With the introduction of the study of German into so many of our public and private schools, has arisen the need of a reader which can advantageously be used for beginners of all ages. The aim of this work is to present a series of tales, interesting enough to stimulate the curiosity of even the youngest pupils, yet so easy as not to discourage anyone at the very outset. The stories have therefore been narrated in the simplest manner possible, and every new word introduced has purposely been repeated frequently enough in the following sentences to insure its being remembered by even dull pupils. All idioms have also been used repeatedly with the same object in view, and as none but ordinary words and expressions have been introduced, the pupils soon acquire a sufficient vocabulary to serve all their purposes, and are able to read and understand easy German prose at sight.
These stories, of which every word has its special purpose, have been used with excellent results with pupils of all ages; and while complete success depends greatly upon the teacher, the method is so simple and practical that it can profitably be used by pupils who wish to study alone. The author’s plan of proceeding, which, of course, varies greatly to suit the age and intelligence of the pupils, can briefly be outlined as follows, using the introductory paragraph of the first story as an example: The first sentence is read aloud, slowly and distinctly, and the pupils are taught to repeat it correctly. As this is used for the first German lesson, with pupils who know nothing whatever of the language, every word is translated. Then the pupils are called upon to read and translate the words, in any order, as rapidly pointed out by the teacher.
A few moments’ rapid drill enables them to memorize these few words, whose similarity to the English equivalents cannot but appeal to them. The teacher next reads the second sentence, which the pupils repeat, and they translate all the words which occurred in the previous sentence, the teacher supplying only the translation of new words, or of such as do not seem to convey their own meaning to unaccustomed ears.
When the reading and translating drill on the first paragraph is finished, the books are closed, and the pupils are questioned in German, none but the words already given being used, and the questions being framed at first so as to supply their own answer, as it were. Example: Query, »War Jakob ein Mann?« Answer, »Jakob war ein Mann.«
Each story is accompanied by fifty questions on the text, but, of course, many more can advantageously be used. The pupils are encouraged to answer all these questions in German only, and the words of the story are made the basis for supplementary questions by personal application.
With many classes where the pupils are old enough to be depended upon, no translation is made, except when they fail to comprehend every word, and then only those words are given in English. The lesson can also be dictated, either in German or in English, each pupil supplying his or her own translation in the latter case. In this way reading, writing, translation and conversation can successfully be carried on with the same materials, and a pleasant variety is secured.
Of course, as the pupil’s vocabulary increases, the questions gradually become more varied and comprehensive, the lessons longer, and the pupils are not only encouraged to guess at the meaning of new words, but also to tell the stories in their own way. To further accustom them to the rapid continuous sound of the language, it is always a good plan to tell them the story in the usual conversational tone, after they have finished reading it at first, and, as they advance further, before they have begun it, when it will be seen that they can often glean all the sense, even if they fail to understand some of the words.
The complete vocabulary has been added only for the convenience of pupils who have missed recitations, or who study alone, or to adapt the book to the purpose of teachers who may wish to use it in a somewhat different way from the author.
With the exception of the introductory story, for which the well known “House that Jack Built” has purposely been used, all tales familiar to Americans have been avoided, and miscellaneous legends, fairy-tales, and anecdotes have been retold, the author constantly keeping the main object in view,—that of providing the pupils with a practical working vocabulary. This they acquire almost unconsciously, owing to the constant repetition, while carried away by the interest of these tales. In some cases rather long stories have been selected, because the interest is more sustained, and curiosity urges the pupils either to read on, or to look forward to the next recitation, and the solution of the mystery.
This work can be used either as shown above, or as an elementary reader, all the written exercises being furnished by a Grammar as usual. It can also be used as composition book for more advanced classes, the teacher reading or making the pupils read aloud a story which they are then required to reproduce in writing. The persistent use of the present polite mode of address, even in regard to children and inferiors, will, of course, seem strange to Germans, but it has purposely been inserted everywhere to accustom beginners to the form of conversation which they are first called upon to use in class. While no attempt at literary style could here be made, the author expresses a sincere hope that teachers may find this little work an aid in making the language hour pass as pleasantly as profitably.