We had the opportunity to review a German Course through Middlebury Interactive Languages. Middlebury has courses for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The German course we were given to review was the high school German geared towards students in 9th-12th grade. Upon first opening the course, it is inviting. The picture displayed was colorful and interesting.
A table of contents is listed on the left of the screen when beginning each day. Students can click through to where they left off. Once a lesson has been completed, a check mark is placed in the box to the left of the lesson. All lessons have a written script and a speaker, so the important parts of the lesson can be heard by the student. The first screen for each new unit details the objectives of the unit—what the student can expect to learn. Then there is a vocabulary guide and an introduction to the vocabulary. A pronunciation button is available for each word. This was, obviously, very helpful for my son as he sometimes had to click it over and over again because he'd forget how the German word was pronounced. It is a bit inconvenient, however, that a bar showing how long it takes them to say the word pops up right over top of the word. The list of vocabulary can be printed out.
As we went through the German lessons, I thought it would have been helpful if some of the words were said a little bit more slowly. There were words I'm sure we were pronouncing wrong because they said them too quickly. Interactive lessons are provided to learn the vocabulary words. I thought these were a lot of fun. You have to drag and drop the right answers onto the pictures. There is also a speaking lab—an opportunity to record your voice. The sentences provided are long. Unfamiliar words are underlined so students can click on them to learn what they mean. Speaker buttons are provided. I felt, again, that the speaker said the words faster than we could catch all the syllables and nuances. There is also no way to really compare your own attempt to the native speaker. You can listen to your own voice, but there is no direct comparison provided on the screen (no side-by-side voice comparison) to see how your own voice differs from the original.
An exercise comes next that allows the student to listen to a conversation and fill in the missing words. It seems to just be so the student can learn to pick out the vocabulary words from the conversation. It wasn't very difficult. After this exercise and the matching exercises for the vocabulary, the student is able to check his work by clicking the check mark in the top right of the screen.
The second unit teaches the German alphabet. I appreciate this part of the program. A lot of other language programs do not teach the alphabet, but I find that it is helpful to know how each letter sounds so you can at least try to figure out how to pronounce new words. After all, isn't that how we all learned English? Because there are four different letters and some of the letters that are the same as in English just pronounced differently, the student almost needs to take notes. There is an option for printing the script, which might actually be very helpful in this instance.
Some of the interactive exercises allow the student to drag and drop the answer while others require the student to actually type in the answer. I don't feel there is enough repetition of the words in the lessons to bring the student to the point where he feels comfortable spelling the words. I noticed my son getting visibly frustrated during these exercises. "How am I supposed to remember?" These exercises require a lot of going back and forth, unless the student actually writes down every word he learns throughout. He says there is also no instruction in how to type the German characters that aren't also in the English language.
Various topics are covered throughout the course: alphabet, pronouns, greetings, definite and indefinite articles, plurals, school words, adjectives, verb conjugation, etc. There are also cultural topics: Berlin, Burg Eltz, pastries, German economy, Berlin Wall, Brothers Grimm, and so on. I really enjoy the cultural pieces. It adds so much to the study of a language when you are able to catch glimpses of the life of the people.
At the end of each unit, there are two tests. One is multiple choice. The other is either writing or speaking. I've got to say, "These tests are hard." I'm not sure I could pass them without a LOT of review of the words.
A semester of Middlebury German for high school without a Middlebury teacher is $119. If you choose to use one of their teachers and obtain credit in this manner, the cost is an additional $175 per semester, for a total of $294.
I love learning languages, and there are so many different programs available. Middlebury has some things other programs do not, and there are some things that it could do better. I wish there was more review of the vocabulary and better instruction in pronouncing the words. But I liked the interactive exercises and the cultural bits.
The following images are screenshots of different exercises available throughout the program, as well as the various programs that are available:
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