight forward like German where as French pronunciation appears just made up ... I know it isn't ... but that's how it appears to me), I took Greek in College, and I took Hebrew in my Master of Divinity program ... this class is about the same pace as those ... it is NOT too fast at all and I don't think it is too slow either but ... for those who think either of those here's a few tips: If you think it is too fast, use the rewind button and watch multiple times like Dr. Pfrehm suggests (I've watched the first video about six times now) ... there is nothing forcing you to move on to the next video. If you can do on video a week, good! If you need two weeks per video ... take two weeks!! No one is judging your progress ... languages come easier to some people than they do others (I still suck at learning languages, I've just gotten better) ... if you're making progress, than you're doing great and you should be proud no matter HOW long it takes. Languages can be hard. If you think the pace is too slow ... watch two videos a week then ... or three ... or ... supplement your studies ... use a video for general grammar and rules and then go to something like memrise or duolingo and add one of their chapters to your list of vocab and speed it up in your own way .... But unless you want to pay through the ears for a college course, this course is about as good as you're going to get and, frankly I think its great. Thank you very much Dr. Pfrehm!
Date published: 2022-03-15
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Overview

This series teaches all the skills needed to understand and speak basic German. Focusing on major attractions in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, these episodes are perfect preparation for anyone who wants to experience German-speaking culture firsthand, from conversing with locals to reading signs and menus to navigating the railways and Autobahn.

About

James Pfrehm

Whether its literature, business, science, philosophy, music or history; German-speaking culture has literally helped shaped the world we live in today.

INSTITUTION

Ithaca College

James Pfrehm is an Associate Professor of German and Linguistics at Ithaca College. He received a master’s degree in German Literature from the University of Washington and a doctorate in Germanic Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Dr. Pfrehm’s teaching and research are intentionally interdisciplinary and include the German language; the literature and culture of German-speaking countries; and several subfields of linguistics, primarily sociolinguistics, dialectology, linguistic anthropology, and technolingualism. He has taught at universities in Heidelberg and Münster, has written and presented his research at numerous academic conferences, and has led several workshops at universities across the United States on teaching foreign languages with technology.

Dr. Pfrehm has received recognition from the Student Governance Council at Ithaca College for his outstanding teaching and commitment to his students, and he has earned various institutional grants to take students abroad for short-term study experiences.

Dr. Pfrehm is the author of Technolingualism: The Mind and the Machine and Austrian Standard German: Biography of a National Variety of German. He is also the author or coauthor of two foreign language textbooks: Kunterbunt und kurz geschrieben: An Interactive German Reader and Textures: Pour approfondir la communication orale et écrite.

Dr. Pfrehm is also a published playwright and has had multiple plays produced by theaters in the United States and Canada.

By This Professor

Learning German: A Journey through Language and Culture
854
Learning German: A Journey through Language and Culture

Trailer

Willkommen!

01: Willkommen!

Guten Tag! Your first lesson in German introduces you to useful expressions and some of the distinctive sounds of the language. Professor Pfrehm shows how to turn u into ü (u with an umlaut) and how to transform ch, spoken in the front part of the mouth (as in ich, meaning “I”), into German’s back-of-the-throat ch (as in the composer Bach). And, you’ll discover why German is worth learning.

29 min
Definite Articles, Gender, and Nouns

02: Definite Articles, Gender, and Nouns

Meet German’s three definite articles—der, die, and das—which correspond to masculine, feminine, and neuter grammatical genders. Get tips on how to predict the gender of nouns. Learn the names of the letters of the alphabet and their pronunciations. Survey the countries where German is an official language. And add to your growing vocabulary—from der Arm (arm) to die Zeit (time).

29 min
Personal Pronouns and the Verb sein

03: Personal Pronouns and the Verb sein

Warm up with Zungenbrecher (literally, “tongue-breakers”). These are phrases that add fun to learning German pronunciation. Then study the singular and plural forms of the personal pronouns. Practice conjugating the most important verb in the German language, sein (to be). Finally, discover how to make singular nouns plural, looking for patterns that will aid memorization.

