Learning German: A Journey through Language and Culture

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wunderbar! My wife and I ordered "Learning German: A Journey through Language and Culture" as a Christmas present to ourselves. We have family in Germany and make frequent trips there, so we have a strong incentive to learn the native language. We are really enjoying Professor Pfrehm's teaching style and the content of the course. He has an energetic approach that makes the lessons interesting and fun. The course is laid out in a very logical manner to cover all the major elements of the German language. The cultural insights that are part of the course are an added bonus. The course workbook that's included reinforces the lessons and serves as a useful reference. If you really want to learn German in an engaging way, this is the course for you.
Date published: 2021-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An engaging and professional course leader. I am soon to become the grandmother of a potentially bi-lingual child as my son-in law is German and they are about to give birth. This provided my motivation, and lockdown provided the opportunity ....as in vast deserts of time. (Can one have a desert of time? Probably not.) This was an excellent course for me. The Professor is an excellent communicator. He seems to me to be extremely committed to producing a high quality, accessible and entertaining course. I also appreciated his candour and authenticity. I found the content challenging ( but, of course, learning a new language is) and will use it as a springboard to further study. I will re-watch it and utilise the workbook more second ( and probably subsequent ) time(s) around. I learned more from watching this 30 lesson course than from 9 months of usage of an online language learning app. I'm guessing though, that that is quite a low bar. The grammar is devilishly complex, a fact which I had not fully appreciated but, at the very least, trying to work it out may assist in keeping Alzheimer's at bay. I loved the clarity of the tables and the visuals of the process of sentence construction. It also left me very nostalgic for Berlin, which I last visited in 2018 and completed the marathon. I commend the Professor on his work. Thank you.
Date published: 2021-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging I began my German journey using an immersion app. It has been very good at forming the foundational knowledge of German. However, I found myself grappling with the "why?" of what I was learning. I did not want to just parrot back sentences or select the picture that matched what I hear. One day, I saw a promotion for this course by Dr. Pfrem - it was on sale, so I thought why not? I am currently on lecture 14 and I really am enjoying the "journey!" It has helped bring clarity to some of the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between German and English - and I have the explanation behind the "why it is this way in German" to be helpful. I don't regret the immersion program I chose - In fact, I am still using it. I find this course to work well in tandem with it. I also enjoy the 30 minute segments. My routine is put in my headphones as I head out for a walk and by the time my walk is done, I've finished the lesson! My hope is that Dr. Pfrem will create another course that could serve as an follow on to this that could help with developing more confidence with conversational German.
Date published: 2021-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from German Journey Some of the reviews strike me as a bit odd. Do not be put off by grumpy reviwers. Be assured this is a great couse in everyway! The structure, content, and pace are about right. Professor Pfrehm covers an amazing range of material. The production values are execellent. However, you must apply dilegence and hard work to master the material. I often rewatch videos and rework exercises. I look forward, to the next edition with Professor Pfrehm. And I do hope, there is a next edition forthcoming. In short, I strongly recommend this course.
Date published: 2021-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Perfect Introduction to German Professor Pfrehm I think accomplished the perfect way to introduce someone to German. My husband is German and I want to learn the language to be able to converse with his family and one day move to Germany but combing through grammar rules on my own has at times been challenging. Professor Pfrehm's course not only helps you get the most important grammar rules straight but also helped me to learn the correct pronunciation of words (well, not that I can pronounce them correctly yet although my hubby is very sweet about it. Practice makes perfect!) If you are at A1 and A2, this course is absolutely perfect. Even for me as I'm trying to progress toward B1, Professor Pfrehm helped me better understand the basic rules I've picked up from exposure but didn't completely understand before. Kindly disregard the negative ratings - I've read through them and they are ridiculous. Several negative ratings for example have nothing to say about the course itself but that they had issues playing the videos, which is not something that warrants a feedback about the course itself but rather something to contact customer support with. You will not regret giving this course a try if you are serious about learning German in a well-structured way. In addition, I would also like to add in case the Professor reads this review, that my partner and I had so much fun watching your lectures. You have such a professional yet friendly demeanor, a wonderful and welcoming attitude, and a great sense of humor. The lectures did not feel like half an hour, time went by fast because each lesson was so engaging. My native speaker hubby very much loved your teaching style as well and he even asked to watch some of your lectures with me because he has so much fun following along your lecture style. You've brought a lot of knowledge and joy into my life, and one day when I finally master German enough and be able to proficiently converse with my partner's family, I want you to know that you were a big part of that journey. Teaching can and does change lives and I hope you will continue to spread the joy of such a beautiful language and culture.
Date published: 2021-01-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from My apologies I was very upstet because my videos didn’t downloaded. I wrote a bad review. After one hour my videos are is working. So far is good. Thanks
Date published: 2021-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overall videos Let me say that German takes some time to learn. I read from other comments about some struggle with the videos. Let me tell you that these video alone is just to get the ball rolling about the language of german. To learn a language one must have patience, time, and lastly and importantly have fun. I speak five languages and some took me 2-3 years to master and I still struggle with some words but again life is not perfect and mistake are common. One thing to keep in mind is practice makes perfect so memorizing words are essential because it helps when you want to built sentences. Overall, that is my point of view and again I love to re-watch these videos because memorizing is fun for me.
Date published: 2021-01-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Why is this course not taught by a native German speaker? This professor may be knowledgable, but he has bad pronunciation with a strong American accent. He can't pronounce R and ü sounds correctly. I am a beginning student, but I am very sensitive to sound.
Date published: 2021-01-09
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Learning German: A Journey through Language and Culture
Course Trailer
1: Willkommen!

