German Language in Context: Emerging Competent Abroad I

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Course Information
German Language
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

Proficiency at a level equivalent to IES Abroad’s Independent Abroad, as determined by placement test.


Exercises in German language to enhance communicative abilities, to understand and converse with native speakers. Grammar review focusing on special problems. Emphasis on reading, syntax and composition relating to current newspaper articles, literary texts, films, and cultural events.


Students who enter this course are expected to have mastered most of the outcomes of the Independent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. Among other characteristics, these students must be able to converse at a rate of speed approaching normal conversation. They should be creative, spontaneous and self-reliant as they solve problems, interpret texts, negotiate, express their opinions, likes and dislikes in the culture. Although they still are liable to make errors and experience communication breakdowns, these students tend to resolve these challenges on their own. Students who enter this level should already be able to understand a variety of colloquial expressions and slang, and should also be able to understand a wide variety of native speakers from different backgrounds.

Students entering this level should be able to succeed in a range of moderately complex university courses designed for native speakers. Before registering, they should consult with the appropriate IES Abroad academic adviser on course selection.

By the end of this course, students will have started to acquire the subtlety of expression and control of complex structures that characterize Competent Abroad learners. However, Emerging Competent Abroad learners have only partial mastery of these structures and quite often resort to simpler and more direct modes of expression, particularly when negotiating linguistically difficult or unfamiliar situations. Students at this level begin to understand local cultural attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior patterns. However, there may be some gaps and inconsistencies in their knowledge compared to those who have spent more time living and working in the local context.

In this course students will work with authentic texts from a wide array of media in order to gain proficiency in dealing with different genres, and to reflect on cultural similarities and differences. Students will, for example, read newspaper articles, watch videos on current issues and listen to audio files. They will also review German grammar and style, expand their vocabulary, and read and write German on a regular basis.

Special emphasis will be laid on:

1. Conversation practice in current topic discussions.

2. Broadening of vocabulary to participate in discussions on a higher level.

3. Listening comprehension exercises in video and audio presentations.

4. Pronunciation refinement.

5. Reading of literary texts and current news media reports, as well as non-fiction related to Austrian culture.

6. Composition practice in essays, synopses etc.

7. Review of complex German grammar and syntax.

Attendance policy: 

IES Abroad Vienna requires attendance at all class sessions, including field study excursions, internship meetings, scheduled rehearsals, and exams. Attendance will be monitored and unexcused absences will affect the student’s grade via the “Participation” component of each course’s final grade.

Excused Absences

  • Excused absences are permitted only when a student is ill, when class is held on a recognized religious holiday traditionally observed by the particular student, or in the case of a grave incident affecting family members.
  • To be granted an excused absence, the student must write an email to his/her professor in a timely manner stating the reason for the absence (and, if appropriate, how long they expect to be away) with a cc to Center administrative staff. In an emergency, the student may call Student Services or the Front Desk. If the student is unable to send an email (too sick, no computer), he/she may call the Student Assistant at the front desk (01/512 2601-11) who will then write the email described above and send it to said parties as stated above, with a cc to the student.
  • If a student is absent 3 consecutive days or more, he/she will need to obtain a doctor’s note and then submit this to the Registrar’s office.
Learning outcomes: 

Students who are placed in this level should have achieved the outcomes in the Independent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication.

By the end of the course, students will be able to achieve some of the outcomes for the Emerging Competent Abroad level as defined by the MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. The key learning outcomes from the MAP are summarized below:

