Deutsch 101-326 an der Universität Michigan


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Language Learning Journal (LLJ)

LLJs were an awesome assignment. As I found out, I can basically do anything fun that I want, as long as I do it in German! [Quote from an end-of-term evaluation form]

Examples of excellent LLJs Examples of poor LLJs
Resources and Ideas for LLJs Things you can do once or twice for your Language Learning Journal

The goal of this component of the class is to give you more control of your learning--and hence also more responsibility for it. This should be your favorite assignment: what we want you to do is to find something involving German that you realllllly enjoy, spend an hour doing it each time you get an LLJ assignment, and then write something briefly and informally in German describing what you did and what you got out of it. If you're in 101, just use as much German as you can, and fill in the rest with English.

If you find yourself hating this assignment, please discuss that with your instructor: it has to be possible for you to find something you enjoy doing, and that's when you'll learn the most, because you'll be motivated and interested.

Examples of excellent LLJs

  • Madonna looked at the recommended books at the bookstore, and the dual language edition of Alice im Wunderland caught her eye. Every time an LLJ was due, she read it for 45-55 minutes, and then spent 5-15 minutes writing a short paragraph about what she'd read. After a while, she could read faster than a ray of light. When she was finished, she wrote a review and posted it online at the site for her last LLJ. She decided to read Harry Potter in German next. Sting wanted to be more like Madonna, but his German was not as good, so he didn't think he could read a German book, until he found the Graded German Reader, which starts with texts using a lot of cognate words that even a beginning 101 student could read, and gradually works its way up to harder texts. It was pricy, but Sting was rich, so instead of borrowing it for free from the Free Reading Library in the LRC, he bought it, and was amazed at the progress he made.
  • Elvis tried the links for finding email partners. The first partner he found was nothing but a hound dog and didn't write back, so for his first two LLJs, Elvis just handed in the emails he had sent this guy. He tried again and found a new partner. Everytime an LLJ was due, he handed in what he'd written and the responses he'd gotten, and asked his instructor about anything in the response he couldn't understand. He fell in love with his partner, faked his own death at a concert, and they're now living happily ever after in Austria.
  • Lady Gaga found a way to escape the Papparazzi and go to the Max Kade House for Kaffeestunde or Deutschtisch whenever an LLJ was due. Afterwards she spent 5-15 minutes writing about what she had talked about with people at the Kaffeestunde, or describing the people who were there. It was a great way for her to get away from her bad romance with Alejandro. Eventually, she fell in love with one of the Max Kade residents, whose poker face made her want to just dance. She broke up with Alejandro over the telephone, and can't wait to write her next LLJ.
  • Garth had some German-speaking friends in low places, and a German grandmother in Alabama. Whenever an LLJ was due, he went down to the Oasis and tried his German on his friends, or if he was too hung over, he called his grandmother, who was really excited to hear him speak German to her. Then he spent 5-15 minutes writing down what they'd talked about.
  • Cher had just been through a bad breakup, so whenever an LLJ was due, she would rent a German romantic comedy, or watch one of the German movies on reserve in the LRC or on CTools, and those movies taught her to believe in life after love. After a while, she felt strong enough to watch artsy movies about gypsies, tramps and thieves, and some classic movies like The Blue Angel, M, Metropolis and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari that made her wish she could turn back time. Each time she spent 5-10 minutes afterwards writing down what she thought of the movie, or summarizing what happened. Her instructor encouraged her to post a couple of her reviews on a German movie site.
  • Bruce was born in the USA, but he was on fire to learn German, so whenever an LLJ was due, he went to the German on the Web link list and surfed around for things that caught his eye. He went to joke sites and tried to understand the jokes, watched the German TV news on the web, downloaded some songs he liked, found a great dessert recipe, kept up on the Bundesliga soccer results, watched some German-language movie trailers online, read his favorite Bible passages from the book of Ecclesiastes in German, and was reminded of his glory days by the German Bruce Springsteen fan site. Each time he wrote down the sites he visited, and a bit about what he found there, and when possible, handed in printouts of what he'd read, especially if it was something fun, or if he had questions about it.
  • Janet was a control freak and hated the fact that she didn't know exactly what the lyrics of her favorite Rammstein songs meant, so she printed them out, and whenever an LLJ was due, she spent an hour trying to translate them. She soon realized they were nasty, nasty boys and didn't want to support such escapades, so she surfed the web for other music she liked. Sometimes she listened to a song several times and just wrote down what she understood; other times she printed out the lyrics and tried translating them.
  • The Beatles came up with a brilliant new idea every time an LLJ was due. For the first LLJ, they went ice skating for an hour with their friends Tonya and Nancy and spoke German while they were doing it, and then wrote about what they did for 10 minutes. For the second one, they called their old concert promoter in Hamburg on the phone and surprised him with their German, then wrote about the conversation for 10 minutes. The next time, they wrote in English for an hour about how their German learning experience was going. For the fourth LLJ, they spent an hour writing down some interesting things they had done the previous week, such as helping their friend Jude take a sad song and make it better, and talking to their friend Rocky Racoon from the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota who had tried to shoot the guy who had stolen his girl and hit him in the eye, but ended up meeting his match and getting shot himself. It was only a scratch, but still, in times of trouble, the wisest thing is sometimes to let it be. For the fifth LLJ, they looked at the paintings by German-speaking artists in the University of Michigan Museum of Art, such as Emil Nolde's Frisian landscape and Max Beckmann's Begin the Beguine, and then spent 15 minutes writing what they thought of them. For LLJ 6, they played volleyball and spoke German while they were doing it, and then wrote about that; for LLJ 7, they went for a jog in the Arb and spoke German and wrote about that; for LLJ 8, they tried to find out about the German Park off Pontiac Trail, and ended up speaking to an old German immigrant; for LLJ 9, they went to the Heidelberg restaurant on Main Street to eat drink and be merry, spoke German all night, and ended up speaking some German with the owner, who happened to stop in. For LLJ 10, they wrote about the conversation they had with a German exchange student who happened to sit next to them at the stadium while Michigan was massacring Ohio State, and for LLJ 11, they wrote about a conversation they had with a couple of German tourists whom they had overheard speaking German at Borders. They ended up showing them around town and giving them an impromptu concert on the roof of the MLB.