23 min
Regular Verbs in the Present Tense

04: Regular Verbs in the Present Tense

Begin with the greeting, Wie geht’s? (more formally, Wie geht es Ihnen?) Rehearse responses, such as, Es geht mir gut and Es geht mir Ausgezeichnet. Practice conjugating present-tense regular verbs, and discover the wonderful utility of the indefinite pronoun man. Finally, learn the German names and nationalities for European countries. Along the way, encounter a new sound: the a-umlaut, ä.

25 min
Indefinite Articles and Numbers to 100

05: Indefinite Articles and Numbers to 100

Indulge your appetite for German by learning the protocol for ordering drinks in a pub and treats in a bakery. Dip into the relevant vocabulary, focusing on the indefinite articles and the numbers from 0 to 100, which are pleasingly like numbers in English. Get a taste of German’s famous system of word endings, known as inflections, which are packed with useful grammatical information.

27 min
Eine Reise nach Wien und Salzburg

06: Eine Reise nach Wien und Salzburg

Travel to two cities in Austria, Vienna (called Wien) and Salzburg, to practice your fundamental skills in German. Learn useful expressions for giving directions. Then investigate the beautifully simple word gern, which expresses approval or enjoyment. Find out how to negate a statement with a well-placed nicht. And along the way, you’ll drool over Vienna’s multitude of delicious coffee libations!

26 min
Asking Questions and Numbers above 100

07: Asking Questions and Numbers above 100

Start with another satisfying Zungenbrecher. Then get acquainted with the different ways of asking questions—both open-ended and close-ended questions. Survey the interrogative pronouns, focusing on the special uses of wo, wohin, and woher, which all mean “where,” but with distinct implications regarding motion and place. Finally, learn to count to a billion! (Without saying every single number on the way.)

32 min
The Nominative and Accusative Cases and kein-

08: The Nominative and Accusative Cases and kein-

Plunge into German’s grammatical case system, covering the nominative and accusative cases, which correspond to the subject and direct object. View a declension table of nominative and accusative endings for articles, and practice them in a tour of a typical house, learning household words. And discover how to negate a noun phrase with kein, and the supreme utility of the expression, es gibt.

26 min
Time in German and Possessive Pronouns

09: Time in German and Possessive Pronouns

Wie viel Uhr ist es? (What time is it?) Learn to tell time and how to read a railway timetable. Rehearse using the prepositions um, von, and bis in a temporal context. Also discover that German has three distinct words that cover our English term, “time.” Then dive into possessive pronouns—in singular and plural, as well as nominative and accusative—picking up new vocabulary along the way.

29 min
Coordinating Conjunctions and der- Words

10: Coordinating Conjunctions and der- Words

Coordinating conjunctions—such as aber, denn, oder, sondern, and und—allow you to link two dependent clauses in expressive ways. Get the hang of these simple words that let you say complex things. Then unlock the secret of German syntax with the Word Position Model. Finally, study a handy class of noun modifiers, called der-words, that have endings patterned after the definite article.

28 min
Modal Verbs and More Accusative

11: Modal Verbs and More Accusative

Use the public service messages on German Bierdeckeln (beer coasters) to launch into modal verbs—a two-part verb construction that expresses desire, necessity, or possibility, as in Ich möchte Deutsch lernen (I would like to learn German). Review the months, seasons, and days of the week. Also, see how the accusative case is used with certain expressions of time and after specific prepositions.

26 min
Eine Reise nach München und Rothenburg ob der Tauber

12: Eine Reise nach München und Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Prost! Open with toasting customs at Oktoberfest in München (Munich). Your visit to this vibrant city and to charming Rothenburg ob der Tauber introduce you to stem-vowel changing irregular verbs—those that undergo a simple vowel change in the present tense, second-person familiar, and third-person forms. These verbs are generally so common that the irregular forms are quickly memorized.