  1. Intercultural Communication
    1. Students will begin to recognize and describe key host cultures, subcultures, habits, norms, and behaviors in a variety of settings, and they will be aware of the risk that generalizations can lead to stereotypes.
    2. Students will be able to reflect on and discuss the validity of their own cultural beliefs, behaviors, and values by contrasting and comparing them with the host cultures.  Students will demonstrate openness toward different beliefs and styles even when they do not agree with them.
    3. Students will accept responsibility for their own learning by defining their linguistic goals and demonstrating independence in their exploration of the culture.
  2. Listening
    1. Students will be able to identify a range of social and cultural dialects of the spoken language.
    2. Students will be able to understand a variety of native speakers and non-native advanced speakers and comprehend an array of moderately complex interactions.
  3. Speaking
    1. Students will participate reasonably well in most academic and social interactions using when appropriate complex language including slang, colloquial expressions, irony, and humor with increasing confidence.
    2. Students will be able to make arguments and form opinions on almost any topic of their interest.
  4. Reading
    1. Students will be able to read and understand textbooks and academic articles for classes taught in the host language as well as popular texts for enjoyment.
    2. Students will be able to read and understand authentic materials including newspapers, advertisements, brochures, instruction manuals, etc. on abstract topics with some assistance at times.
  5. Writing
    1. Students will be able to write for multiple audiences and express themselves clearly and effectively.
    2. Students will be able to write essays for classes incorporating aspects of appropriate academic style with some assistance at times.
Method of presentation: 

Three-week intensive period followed by an eleven-week regular semester period. Class sessions will include:

  • Video and audio presentations
  • Classroom discussions
  • Student presentations
  • Field visits to Viennese/Austrian places of cultural interest.

The instructor will use the classroom as a place to enhance the command of the German language through:

  • Role plays
  • Activities
  • Dialogues
  • Structured reading
  • Written assignments

Students will be encouraged to participate fully in the community and to attend events such as lectures, plays, movies, and concerts, helping them to understand the value of these activities even though they may feel their comprehension is not complete.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Oral work and class performance / participation -  40%
  • Homework (essays, readings, vocabulary etc.) - 10%
  • Tests and quizzes - 25 %
  • Final exam - 25%

Class participation and oral assignments

Students will be graded on the quantity and quality of their contribution to class and their oral performance. There will be a focus on discussions of various topics the course instructor will provide. In order to be able to participate in the discussion, students will get a list of phrases and vocabulary which must be studied carefully and used during the discussion. In addition to being prepared for class discussion of the readings and topics at hand, students will be expected to deliver spontaneous short oral reports from time to time. These should be approximately five minutes in length, and will be assigned on an ad hoc basis. Students should make sure that their language is comprehensible to the rest of the class, explaining unfamiliar vocabulary in German if necessary.

Written assignments and homework

Students will engage in formal writing, approximately once every week. Topics will be assigned, and these essays should be typed, double-spaced (12 point font with 1 inch margins), and at least 1 to 1.5 pages long (300-500 words). Essays should have a beginning, middle, and end, and employ the same writing strategies which students use when writing in English. Essays should be coherent, and use as much of the new vocabulary and grammar as possible. These will be graded on the basis of both content (organization, coherence) and style (grammar, vocabulary usage). Students will receive corrective feedback from the instructor, and have an opportunity to rewrite the essay for a better grade.

Reading assignments

The group discussion will be based upon texts which students have to prepare at home (expanding their vocabulary, noting down questions relating to the topic of discussion etc.). Moreover, students need to thoroughly read texts at home in order to develop different reading techniques and strategies.

Grammar assignments

The knowledge and usage of grammatical patterns will also be a major part of the course. Grammar will be related to texts, but also will be trained in pattern drill exercises. Students will thoroughly review complex German grammar and learn new grammatical structures.

Exams, tests, quizzes

There will be short quizzes and tests (vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing or a combination) based on course topics, an end-of-intensive final exam, a midterm exam and a comprehensive final exam.






Corresponding Learning Outcome(s)

Week 1

  • Articles written by instructor: Österreich – Land und Leute, Auf dem Wiener Naschmarkt, Wien und der Wein

1. Functional: Getting to know the host country (geography, location in Europe, religions, climate, provinces, main markets, tradition of Heurigen, …).

2. Grammatical: Adjective endings, prepositions, idioms, useful phrases

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to the articles

4. Culture: Students begin to understand and describe the host culture and reflect on and discuss differences between Austrian and U.S. culture.

