Whilst looking for ways of teaching German grammar, I recently stumbled across Peter Heinrich’s website and videos.
Peter is a proponent of memory techniques to help students learn German, and has published an eBook on the subject.
So, for example, to remember the gender of German words, traditional wisdom states that you just have to learn each word with its definite article: der, die, or das.
Peter’s techniques give learners a way of doing this much more efficiently and easily.
Firstly, learners choose a symbol or an image to represent each gender, so it could be a lion (der Löwe) for masculine words, a woman (die Frau) for feminine words, and water (das Wasser) for neuter words. Then when they come across a new word that they want to learn, they create a mental image of that word, somehow connected to the symbol. The more unusual the mental image created, the more likely they are to remember it. Confused? Let me give you an example…
Recently one of my adult beginner students has been tackling the topic of places in town. I have a set of flashcards with simple images of a hospital, supermarket, park, bakery etc. After asking her to place them into two piles, words she knew and words she didn’t, we then practised the pronunciation of these words, with the definite article. After a few vocab games, I then tested her on the gender of the words – some she had remembered, but most she hadn’t. This is where I explained the memory technique to her and she chose to stick with der Löwe and das Wasser for masculine and neuter words, but chose die Blume (flower) for feminine words.
So we discussed the images she could mentally create… a hospital (das Krankenhaus) full of water, a lion pushing a trolley in a supermarket (der Supermarkt), a bakery (die Bäckerei) full to bursting with flowers etc. After discussing the images for each of the words, another test revealed that she had remembered all of them. OK, admittedly it is not a very scientific study, but she went away with a new found confidence that it is possible to learn the genders of German words.
And this week, she had come back with these vocab cards, complete with a sticker that shows the gender (the words shown in the picture are all neuter, so they have a water sticker on them). Give this trick a go with your students!