28 min
Present Perfect and da- and wo- Compounds

13: Present Perfect and da- and wo- Compounds

Learn to form compounds with da- and wo- plus a preposition, as in dahin (to there) and wohin (to where?). Then leave the present tense to meet your first past-tense form, confusingly called the present perfect. Concentrating on verbs classified as weak, discover that their present perfect forms are satisfyingly regular. Finally, practice getting these syntactic elements in the right order.

25 min
Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren

14: Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren

Via a love story, encounter irregular strong verbs in the present perfect tense. Along the way, find out where the terms weak and strong come from (hint: the same scholar who compiled a famous collection of German fairy tales). Then explore vowel changes, known as ablaut, which characterize strong verbs. Cover all seven ablaut classes. Also, learn about model verbs and mixed-class verbs.

22 min
Separable-Prefix Verbs

15: Separable-Prefix Verbs

Open with a tutorial on the refuse recycling system in Germany, leading to final pointers on the present perfect, which for native speakers is the most widely used tense for expressing past events in everyday speech. Then tackle another widely used grammatical feature, separable-prefix verbs, seeing how they fit into the Word Position Model introduced in Lesson 10. Finally, go clothes shopping!

26 min
Subordinate and Infinitive Clauses

16: Subordinate and Infinitive Clauses

Meet two German superstars—singers Herbert Grönemeyer and Annemarie Eilfeld—in a dialogue that covers subordinate and infinitive clauses. Together with indirect questions, which are formed just like subordinate clauses, these constructions take your German fluency to a new level. Then, use the Word Position Model, plus fresh insights into word order, to build a classic long sentence in German.

25 min
More Infinitive Clauses and the Dative Case

17: More Infinitive Clauses and the Dative Case

Sankt Nikolaus (Father Christmas) sings a holiday song and introduces the useful dependent clause, um…zu + infinitive. Also learn how to deal with the dative—the case used for indirect objects and that answers the question, “to whom or for whom?” Practice fitting this form between the subject and direct object, and see how it relates to the case forms you’ve already learned.

24 min
Eine Reise nach Zürich und Zermatt

18: Eine Reise nach Zürich und Zermatt

Visit two attractions in German-speaking Switzerland: the charming city Zürich and the Alpine resort Zermatt. Featuring a chocolate factory and other delights, the dialogue brings up the dative forms of possessive pronouns, which follow the pattern of ein-words. Next, learn the dative endings for der-words. Finally, discover an interesting exception to word order rules presented earlier.

23 min
Reflexive Verbs and Pronouns

19: Reflexive Verbs and Pronouns

Learn parts of the human body from two unusual experts: male and female Schaufensterpuppen (mannequins). Then, visit a German doctor in a dialogue that introduces reflexive verbs and pronouns. These verbs involve actions that refer back to the subject of the clause, such as sich fühlen (to feel; or literally, to feel oneself). The examples you cover take pronouns in the accusative case.

21 min
More Dative and Subordinating Conjunctions

20: More Dative and Subordinating Conjunctions

Continue your study of reflexive verbs and pronouns by looking at constructions that require the pronoun in the dative case. One example is the very useful sentence Das ist mir egal (I don’t care). Then step back and consider the four major uses of the dative. Also learn how “The Blue Danube” waltz by Johann Strauss II is the key to learning some of the most common prepositions with dative objects.

29 min
The Simple Past

21: The Simple Past

Delve into the checkered past of Professor Pfrehm as you learn about ... the past—the simple past, that is. This tense is different in form from the present perfect you learned in Lessons 13–15, but its meaning is the same, though it is mostly used in formal writing. Cover the simple past forms of the verbs sein, haben, and geben, and the modal verbs müssen, können, mögen, dürfen, wollen, and sollen.

