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Learning in German

German language learning

German is an official language of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Belgium, Luxembourg and in South Tyrol in Italy. It is also used as an official regional or auxiliary language in a number of other countries in Europe, and in Namibia in Africa. As one of three procedural languages for the European Union and the first language of 120 million Europeans, the German language showcases the cultural diversity and range of these German-speaking communities.

German and English are both derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family and share many similar lexical items (cognates) as well as grammatical features. Consequently, a native speaker of English has some immediate access to spoken and written German, and from an early stage learners can engage with authentic texts. Modern German also borrows from modern English, for example, der Computer, as does English from German, for example, ‘kindergarten’. German is a pluricentric language with different standards and regional varieties.

German is a largely phonetic language with many of the same sounds as English, and the same Roman alphabet. In addition to the standard 26 letters, there is the use of the Umlaut (Ä/äÖ/ö and Ü/ü) and the Eszett (ß). A major difference in orthography from English is the capitalisation of all nouns, a feature that assists the comprehensibility of written texts.

German is well known for its morphological creativity in forming long words through compounding. The German language has two different forms of address, formal and informal, dependent on the relationship between the communicators. German speakers generally rely more heavily than native speakers of Australian English on the use of the imperative to effect action, thus sometimes appearing to be more direct.

Other distinctive features of German are noun gender (masculine, feminine or neuter) and the case system. Changes in the articles of nouns and in pronouns and adjective endings mark the four cases, indicating subject and direct and indirect objects, as well as possession. Marking cases in this way leads to flexibility in word order which is not possible in English. Sentences may appear long to English users, but the case markers and clear and consistent punctuation rules aid comprehension.

The diversity of German language students

Understanding the diverse language competencies of student language learners is the starting point for developing their language learning. The changing pattern of migration to Australia is extending the range of languages students bring with them to school. 

The language competency of students varies significantly depending upon the sequence of learning being undertaken and the level the student has reached.

Intercultural understanding

In the Languages curriculum area the focus is on both language and culture, as students learn to communicate meaningfully across linguistic and cultural systems, and different contexts. This process involves reflection and analysis, as students move between German and their own existing language(s). It is a reciprocal and dynamic process which develops language use and intercultural awareness and understanding.

For students learning German for the first time in a school language program, a key dimension of the curriculum involves understanding the cultural dimension that shapes and is shaped by the language. The curriculum has an intercultural language learning orientation to enable students to participate meaningfully in intercultural experiences, to develop new ways of seeing and being in the world, and to understand more about themselves in the process.

Texts and resources

Students use a wide range of resources designed for language learning, such as textbooks, teacher-generated materials and online resources. Their learning is enriched by exposure to a range of authentic German texts, such as websites, films, stories, songs, television programs, advertisements and magazines. The texts and resources will become increasingly sophisticated and varied as students progress through their schooling.

Use of German and English

Students are encouraged to use German as much as possible for classroom routines, social interactions, structured learning tasks, and language experimentation and practice.

Students will have opportunities to engage with members of the community who speak German, which in some cases will be facilitated via digital technologies.

English is used for discussion, explanation and reflection, enabling students to develop a language for sharing ideas about language and culture.

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