  • Oral reports and composition 1: What main differences between the U.S. and Austria have you realized since your arrival?
  • Field trip: To the biggest market in Vienna: Naschmarkt
  • Exam 1

I. A, B, III. A, B, IV. A, B

Week 2

  • Articles written by instructor: Kunst der Sezession, Wien – ein Kurzportrait
  • Articles about Leopold Museum with the world-wide largest collection of Egon Schiele paintings
  • Article about the Vienna City Hall
  • Article about the political system of Austria

1. Functional: Becoming familiar with the art of Fin de Siècle (Jugendstil, Expressionismus, Wiener Werkstätte) and the political situation in Austria.

2. Grammatical: Review of pronouns, dependent clauses

3. Vocabulary: Art of the Secession movement, History of Vienna, Political System of Austria

4. Culture: Discussion of the works of art by Schiele, Klimt, Kokoschka, Political parties in Austria, Survey of highlights in the history of Vienna, …

  • Debate: Share personal feelings and impressions after visiting Leopold Museum
  • Composition 2: Personal experiences in Vienna
  • Field trips: Tour of Leopold Museum, Tour of Vienna City Hall
  • Exam 2, 3

I.  A, B, II. B, III. A, B, IV. B

Week 3

  • Aspekte 2, Modul 1
  • Neue Heimat
  • „Mein Glück in der neuen Heimat“
  • Article written by instructor: Tradition of the Viennese coffeehouse

1. Functional: Looking at host country as home for a semester or even a year.

2. Grammatical: Word order, time expressions, passive voice -  present and past, prepositions taking dative and accusative.

3. Vocabulary: Means of expression when talking about characteristics of home country.

4. Culture: Austria as „your second home“. Getting to know coffeehouse literature and the history of the coffeehouse tradition in Vienna.

  • Oral reports and discussion: What does „Heimat” mean to you personally?
  • Field trip: to Café Landtmann 
  • Exam 4
  • Final Exam


I. A, B, II. A, B, III. A, B,

IV. A, B, V. B





Corresponding Learning Outrcome(s)

Week 1

  • Aspekte 2; Kapitel 6
  • Kulturwelten
  • Article written by instructor:
  • Bälle in Wien (balls in Vienna)

1. Functional: Composing stories about different famous paintings.

2. Grammatical: connectors relating to time and place. 

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to the cultural topic.

4. Culture: Ball culture in Austria.

  • Debate: Share personal perspectives and feelings about different aspects of the host culture in order to be able to evaluate the development of the students’ own cultural competence.
  • Composition 1:Personal reflections on differences between Austrian culture and US culture
  • How was your first ball in Vienna?
  • Arbeitsbuch: Page 67

I. A, I. B, III. A, III. B, IV. A, V. A, V. B

Week 2

  • Kapitel 6
  • UNESCO Weltkulturerbe
  • Das Schloss Schönbrunn
  • Movie: The highlights of Vienna(TV documentary)

1. Functional: Online research on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Austria and in the US; Watching a movie in German (including listening to Viennese dialect).

2. Grammatical: Prepositions taking the genitive, relative clauses.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to describing world-famous sites.

4. Culture: Schloss Schönbrunn as one of  the  sites included in the list of World Heritage, the historical background of  Schönbrunn Castle.

  • Oral reports and composition 2: Students‘ experiences when visiting the castle of  Schönbrunn.
  • Arbeitsbuch: Page 68, 69, 70
  • Lehrbuch: Page 91
  • Exam 1

I. A, C, II. A, B,

III. B, IV. B,

V. B

Week 3

  • Article written by instructor:
  • The German Language in the World

1. Functional:  Language tools for describing statistical charts.

2. Grammatical: Prepositions taking the dative and the accusative case.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to means of verbal expression.