Guten Tag! Your first lesson in German introduces you to useful expressions and some of the distinctive sounds of the language. Professor Pfrehm shows how to turn u into ü (u with an umlaut) and how to transform ch, spoken in the front part of the mouth (as in ich, meaning “I”), into German’s back-of-the-throat ch (as in the composer Bach). And, you’ll discover why German is worth learning.

29 min
Definite Articles, Gender, and Nouns
2: Definite Articles, Gender, and Nouns

Meet German’s three definite articles—der, die, and das—which correspond to masculine, feminine, and neuter grammatical genders. Get tips on how to predict the gender of nouns. Learn the names of the letters of the alphabet and their pronunciations. Survey the countries where German is an official language. And add to your growing vocabulary—from der Arm (arm) to die Zeit (time).

29 min
Personal Pronouns and the Verb sein
3: Personal Pronouns and the Verb sein

Warm up with Zungenbrecher (literally, “tongue-breakers”). These are phrases that add fun to learning German pronunciation. Then study the singular and plural forms of the personal pronouns. Practice conjugating the most important verb in the German language, sein (to be). Finally, discover how to make singular nouns plural, looking for patterns that will aid memorization.

23 min
Regular Verbs in the Present Tense
4: Regular Verbs in the Present Tense

Begin with the greeting, Wie geht’s? (more formally, Wie geht es Ihnen?) Rehearse responses, such as, Es geht mir gut and Es geht mir Ausgezeichnet. Practice conjugating present-tense regular verbs, and discover the wonderful utility of the indefinite pronoun man. Finally, learn the German names and nationalities for European countries. Along the way, encounter a new sound: the a-umlaut, ä.

25 min
Indefinite Articles and Numbers to 100
5: Indefinite Articles and Numbers to 100

Indulge your appetite for German by learning the protocol for ordering drinks in a pub and treats in a bakery. Dip into the relevant vocabulary, focusing on the indefinite articles and the numbers from 0 to 100, which are pleasingly like numbers in English. Get a taste of German’s famous system of word endings, known as inflections, which are packed with useful grammatical information.

