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Essential German Grammar
By Guy Stern, EVERETT F. BLEILER
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1961 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Essential German Grammar assumes that you will be spending a limited number of hours studying German grammar and that your objective is simple everyday communication. It is offered not as a condensed outline of all aspects of the grammar, but as a series of aids which will enable you to use more effectively and with greater versatility phrases and vocabulary that you have previously learned. You will become familiar with the more common structures and patterns of the language and learn a selected number of the most useful rules and forms.
How to Study Essential German Grammar
If you have studied German in a conventional manner, you will probably understand everything in Essential German Grammar, which can then serve as a refresher even though it uses a different approach than conventional grammars. You may want to glance through the book and then pay attention to those areas in which you are weak.
But if this is the first time you have studied German grammar, the following suggestions will be helpful.
1. Don't approach this book until you have mastered several hundred useful phrases and expressions such as you will find in any good phrase book or the Listen & Learn course. Everything will be more comprehensible and usable after you have achieved some simple, working knowledge of the language. The purpose of this book is to enable you to achieve greater fluency with the phrase approach, not to teach you to construct sentences from rules and vocabulary.
2. Read Essential German Grammar through at least once in its entirety. Don't be concerned if sections are not immediately clear to you; on second or third reading, they will make better sense. This first reading is necessary to give you a better understanding of certain terms and concepts used at the beginning. What may appear discouragingly difficult at first will become more understandable as your studies progress. As you use the language and hear it spoken, many aspects of German grammar will begin to form recognizable patterns. Essential German Grammar will acquaint you with the structure and some of the peculiarities of this grammar, and will be helpful to you in developing your vocabulary and in generally improving your comprehension.
3. Go back to this book periodically. Sections which seem difficult or of doubtful benefit to you now may prove extremely helpful later.
4. For the most part, Essential German Grammar is presented in a logical order, especially for the major divisions of grammar, and you will do best to follow its sequence in your studies. However, the authors are aware that some students learn best when they study to answer their immediate questions and needs (e.g., how to form the comparative; the declension of the verb to be, etc.). If you prefer to work in this manner, study entire sections and not only individual remarks.
5. Examples are given for every rule. You may find it helpful to memorize the examples. If you learn every example in this supplement and its literal translation, you will have been exposed to the most basic problems of German grammar and to models for their solution.
6. One cannot study German systematically without an understanding of its grammar, and the use and understanding of grammatical terms is as essential as a knowledge of certain mechanical terms when you learn to drive a car. If your knowledge of grammatical terms is weak, read the Glossary (p. 104) and refer to it whenever necessary.
There are many ways to express the same thought. Every language has several different constructions to convey a single idea; some simple, others difficult. An involved verb conjugation may well be a more sophisticated way of expressing a thought and one which you may ultimately wish to master, but during your first experiments in communication you can achieve your aim by using a simple construction. Throughout this grammar you will find helpful hints on how to avoid difficult constructions.
As you begin to speak German, you will be your own best judge of the areas in which you need help in grammatical construction. If there is no one with whom to practice, speak mentally to yourself. In the course of a day see how many of the simple thoughts you've expressed in English can be stated in some manner in German. This kind of experimental self-testing will give direction to your study of grammar. Remember that you are studying this course in German not to pass an examination or receive a certificate, but to communicate with others on a simple but useful level. Essential German Grammar is not the equivalent of a formal course of study at a university. Although it could serve as a supplement to such a course, its primary aim is to help the adult study on his own. Indeed, no self-study or academic course or series could ever be offered that is ideally suited to every student. You must therefore rely on and be guided by your own rate of learning and your own requirements and interests.
If this grammar or any other grammar tends to inhibit your use of the language you may have learned through a simple phrase approach as taught in some schools and the Listen and Learn records, curtail your study of grammar until you really feel it will assist rather than hinder your speaking. Your objective is speaking, and you can learn to speak a language without formal grammatical training. The fundamental purpose of Essential German Grammar is to enable you to learn more rapidly and eliminate hit-or-miss memorization. For those who prefer a more systematic approach, grammar does enable them to learn more quickly.
At the risk of being repetitious, the author must again urge you not to be afraid of making mistakes. The purpose of this grammar is not to teach you to speak like a native but to communicate and make yourself understood. If its goal is achieved, you will be speaking German and making mistakes rather than maintaining a discreet silence. You will most certainly make errors in declensional endings which are difficult for the English-speaking student to master, but don't let fear of incorrect endings deter you from speaking. Sooner or later you'll review Essential German Grammar or a more detailed book at a time that is appropriate for polishing your speech.
Excerpted from Essential German Grammar by Guy Stern, EVERETT F. BLEILER. Copyright © 1961 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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