Archive for July 23rd, 2014

The Most Interesting and Quiskest Way to Learn a Lot of German Vocabulay and Pass Goethe’s B2 Exam

I have always heard this sentence: “In a certain exam, if you scored higher than someone else, then this does not necessarily mean that you know better than that person. It might be only that you mastered certain tips and tricks for passing the exam. In other words, you knew what is tested in the exam and how is that tested“.

This is the same situation with my passing Goethe’s B2 Test. I took a mock test (sample test) of this exam in Goethe Institute in Amman, Jordan (My experience is in this post). I was shocked to find that only 20% of its questions are grammar-related. It is like the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). TOEFL has “zero” grammar questions and tests your knowledge of grammar indirectly through speaking and writing (Link to official sample questions for TOEFL). The 20% grammar-related questions of Goethe’s exam are represented by two questions: (1) To correct a written letter and (2) to fill in blanks. Their marks are only 20 from the total of 100 marks in the exam. Even these two questions do not require a good knowledge of grammar and test common expressions and grammar. For example:

– “Im Jahr” not “In Jahr”

– “Ich freue mich ___ eine Antwort” –> auf.

– “Ich bedanke ___ bei Ihnen” –> mich

– “Das Buch würde drucken” –> gedruckt

– “Ich freue mich auf eine schnellen Antwort” –> schnelle

– “mit neuen Büch” –> neuem

– mit den besten Grüße –> Grüßen

– “…, weil ich fahre nach Deutschland.” –> weil ich nach Deutschland fahre.

– “Deutschland hat die beste Universitäten” –> besten

I myself was, and still, very bad in grammar. I did not concentrate a lot on grammar as I liked the theory that grammar comes with time. One need to read and listen a lot and then a person can, like native speakers, speak with grammar without actually knowing the reason. During my experience of language exchange with native German speakers, I was told many times setences like: “I do not know why den Patienten NOT den Patient. It just sounds better when you say the first“.

Kató Lomb

Kató Lomb (1909-2003)

To further support this point on not concentrating on grammar, I like the following paraphrasing from two famous publihers. It is from a book called “Polyglot: How I learn languages”by Kato Lomb (1909-2003) (Wikipedia article); a Hungarian woman who has been called “possibly the most accomoplished polyglot in the world”. I highly recommend her book (The book is freely available for download from this link).

Man  lernt  Grammatik  aus  der  Sprache,  nicht  Sprache  aus  der  Grammatik.” (One  learns  grammar  from language, not language from grammar.) - A paraphrasing from 19th famous publishers Toussaint and Langenscheidt.

Source: “Polyglot: How I learn languages”, page X (Roman numeral), link to download the book.

Therefore, after setting for this mock test and discovering what is actually tested in this exam, I decided only to collect the largest amount of vocabulary. This is what is mostly needed to pass this exam. This worked and I passed the B2 exam with a mark of 77.5%. I scored more than 70% in the grammar-related questions.

What is the secret to learning the largest amount of vocabulary in the most interesting, quickest, and easiest way possible?

I spent at least one month just reading articles on the internet. It was the most interesting and useful part of my German language learning. This is mainly because I started reading about topics I like and not being restricted with boring topics in books. Moreover, it saved me a lot of time from searching for the meaning of new words in dictionaries and the meaning of sentences and structures I do not understand. It saved my time because I did not have to type them as I used Google Chrome Extensions that show the meaning of words and sentences when you double-click them. I used, and still using, three extensions simultaneously:

– Dict.cc: This is a Chrome Extension of the great online free dictionary with the same name. This extension gives you  the gender of words and their plural forms. Moreover, you can click “more” to go to their websites where you can find plural forms, conjugation of verbs and examples. In the screen shot below, you can see dict.cc in action. It translation is in the bottom. The translation in the top is from Google Dictionary Extension. Read about it next.

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– Google Dictionary: This is useful because it functions as translator of all languages. If you click on a English word, then it will shows its English-English translation. Moreover, if you click on the name of famous person or place, then Google translate will give you explanation. This is not available through Dict.cc’s extension. In addition, you can highlight short sentences and this extension could translate them.

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ImTranslator: Google Translate: This is useful as it allows you to translate sentences. You can notice below the translation by this extension to the right. Google Dictionary extension also translate sentences (right). Hoover, you can see that the size of translation box is small and the text overlaps.

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• The two important sources that I used to find interesting things to read:
Google news in German: The advantage of Google news is not in that it categorises the news into different useful categories (Health, Politics, Technology, etc.), but that it shows the most famous pieces of news. Therefore, you can stay up-to-date with the top news each day.