Examples of poor LLJs

  • Whenever an LLJ was due, Bridget just handed in a diary in German of what she'd done that day. This was fun and good writing practice for a little while, especially since it helped her figure out how to express in German the kinds of things she actually did every day, but eventually it got boring for both her and her instructor, and she started to get "check minuses" for these LLJs.
  • Andre kept handing in very brief LLJs about going to Kaffeestunde or watching various German movies, and his GSI began to suspect that Andre wasn't really doing these things, and sure enough, it turned out that Andre was lying. He'd been spending the time playing tennis and hanging out at home with his wife Steffi [why didn't he just speak German to her and write about that for his LLJs??] and their lovable little child. This was very cute, so he wasn't expelled, but he was severely reprimanded for his academic dishonesty.
  • Arnold hated the LLJ assignment. He was a robot from the future, and as such, he didn't know the meaning of fun. Consequently, he had trouble thinking up things to do that he would enjoy, handed in assignments late, and never really learned much from this assignment, despite the incredible power of his cybernetic brain. Arnold should have talked to his GSI, and I bet that together, they would have come up with something Arnold would have liked, such as browsing German sites selling leather outfits, shades, explosives and assault weapons, watching German trailers for his movies, or reading German news coverage about Californian politics.

Resources and Ideas for LLJs

Things you can do once or twice for your Language Learning Journal

  • Reflect on your language learning experience. This is the only kind of LLJ you should be writing in English (but by all means do this in German too if you can!). What parts of the class are you enjoying? Which are giving you trouble? Are you comfortable speaking? learning vocabulary? applying what you've learned? If not, do you have any ideas as to what to do about it? This sort of entry may be invaluable to you in many ways, although it does not directly involve learning German: it allows you to step back and assess your strengths and weaknesses, and come up with ideas for how to use your strengths and address your weaknesses; it allows your instructor to see your perspective on your language learning experience, and to give you suggestions s/he might not otherwise know you would benefit from; with certain kinds of feelings of uneasiness or unhappiness, it will do you good just to talk about them. "Stepping back" in this way periodically may dramatically improve your language learning experience, both directly by giving you ideas for learning more effectively, and indirectly by making you feel better about learning German--and research has shown emphatically that how one feels about learning a language dramatically affects one's ability to learn that language.
  • Keep a running commentary in German in your head about what you are doing all day, and write an account of some of these things in your journal. Thinking in German about what you are doing is great practice in general and we highly recommend it--but we also want you to seek out other opportunities for practicing your German.

This is a very "open-ended" assignment, and you can definitely turn it into meaningless busywork. Please don't! The language learning journal is your chance to make sure you get what you want from this class, i.e. to make sure:

  • that you spend time learning to do exactly what you wanted to learn to do when you chose to enroll in German, and
  • that you find ways to perform up to your potential in this class.
If this is not working for you, please speak to your instructor about it, so that you can figure out together how to make this assignment be both productive and enjoyable for you!


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