27 min
Eine Reise nach Wien und Salzburg
6: Eine Reise nach Wien und Salzburg

Travel to two cities in Austria, Vienna (called Wien) and Salzburg, to practice your fundamental skills in German. Learn useful expressions for giving directions. Then investigate the beautifully simple word gern, which expresses approval or enjoyment. Find out how to negate a statement with a well-placed nicht. And along the way, you’ll drool over Vienna’s multitude of delicious coffee libations!

26 min
Asking Questions and Numbers above 100
7: Asking Questions and Numbers above 100

Start with another satisfying Zungenbrecher. Then get acquainted with the different ways of asking questions—both open-ended and close-ended questions. Survey the interrogative pronouns, focusing on the special uses of wo, wohin, and woher, which all mean “where,” but with distinct implications regarding motion and place. Finally, learn to count to a billion! (Without saying every single number on the way.)

32 min
The Nominative and Accusative Cases and kein-
8: The Nominative and Accusative Cases and kein-

Plunge into German’s grammatical case system, covering the nominative and accusative cases, which correspond to the subject and direct object. View a declension table of nominative and accusative endings for articles, and practice them in a tour of a typical house, learning household words. And discover how to negate a noun phrase with kein, and the supreme utility of the expression, es gibt.

26 min
Time in German and Possessive Pronouns
9: Time in German and Possessive Pronouns

Wie viel Uhr ist es? (What time is it?) Learn to tell time and how to read a railway timetable. Rehearse using the prepositions um, von, and bis in a temporal context. Also discover that German has three distinct words that cover our English term, “time.” Then dive into possessive pronouns—in singular and plural, as well as nominative and accusative—picking up new vocabulary along the way.

29 min
Coordinating Conjunctions and der- Words
10: Coordinating Conjunctions and der- Words

Coordinating conjunctions—such as aber, denn, oder, sondern, and und—allow you to link two dependent clauses in expressive ways. Get the hang of these simple words that let you say complex things. Then unlock the secret of German syntax with the Word Position Model. Finally, study a handy class of noun modifiers, called der-words, that have endings patterned after the definite article.

28 min
Modal Verbs and More Accusative
11: Modal Verbs and More Accusative

Use the public service messages on German Bierdeckeln (beer coasters) to launch into modal verbs—a two-part verb construction that expresses desire, necessity, or possibility, as in Ich möchte Deutsch lernen (I would like to learn German). Review the months, seasons, and days of the week. Also, see how the accusative case is used with certain expressions of time and after specific prepositions.

26 min
Eine Reise nach München und Rothenburg ob der Tauber
12: Eine Reise nach München und Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Prost! Open with toasting customs at Oktoberfest in München (Munich). Your visit to this vibrant city and to charming Rothenburg ob der Tauber introduce you to stem-vowel changing irregular verbs—those that undergo a simple vowel change in the present tense, second-person familiar, and third-person forms. These verbs are generally so common that the irregular forms are quickly memorized.

28 min
Present Perfect and da- and wo- Compounds
13: Present Perfect and da- and wo- Compounds

Learn to form compounds with da- and wo- plus a preposition, as in dahin (to there) and wohin (to where?). Then leave the present tense to meet your first past-tense form, confusingly called the present perfect. Concentrating on verbs classified as weak, discover that their present perfect forms are satisfyingly regular. Finally, practice getting these syntactic elements in the right order.

25 min
Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren
14: Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren

Via a love story, encounter irregular strong verbs in the present perfect tense. Along the way, find out where the terms weak and strong come from (hint: the same scholar who compiled a famous collection of German fairy tales). Then explore vowel changes, known as ablaut, which characterize strong verbs. Cover all seven ablaut classes. Also, learn about model verbs and mixed-class verbs.

22 min
Separable-Prefix Verbs
15: Separable-Prefix Verbs

Open with a tutorial on the refuse recycling system in Germany, leading to final pointers on the present perfect, which for native speakers is the most widely used tense for expressing past events in everyday speech. Then tackle another widely used grammatical feature, separable-prefix verbs, seeing how they fit into the Word Position Model introduced in Lesson 10. Finally, go clothes shopping!