24 min
Bäuerin Bärbel und die rotbärtigen Zwerge

22: Bäuerin Bärbel und die rotbärtigen Zwerge

Enter the world of fantasy with a Märchen (fairy tale) designed especially for this course to present verbs in the simple past tense. Featuring a widow in distress, strange little men with red beards, and a gruesome plot twist, the story is so thrilling that the seven classes of simple past endings for strong verbs, plus the much less complicated paradigms for weak verbs, will go down like candy.

34 min
More Simple Past and Relative Pronouns

23: More Simple Past and Relative Pronouns

Reach the exciting conclusion of the fairy tale from the previous lesson, while finishing your exploration of the simple past. Then turn to vocabulary for professions and the workplace, using it to construct sentences that present a new grammatical element: relative pronouns. Learn 12 of the 16 relative pronouns, which happen to be identical to the definite articles (with one exception).

27 min
Eine Reise nach Hamburg und Cuxhaven

24: Eine Reise nach Hamburg und Cuxhaven

Travel to two more intriguing destinations in the German-speaking world: the bustling German port of Hamburg and the quaint seaside town of Cuxhaven. Hear about die Wattwanderung, a remarkable walk across an extensive mudflat near Cuxhaven. Meanwhile, learn to form the imperative mood, which is used to issue commands, and practice constructing relative clauses with prepositions.

26 min
Two-Way Prepositions and Verbs That Use Theme

25: Two-Way Prepositions and Verbs That Use Theme

So far, you have studied prepositions that always take the dative case (bei, mit, von, etc.) or the accusative (durch, bis, für, etc.). Now, look at those that can take either case, depending on the context. These “two-way” prepositions include an, auf, and in. Study the verbs that often accompany them, expressing either location (and, therefore, dative) or placement/destination (hence accusative).

32 min
Comparative/Superlative and Adjective Endings

26: Comparative/Superlative and Adjective Endings

Professor Pfrehm introduces his three favorite German-language movies—a war film, a spy drama, and a sci-fi thriller—giving tips on the best way to watch them to improve your German comprehension, all while being entertained! His goal is not film criticism, but rather teaching you how to construct comparative and superlative sentences. After that, he tackles the three sets of adjectival endings.

31 min
The Genitive Case and the Passive Voice

27: The Genitive Case and the Passive Voice

Practice your first joke in German. Then meet the fourth and final German case—the genitive—completing your study of the case system. See how von + a dative construction performs the same function as the genitive. Then turn to prepositions that take the genitive, such as wegen, trotz, and laut. Finally, plunge into the passive voice, learning how to turn the object of a sentence into the subject.

29 min
The Subjunctive Mood

28: The Subjunctive Mood

So far, you have been using mostly the indicative mood—the verbal form used to express reality and facts—with a brief foray into the imperative mood used to express commands (in Lesson 24). Now, learn the mood for expressing contrary-to-fact or hypothetical situations: the subjunctive. The dialogue centers around the frustrations and second thoughts attending the purchase of a new smartphone.

29 min
Eine Reise nach Wittenberg und Berlin

29: Eine Reise nach Wittenberg und Berlin

Dig deeper into the subjunctive by learning to express hypotheticals in the past tense. The dialogue takes you through eastern Germany via the famous Autobahn: first to Wittenberg, site of Martin Luther’s historic challenge to the Catholic Church, and then on to Berlin, where you survey some of the many monuments and museums, including sites commemorating the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust.

30 min
Our Journey: The End or Just the Beginning?

30: Our Journey: The End or Just the Beginning?

Finish with a series of unaided dialogues of increasing difficulty, covering grammar you have studied in the course. You’ll be surprised at how much you understand! Looking ahead, Professor Pfrehm offers tips and strategies for improving your German, from getting a German-speaking, video-chat pal to subscribing to German language podcasts. And so, viel Glück, auf Wiedersehen, und bis gleich!

32 min