Wikipedia in German: I read a lot of articles about topics that interest me. The only problem with Wikipedia is that there are a lot of words that contain hyperlinks. Double-clicking these words will not show a translation and will cause your browsers to open new pages. You can, however, change the settings of Google Dictionary to show translation also when words are highlighted. This solves this issue, however, translation becomes harder.

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A friend of mine was not convinced of this method and thought it is best to write down the meaning of new words on his book. After I convinced him of just trying this method, he liked it and started preparing to his B2 exam by reading about topics that interested him on the internet. After passing the B2 test, he told me:

“After I tried this method, I will tell anyone that learns the German language that this is the best and most interesting way to learn German vocabulary”.

Give it a try! It will take your minutes to install the extensions and start learning. You are simply reading… Reading about topics that you like not boring topics that does not interest you or would help you in your job!

Gibt es Gründe für den Glauben? Wenn es Gründe gäbe – würde man es dann noch »Glauben« nennen?

Gibt es Gründe für den Glauben. Wenn es Gründe gäbe - würde man es dann noch  Glauben  nennen (2)Quelle: http://www.atheismus-info.de/gruende_glauben.html

Ich habe immer die Leute gefragt, “Kann Gott nicht sich selbst zeigen? Nennt man das nicht ‘Glauben’?”. Seit kurzem habe ich den Satz oben gelesen. Es ist sehr gut. Es ist besser als meine Frage. In der Zukunft kann ich die Leute diese Frage fragen.

 

Ten months from zero to B2 Goethe Certificate outside Germany: My German Language Leraning Experience

B2 - Goethe Institute Jordan - Jameel Khaleel Hijazeen - Back side
My B2 Certificate from Goethe’ Institute, Jordan.

I studied the German langauge here in Jordan. It took me less than ten months. I began from zero as I had never studied the German langauge before. I studied in average not less than 20 days a month for not less than 10 hours a day. I took the B2 test of Goethe Institute in Jordan and scored 77.5.  To pass it, you need at least a mark of 60, including passing the oral exam part. Read more details about this exam based on my experience of taking  a mock test (Probeprüfung) of it:

A 10 JD Sample B2 Test in Geothe Institut Amman: My Experience (B2 Probeprüfung, Goethe-Institut Jordanien)

 

If you are to study in an language center, the German levels are eight until B2: A1.1, A1.2, A2.1., A2.2., B1.1, B1.2., B2.1 and B2.2. If you are taking intensive lessons, then each level lasts one month. You will finish all in eight months.

I studied five out of the eight required levels  in a private institute here in Jordan (Language Generation Center). The institute is the best, or at least among the top best, in Amman. However, Goethe Institute is the best and cheapest place to learn German because it is non-profit as it is supported by the German government. That is to say, it aims at spreading the German language and culture rather than gaining money. For almost the same amount of money (+/- 5 JD), you are given in Goethe at least 15 extra hours of teaching.

[You can also in my post about the sample test get an idea of the attitude of the head of Goethe Institue in Jordan about students paying 120 JD  to take the B2 exam despite having a low German level. Would not a profit-oriented institute be happy about people taking exams as many times as they like?]

Moroever, in Geothe Institute, you live in a German atmosphere as only German is allowed in the classes (starting from A1.1), the teachers are mostly German or from a German-speaking country (Austria and Switzerland). All the teachers have C1 certificates and spend at least one year in training before they are allowed to teach. Moreover, throughout the year, there are German university students doing training as voluntary work in Goethe. You can meet and talk with them inside Goethe. Moroever, like a friend of mine, you can become friends and start hanging out togehter. My friend visited them in their house and even slept in their house too. In addition, in Goethe, you can meet German people who are learning Arabic and want language exchange partners. Goethe would help to connect the German learners with the Arabic learners. Moreover, Goethe has a large library from which you can borrow books, videos and audio material [Annual subscription is 2 JD (<3 USD)]. Finally, the examiners of the B2 test are mostly teachers from Goethe. Therefore, as happened with a colleague of mine, he said that a teacher “which loved him” was responsible for administering the oral exam to him. According to my friend, she helped him a little bit. Putting this experience aside, I think it is best to be taught by teachers who administer a certain exam. Such teachers would be experienced of what is required in exams and would tell the students about the common mistakes that students committ. On the other hand, there are disadvantages of Goethe. Firstly, you have to wait for a month or two before being able to  register for A1.1 course (mostly in summer time).  Secondly, the lecture times are not very flexible and some courses are in morning time. Thirdly, you have a lot of homeworks and if you do not pass a level  by getting a mark of at least 70, then you need to repeat it [In my opinion, this is an advantage because you are forced to study hard and homeworks are necessary for learning especially writing]. Lastly, some argue that a lot of time is wasted in Goethe on culture- and custom-related issues and these are not important for passing the language exam. All in all, if you have a flexible schedule, then I highly recommend Goethe.