26 min
Subordinate and Infinitive Clauses
16: Subordinate and Infinitive Clauses

Meet two German superstars—singers Herbert Grönemeyer and Annemarie Eilfeld—in a dialogue that covers subordinate and infinitive clauses. Together with indirect questions, which are formed just like subordinate clauses, these constructions take your German fluency to a new level. Then, use the Word Position Model, plus fresh insights into word order, to build a classic long sentence in German.

25 min
More Infinitive Clauses and the Dative Case
17: More Infinitive Clauses and the Dative Case

Sankt Nikolaus (Father Christmas) sings a holiday song and introduces the useful dependent clause, um…zu + infinitive. Also learn how to deal with the dative—the case used for indirect objects and that answers the question, “to whom or for whom?” Practice fitting this form between the subject and direct object, and see how it relates to the case forms you’ve already learned.

24 min
Eine Reise nach Zürich und Zermatt
18: Eine Reise nach Zürich und Zermatt

Visit two attractions in German-speaking Switzerland: the charming city Zürich and the Alpine resort Zermatt. Featuring a chocolate factory and other delights, the dialogue brings up the dative forms of possessive pronouns, which follow the pattern of ein-words. Next, learn the dative endings for der-words. Finally, discover an interesting exception to word order rules presented earlier.

23 min
Reflexive Verbs and Pronouns
19: Reflexive Verbs and Pronouns

Learn parts of the human body from two unusual experts: male and female Schaufensterpuppen (mannequins). Then, visit a German doctor in a dialogue that introduces reflexive verbs and pronouns. These verbs involve actions that refer back to the subject of the clause, such as sich fühlen (to feel; or literally, to feel oneself). The examples you cover take pronouns in the accusative case.

21 min
More Dative and Subordinating Conjunctions
20: More Dative and Subordinating Conjunctions

Continue your study of reflexive verbs and pronouns by looking at constructions that require the pronoun in the dative case. One example is the very useful sentence Das ist mir egal (I don’t care). Then step back and consider the four major uses of the dative. Also learn how “The Blue Danube” waltz by Johann Strauss II is the key to learning some of the most common prepositions with dative objects.

29 min
The Simple Past
21: The Simple Past

Delve into the checkered past of Professor Pfrehm as you learn about ... the past—the simple past, that is. This tense is different in form from the present perfect you learned in Lessons 13–15, but its meaning is the same, though it is mostly used in formal writing. Cover the simple past forms of the verbs sein, haben, and geben, and the modal verbs müssen, können, mögen, dürfen, wollen, and sollen.

24 min
Bäuerin Bärbel und die rotbärtigen Zwerge
22: Bäuerin Bärbel und die rotbärtigen Zwerge

Enter the world of fantasy with a Märchen (fairy tale) designed especially for this course to present verbs in the simple past tense. Featuring a widow in distress, strange little men with red beards, and a gruesome plot twist, the story is so thrilling that the seven classes of simple past endings for strong verbs, plus the much less complicated paradigms for weak verbs, will go down like candy.

34 min
More Simple Past and Relative Pronouns
23: More Simple Past and Relative Pronouns

Reach the exciting conclusion of the fairy tale from the previous lesson, while finishing your exploration of the simple past. Then turn to vocabulary for professions and the workplace, using it to construct sentences that present a new grammatical element: relative pronouns. Learn 12 of the 16 relative pronouns, which happen to be identical to the definite articles (with one exception).

27 min
Eine Reise nach Hamburg und Cuxhaven
24: Eine Reise nach Hamburg und Cuxhaven

Travel to two more intriguing destinations in the German-speaking world: the bustling German port of Hamburg and the quaint seaside town of Cuxhaven. Hear about die Wattwanderung, a remarkable walk across an extensive mudflat near Cuxhaven. Meanwhile, learn to form the imperative mood, which is used to issue commands, and practice constructing relative clauses with prepositions.