4. Culture: the importance of the German language not only in the EU but in the whole world.


  • Oral presentation and discussion: Interesting facts about the German language.
  • Composition 3: Why is it so important to learn languages
  • Arbeitsbuch: Page 73, 74

I. A, B, III. A, B,

IV. A, V. A,B

Week 4

  • Kapitel 6
  • Sprachensterben

1. Functional: Why are languages dying out?

2. Grammatical: Adjective endings

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to the text.

4. Culture: Problems of languages which are spoken by only few people.

  • Composition 4: What can be done to save languages from dying out?
  • Arbeitsbuch: Page75
  • Lehrbuch: Page 95
  • Exam 2

I. A, II. B, III. A,

IV. B, V. A

Week 5

  • Kapitel 9
  • Mit Musik geht alles besser

1. Functional:  ability to describe various styles of music.

2. Grammatical: Passive voice.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to expressions used when talking about music.

4. Culture: Students’ own experience with music

  • Oral report: Impressions after a concert at Musikverein, Vienna’s famous concert hall.
  • Composition 5: Music in Vienna and personal experiences with music and concerts in Vienna.
  • Arbeitsbuch: Page 141

I. A, B, II. B, III. B,

V. A

Week 6



  • Midterm Exam



Week 7

  • The 150th anniversary of Gustav Klimt

1. Functional: Being able to talk about art.

2. Grammatical: Relative clauses with wo–compounds.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to the art of Jugendstil.

4. Culture: getting to know the art of the Fin de Siècle in Vienna.

  • Field trip to Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum)
  • Composition 6: Reflections on personal feelings with respect to Gustav Klimt’s art.

I. A, II. B, V. B

Week 8

  • Hermann Hesse: Die Stadt

1. Functional: Language tools for discussing literary works.

2. Grammatical: Passive voice with modal verbs.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to the text.

4. Culture: which works by Hermann Hesse have students already read?

  • Oral presentation:  Hermann Hesse’s biography and literary work.
  • Composition 7:  Description of the rise of the city in this short story, advantages and disadvantages of technological progress.

I. B, II. B, IV. B,

V. B

Week 9

  • Die Stadt

1. Functional: students’ understanding of what is Heimat.

2. Grammatical: review of passive voice, conjunctions and dependent clauses.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to Hesse’s text.

4. Culture: Vienna as the students’ „second home”.

  • Composition 8: What does „Heimat”  mean to you personally?
  • Special exercises regarding Hesse’s short story.

I. A, B, V. A

Week 10

  • current newspaper articles related to topics of Hesse’s short story (problems of environmental pollution, revolutions, etc.)
  • TV documentary on climate changes.

1. Functional: reading German-language newspapers.

2. Grammatical: Verbs plus prepositions, subjunctive I, reported speech.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to newspaper articles, additional language tools.

4. Culture: Current events.

  • Composition 9: Synopsis of the articles (using indirect speech).
  • Discussion of the TV documentary.
  • Find  other newspaper articles dealing with similar topics

I. B, II. A, B, III. A,

V. B

Week 11

  • Kapitel 10
  • Climate change

1. Functional: Expressing feelings.

2. Grammatical: Subjunctive II, unreal wishes, if-clauses, polite questions, as if-sentences.

3. Vocabulary: Vocabulary related to environment.

4. Culture: awareness of climate changes. 

  • Composition 10: What would happen, if  ….
  • Oral presentations by students followed by discussions:
  • alternative energy sources, how to save energy, how can everyone contribute to the protection of our environment, …


I. A, III. A, IV. B,

V. B

Week 12




  • Final Exam




Required readings: 
  • Aspekte, Mittelstufe Deutsch, Lehrbuch 2, Arbeitsbuch 2, Langenscheidt
  • Sparks, Kimberley, and Van Horn Vail. German in Review. 4th ed. Middlebury College: Thomson & Heinle, 2004.
  • Hermann Hesse: Die Stadt
  • Grammar and exercises in the form of handouts; current newspapers; video and audio tapes (most materials available at IES Abroad Vienna)