In addition to the five courses, I took a preparatory course for the B2 exam at private teacher here in Amman. She is called Noora (I forgto the family name). She is excellent as she taught us tips and tricks for taking the B2 exam. Moreover, she helped me a lot to develop my writing.

The currciulum I studied:

– A1-B1: Studio D series. They are great.

– B2: Aspekta B2. This is great too especially the sumarrizing pages at the end of the book.

 

Preparation (In addition to the curriculum):

• I studied a lot of online material on YouTube, especially:
– Extra Deutsch and Muzzy Deutsch.  Watch them with subtitles in this channel and download this whole YouTube channel using this program. The expressions and words in them are basically more than enough for the B2 level.
German from the Streets: This is advanced as the people sometimes speak in colloquial language.

Extra Deutsch: From the number of YouTube views, this is the most famous show for teaching the German langauge. The show is in the style of the famous American comedy series “Friends”. Therefore, it is very funny and you watch the videos not only to learn, but more importantly, to laugh! The only disadvantage is that the pronunciation by one of the main charcters, Sam (An American who is a beginner in German) is very horrible. You cannot learn good pronunciation from him at all.

• German-learning YouTube channels that I recommend:

http://www.youtube.com/user/barcelada [It contains many series. I recommend a BBC series about a Romanian immigrant in Germany. It is very interesting and informative. This is a link to its playlist in this channel]

http://www.youtube.com/user/DeutschOnlineLernen

http://www.youtube.com/user/DeutschFuerEuch

# http://www.youtube.com/user/germanpod101

http://www.youtube.com/user/ArchStandon

# http://www.youtube.com/user/ziescheelearning

• I watched German movies with subtitles: This was not very helpful as the language is very hard. However, when you are bored and want to watch something, then it is certainly better if it is in German. Nonetheless, compared with Hollywood movie, most movies do not contain high technology and video effects. Some are boring and silly too. This is expected as I read that about 100 new German movies are only produced each year. There are tens of full-length German movies on YouTube. Her is a link.

I recommend these:

– Das Leben des Anderen, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hllyMOGVzvI, this is one of the best movies I watched in my life. If you are to watch only one German movie, then I recommend this. This YouTube version unfortunately does not contain subtitles.

– Good Bye Lennin, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoinsDXZ59c. This is a comedy movie and is funny. More importantly, it gives an idea about the situation in Germany after the fall of wall of Berlin.

 

•  I heard a lot of songs. I searched YouTube for the German word for songs (Lieder).  This is a Link  to the YouTube search for Lieder. I chose the songs to hear based on the number of views and positive ratings. Moreover, I watched the top charts of German songs to discover the best songs because the number of views is not enough to find all the best songs (link). Overall, I did not enjoy more than 5% of the songs. Probably because I am not a big fan of music. I compiled a YouTube Playlist of the songs I most like:

For Chirsitans out there, following is a playlist of the German hymns that I most liked. I am not a religious person. However, it is not easy to get bored of hearing “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night”! Even in German 🙂

Tip: You can search google for the name of the song and “lyrics english translation”. For example, to read the German lyrics and their English translation of the song “In meinem Leben”, search google for “In meinem leben lyrics english translation” (link to this google search).

 

• Online dictionaires that I used: Dict.cc, Leo, Duden, Linguee and Google Translate. Dict.cc and Leo are German-English and vice versa. They are useful because they give the gender and plural forms of words, in addition to conjugation of verbs. Duden is German-German and it is like the Oxford Dictionary of German. Concerning Google Translate, some say that it is not accurate and discourage using it. However, unlike dictionaries, Google translate, along with Linguee, are the only two services that allow you to understand the meaning sentences. Sometimes, even if you translated each and every word in a setence, you will not understand what it says. Google Translate and Linguee can help. Linguee is different from Google in that it searches in texts translated by humans and show you how they were translated.

 

• At advanced level, I started reading a lot of German news and articles. I spent at least one month just reading articles. It was the most interesting and useful part of my German language learning. This is mainly because I started reading about topics I like and not being restricted with boring topics in books.  The full details are in this post:

The Most Interesting and Quiskest Way to Learn a Lot of German Vocabulay and Pass Goethe’s B2 Exam

 

• I watched a lot of German TV channels. I benefited from this a lot. Read this detailed post about how I initially tried online source but ended up buying a satellite. I did not understand anything most of the time. Even now. However, you only need to listen and with time you start to understand more and more. There is another advantage to watching TV. If you have ZDF and Euronews channels, then you can surf their websites and read similar or exact articles of what is aired. The website of ZDF channel (www.heute.de) contains articles that are highly similar in their words and content to what is aired. The website of Euronews (de.euronews.com), however, has transcripts of what is aired. I was surprised to discover that. The reports on TV are totally written as articles in the website.

