How to use a German text to improve your comprehension

How to use a German text to improve your comprehension

As a regular blog reader you know that I often post about different ways to practise your German, so today I’d like to tell you about another way to improve your German grammar. Let’s assume you have just covered the dative case in your lessons, you’ve done all the exercises but would like some reinforcement on the matter. What can you do?

  • You may have some other textbooks which also cover the dative case
  • You can look for online worksheets about the dative case
  • You can look for online games that reinforce the dative case
  • Or/ and you can do the following (which is particularly useful for those who don’t like playing games):
Looking for another way to practise German grammar? Try this! Click To Tweet

Find a German text, any text. It can be any German website or a book or newspaper. Chose an article or even just a paragraph, and start … reading,  no, you don’t even need to do that. Just search for the dative in that text. If possible, write on the text or highlight words. I show you some examples I did online, but you may prefer pen and paper:

text with dative highlightsAs you can see, I’ve highlighted the dative in this picture. If you did that, you could then look at the reasons for it:

– im Sommer = in + dative + and masculine noun because of position, in + dem shortened to im
– aus unserem Nachbarland = aus + dative, again because of position
– in der Hauptstadt = again in + dative but with feminine noun
– am Montag = an + dative, position and masculine noun, an + dem shortened to am
– auf Hausdächern = no article, but auf + position and plural, hence Hausdächern with an extra ‘n’
– am Mittwoch (as Montag above)
– zum Beispiel = zu is always followed by the dative, Beispiel is neuter, zu + dem shortened to zum
– mit Geschenkesack = no article here but mit is always followed by the dative (so if there was one it would be dem or einem)
– auf dem Rücken = auf + position + masculine noun

This is just an example. You could use this technique for any grammar practice. Let me show you the same text with different highlights.

text with accusative highlightsThis time I found some accusative situations:

– in die Hauptstadt = this time in needs the accusative as it’s movement (I should have highlighted ‘gekommen’ to show the movement)
– die Parkregeln = no preposition but it’s the object, it’s what the people (subject of the sentence) are discussing
– für Rentiere = für is always followed by the accusative, there is no article here, but if there was it would be die (plural)
– durch den Wichtelwald = durch is always followed by the accusative, Wald is masculine

text with prepositions and pronounsYou may be practising pronouns after prepositions and trying to work out how to do them, when you’re referring to a thing rather than a person – damit, dafür, davon, darauf … I only found two in the text, you may find more or none, depending on the text you chose.

text with plural hightlightsMaybe you have just learned how to form the plural in German, so a good idea would be to look for plural nouns.

wenn & separable verbMaybe you have learned about ‘wenn’ sentences or separable verbs.

text with genitive highlightsMaybe you are practising the genitive.

The possibilities are endless. Depending on how much you like this exercise, you could spend just a few minutes (seconds???) looking through a text or you could sit down with a coffee, pen and paper and highlight whatever you are practising and making notes about it, similar to mine about the dative.

I’m not saying you should do this, or even have to do this, but if you are looking for another way of practising your German grammar, then this may be worth a try.

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “How to use a German text to improve your comprehension”

  1. This is an extremely helpful way to learn German, especially from a grammatical perspective. Teachers can use this approach to focus on grammar points under study. The challenge for myself at least is finding these types of texts that are approachable foe students and authentic. If you have tips, ideas, resources, links, etc. for these types of authentic and approachable materials, can you please pass them along?

    Danke sehr!


    • Anything really. Search German online newspapers for suitable texts or google for keywords. If your topic is pets for example, search for some German texts about Haustiere, or mein Hamster or something like this. The only thing is, there is no guarantee that whatever grammar you are practising may be in the text. But basically, find a text that will appeal to your students. For this exercise it doesn’t even matter too much if it was a difficult text, all you want is enough of your chosen grammar point. Viel Glück!

  2. This is very good advice, Angelika. When I was at the Interpreters’ School, we had a subject called “Text Analysis” in every language we did. It covered things like Who’s your audience? and What’s the language level? but it also involved analyzing text grammatically. It’s immensely helpful if you truly want to learn a language. Some people claim that this is pointless because it’s not how native speakers learn their language. Very true–and that’s why the majority of native speakers I know both in English and in German have no clue about what is correct in their own language. They go by “feel,” unaware that their “feel” very often is wrong. If you really want to learn and understand a language, you have to learn at some point how it’s put together and why it is the way it is. You have to develop awareness, not just intuition.

    • I remember when I started teaching German before I even had any qualifications. Students asked me how ‘ein Kaffee’ all over sudden was ‘ich möchte einen Kaffee’. I knew it was correct but had absolutely no idea why. I told them I would explain next week and then ran home to check all the German books I had (no internet then). Gradually I remembered all those grammar explanations again, but I also looked at texts and tried to work out why something was written as it was. I found it very helpful!
      I also remembered that, actually, we did learn all these things at school! Even native speakers learn their language at school – we just forget all the grammar after a while and go by gut feeling …. which may or may not always be right 🙂

  3. Just came across this and I found it very interesting. Analysing a text in this manner is a lovely way to just recap on any grammar learned out of context in grammatical exercises. One problem which teachers of German in England have is that English Grammar was barely taught for decades in the English school system, so students often have a very poor understanding of the grammatical structure of their mother tongue. Often adult students comment to me that they have learned so much English through studying, for example, German. To quote Goethe (!!) – Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen


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