26 min
Two-Way Prepositions and Verbs That Use Theme
25: Two-Way Prepositions and Verbs That Use Theme

So far, you have studied prepositions that always take the dative case (bei, mit, von, etc.) or the accusative (durch, bis, für, etc.). Now, look at those that can take either case, depending on the context. These “two-way” prepositions include an, auf, and in. Study the verbs that often accompany them, expressing either location (and, therefore, dative) or placement/destination (hence accusative).

32 min
Comparative/Superlative and Adjective Endings
26: Comparative/Superlative and Adjective Endings

Professor Pfrehm introduces his three favorite German-language movies—a war film, a spy drama, and a sci-fi thriller—giving tips on the best way to watch them to improve your German comprehension, all while being entertained! His goal is not film criticism, but rather teaching you how to construct comparative and superlative sentences. After that, he tackles the three sets of adjectival endings.

31 min
The Genitive Case and the Passive Voice
27: The Genitive Case and the Passive Voice

Practice your first joke in German. Then meet the fourth and final German case—the genitive—completing your study of the case system. See how von + a dative construction performs the same function as the genitive. Then turn to prepositions that take the genitive, such as wegen, trotz, and laut. Finally, plunge into the passive voice, learning how to turn the object of a sentence into the subject.

29 min
The Subjunctive Mood
28: The Subjunctive Mood

So far, you have been using mostly the indicative mood—the verbal form used to express reality and facts—with a brief foray into the imperative mood used to express commands (in Lesson 24). Now, learn the mood for expressing contrary-to-fact or hypothetical situations: the subjunctive. The dialogue centers around the frustrations and second thoughts attending the purchase of a new smartphone.

29 min
Eine Reise nach Wittenberg und Berlin
29: Eine Reise nach Wittenberg und Berlin

Dig deeper into the subjunctive by learning to express hypotheticals in the past tense. The dialogue takes you through eastern Germany via the famous Autobahn: first to Wittenberg, site of Martin Luther’s historic challenge to the Catholic Church, and then on to Berlin, where you survey some of the many monuments and museums, including sites commemorating the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust.

30 min
Our Journey: The End or Just the Beginning?
30: Our Journey: The End or Just the Beginning?

Finish with a series of unaided dialogues of increasing difficulty, covering grammar you have studied in the course. You’ll be surprised at how much you understand! Looking ahead, Professor Pfrehm offers tips and strategies for improving your German, from getting a German-speaking, video-chat pal to subscribing to German language podcasts. And so, viel Glück, auf Wiedersehen, und bis gleich!

32 min
James Pfrehm

Whether its literature, business, science, philosophy, music or history; German-speaking culture has literally helped shaped the world we live in today.


University of Wisconsin, Madison


Ithaca College

About James Pfrehm

James Pfrehm is an Associate Professor of German and Linguistics at Ithaca College. He received a master’s degree in German Literature from the University of Washington and a doctorate in Germanic Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Dr. Pfrehm’s teaching and research are intentionally interdisciplinary and include the German language; the literature and culture of German-speaking countries; and several subfields of linguistics, primarily sociolinguistics, dialectology, linguistic anthropology, and technolingualism. He has taught at universities in Heidelberg and Münster, has written and presented his research at numerous academic conferences, and has led several workshops at universities across the United States on teaching foreign languages with technology.

Dr. Pfrehm has received recognition from the Student Governance Council at Ithaca College for his outstanding teaching and commitment to his students, and he has earned various institutional grants to take students abroad for short-term study experiences.

Dr. Pfrehm is the author of Technolingualism: The Mind and the Machine and Austrian Standard German: Biography of a National Variety of German. He is also the author or coauthor of two foreign language textbooks: Kunterbunt und kurz geschrieben: An Interactive German Reader and Textures: Pour approfondir la communication orale et écrite.

Dr. Pfrehm is also a published playwright and has had multiple plays produced by theaters in the United States and Canada.

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