• To improve yourself in writing: Practice always writing in the German language. At the beginning of my learning, writing an email of three setences took me more than half an hour. Writing an email was a very painful task. Moreover, I began blogging in German and started a diary in Germany, which now has a separate section in my blog (link). To have a good feedback about your writing, there are two online websites that will correct your writing for free. They are not 100% accurate but they help you discover a lot of mistakes:

http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibpruefung-online:  This is a part of Duden’s website and is free. However, you are limited to 800 characters per text. You can divide your texts into multiple blocks. Microsoft Word gives you the chance to know the number of characters in a selected text.

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– korrekturen.de/rechtschreibpruefung.shtml

– rechtschreibpruefung24.de

 

• I met in real life Germans who are learning Arabic and we were language exchange partners. I spent more than 100 hours with Germans teaching them and they teaching me. I met three of them at the University of Jordan (UJ). I had a library subscription there. The UJ has a famous Arabic learning center and about 5-8 Germans come there every semester to learn Arabic. Moreover, I came to know an Austrian friend through an free Ad that I put in this website for expatriates (www.expatriates.de) (an expatriate is someone who lives in a country not his for work, learning, tourism, etc.). There is a special page for every city in the world. The page of every city has differnt categories for Ads. One of them is for language exchange. For example, this page contains the current Ads for language exchange in Ammans. The Ads expire after 60 days. Therefore, you need to repost your Ad again. This post in my Blog contains the text of an Ad that I once placed.

• I tried to find language exchange partners online. However, I find many people not serious and it is very common to see people, especially young, who are learning multiples languages simultaneously (some six or even seven!!!). I sent a lot of messages and got few responses. All in all, if you want to get to know German-speaking people, then you can make friends on Facebook. This will save your time as you do not have to teach a langauge to them. These people are just interested to have friends from “all over the world”. See the next paragraph for more details.

Language exchange sites. Be careful as some of them limit the number of messages you can send, or do not even allow you to send any messages at all:

http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/

http://www.conversationexchange.com/

http://www.sharedtalk.com/

http://polyglotclub.com/

http://www.language-exchanges.org/

www.interpals.net

• I had more than 50 German friends on Facebook. I talked with two of them for a toal of 10 hours on Skype in German. I got to know them through Facebook groups and pages for friendship. There are pages and groups where you can find German-speaking people who announce that they welcome frindship requests. Such pages an groups usually has “Börse” in their names. Here is a Facebook search for “Börse Freunde”. However, you need to be careful as few of these facebook account are fake. I do not know what people benefit from that.

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An example group: “Freunde & Abonnenten Börse

Useful sites:
– DW Learn German, http://www.dw.de/learn-german/german-courses/s-2547

– Learn German by about.com, http://german.about.com

– German is easy! | The blog for all who want to learn German, http://yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/

Useful Facebook pages and groups:

– There are tens of facebook groups and pages. I rarely used them. The most professional one in my opinion is this one: “DW – Learn German

– Facebook search for “Learning German”: Link.

– This is a group of me for medical doctors wanting to specialize or study master and PhD in Germany: “Doctors Going to Germany“.

Websites for German Books and Magazines:

• www.ebook-hell.to: This website is specialized with German books. *****

• www.almanii.blogspot.com: The best website. It has almost the most famous books, videos, dictionaries, and software. *****

• www.magazinesdownload.org/category/german: German magazines section of this specialized magazines website.

• uz-translations.net: Videos, full books (with MP3), CDs,  Very good. You need to get a free account to be able to make downloads. There are sections for other languages like English, French, and Spanish *****

• www.theeducationlounge.blogspot.com: Limited books, but there are videos, audio CDs, language learning programs, etc. Similar to uz-translations but with limited content.

• www.eng.bookfi.org: This famous website is not dedicated to German books nor does  it mention that it has German books. However, I could find many German books in it.

Useful Books to read: Before learning a new language, consider reading some articles and books about how a person learns a new language. In addition, consider reading articles about learning the German language. I read multiple articles and two books. The articles you can find them using a google search. The two books that I highly recommend are:

# “Polyglot: How I learn languages“: This book was written by a Hungarian woman who spoke 15 languages. She was described as the most lingual woman who ever lived. Her books is very interesting. It is available for download free here.

# “The Word Brain: A Short Guide to Fast Language Learning“: This book was written by a famous person in medicine-related publications. He speaks more than six languages. His book is short and can be finished quickly. The author distributes his book free and has a website for this book. You can download the book from its site here.