Jannach’s German for Reading Knowledge
Leave Us a Review
  • Jannach’s German for Reading Knowledge
  • Richard Alan Korb
  • Published by: Heinle Cengage Learning
  • Level: Beginner
  • First Published in: 2009

This book teaches the student to apply basic German grammar and vocabulary to reading and translating progressively complex texts with the sixth edition of JANNACH'S GERMAN FOR READING KNOWLEDGE. It is the leading text for teaching reading skills, this text provides the tools you need to read specialized literature in your field.

REVIEW BY Tyler Follis Book EXPERT
Review posted: 05/12/2013
Have you used this book?

Nowadays it seems like most language textbooks aimed at

beginners are exclusively focused on coaching verbal communication. Excluding texts for classical languages like Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, it is rare to see a book for novices who are primarily interested in developing reading proficiency. Jannach’s German for Reading Knowledge, however, provides just that – a book for teaching German to absolute beginners who mainly (or only) care about learning the language for reading. The book accomplishes its goals well, but make no mistake that working through this course will be a challenge for most students.

Please allow me to make it clear that the purpose of this text is to develop proficiency in reading to the extent that, by the end of the course, students should be have a base of vocabulary and grammar that permits them to understand written German with the aid of a dictionary. As such, there is absolutely no treatment given in the way of teaching spoken language – no greetings, no dialogues illustrating situational communication, and no audio to go along with the course. In other words, unless it is being used in careful conjunction with other course materials, this book is not for anyone who is interested in actually speaking German.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let's take a look at the content of the course. The book consists of 30 chapters, a few useful appendixes, a German-English glossary, and the obligatory grammar index. In addition to this, there is a companion website which provides some useful tools and supplementary reading passages. At first glance the book may look small, but make no doubt, it will take a considerable commitment of time and effort to work through all the content of this course. Personally, I found the layout of the book to be appealing both visually and in terms of utility. There is no wasted space or extraneous imagery. In this way, it carries the air of a sophisticated academic text, as opposed to most introductory language texts, which try to appeal through cutesy fonts and illustrations.

Each chapter follows this general format:

-Grammar Lesson

-Basic vocabulary

-Exercise sentences


Every five lessons, there is an additional “review reading” at the end of the lesson, which focuses on recycling vocabulary and grammar from previous lessons to allow students to further sharpen their skills.

To be completely honest, I was rather wary when I first saw that each chapter begins with a grammar lesson. It reeked all too much of the out-dated traditional technique of language instruction, which I have never found particularly effective. Given the goals of this course, however, I found teaching grammar at the beginning of lessons to be a viable strategy. This is because, while instruction in verbal communication should try to get students to intuit and internalize the language through exposure, for students seeking only a utilitarian and analytical understanding of the language, it makes sense to first give them an idea of what they are looking for and how they can understand it. Pedagogical discussions aside, I found the grammar sections to be, more or less, sufficient in explaining all the grammar points covered. I think that the author could have done a better job by using more analogies and comparisons between English and German, but the explanations are generally concise and easy to understand. One good thing about the grammar sections is that there is no assumption of prior knowledge of grammatical terms – explanations are provided in context for all relevant terminology.

Next comes the vocabulary section. Each chapter, about 30-40 new “basic terms” are introduced in an alphabetically organized list. These are all high frequency vocabulary items, not necessarily presented in accordance with any particular theme, and are simply to be memorized. The author does not give definitions of any cognates, instead instructing users of the book to use their analytical skills to recognize cognates and deduce vocabulary through context. I agree with the author's strategies here in regard to teaching vocabulary, given the level of similarity between English and German, and the fact that students of this book should have no need to develop an active vocabulary (i.e. students do not need to be able to produce the definition of any word as long as they can understand it in context). New vocabulary items that come up in the exercise sentences and readings are listed and defined at the bottom of the page they appear on, numbered in accordance with the sentence or line of text they match up with.

"I liked the exercise sentences because it allowed me to concentrate on building comprehension little by little, before trying to take on the challenge of understanding a large chunk of text. The sentences themselves might be a little bit dry at times, but they aren't forced or unnatural, and they most often contain relevant information about German-speaking nations, individuals, and history surrounding these."

For each lesson there are about fifteen bullet to twenty points featuring “exercise sentences”. Most bullet points have only one sentence, but there are also many with two or three sentences, so you are generally getting more than fifteen sentences per lesson, just to be clear. The purpose of these exercise sentences are to provide short examples of vocabulary and grammar in action, and they do a good job in achieving this. I liked the exercise sentences because it allowed me to concentrate on building comprehension little by little, before trying to take on the challenge of understanding a large chunk of text. The sentences themselves might be a little bit dry at times, but they aren't forced or unnatural, and they most often contain relevant information about German-speaking nations, individuals, and history surrounding these.

The real meat of the course comes with the reading passages. Every lesson features one passage (aside from lessons containing review readings, which have two) of authentic written German, about one to two pages long. The passages cover a wide range of topics, from modern issues and history to philosophy and the arts. As a side note, the author is careful to point out that these passages are primarily geared to students of the humanities, which differs from earlier editions of the text that dealt mainly with the sciences. In any case, I found the passages to be interesting and not overly difficult, given the resources in the book. More than anything, I think students will be thrilled to be able to start reading “real” German from the very first lesson. Some of the passages may take quite a bit of time to work through before students are able to achieve complete comprehension, but I believe that those who stick with it will find it a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor.

The companion website adds some good content, albeit a little annoying to navigate. For each chapter, it gives translations of all the exercise sentences, grammar charts, optional exercises to accompany the reading passages, and some links that offer additional reading passages related to topics presented in the book. Supposedly the links for supplementary reading are updated regularly, which is worth noting, but there is not much else to say about the content here – it's helpful, but nothing that couldn't have been included in the book.

My only real complaint about the book is, as I suggested above, that the grammar lessons could have been better. The author did succeed in explaining the concepts, but his explanations could have been better. I understand that the book is aimed at a more mature audience, with strictly academic intentions, but I still believe the author could have made the book easier to use by engaging the student more with his explanations, actually teaching the concepts instead of merely presenting them. This is not such a great flaw that it will prevent anyone from making proper use of the course, but it's reason enough for me to bring its rating down from five stars to four. Overall, I believe the author of this book was successful with his approach, and I would recommend this book for that select group of students who want to read German for academic purposes, but don't care about learning to speak it.



Leave your review for 'Jannach’s German for Reading Knowledge'

Fields with * are required.