Brush up on your German before JYM

Approximately 5-6 months span the time between when you are admitted to the JYM program and the time you actually arrive in Munich. We strongly encourage you to use this “down time” as an opportunity to strengthen your German language skills. This is especially important for students on the full-year program since the long months of summer most likely will not provide much opportunity to take formal German language instruction.

We can’t learn German for you, and we can’t use German for you when you are on JYM. Only you can commit to that. And then are plenty of reasons why you should make that one of your goals while you are in Munich. You will adjust more quickly to living abroad, you will find it easier to make get involved and make friends, your academic goals will be more realistic and obtainable, and it will pay off when you enter the job market after graduation.

What to Expect

One of the first things you'll do upon arrival in Munich is take a German language placement test (Einstufungstest). Based on the results of this test you will be assigned to a section of the Advanced German Language course along with other students who have a similar level of language proficiency. Most students on JYM probably will test in somewhere between the A2/B1 level. Your goal should be to obtain Level B2 or beyond while on JYM. (And yes, it can be done! We've studied test results over a six year period and have seen it happen.)

So let's get started!


1) Test Yourself First

The first thing you'll want to do is take a placement test to see what level you are at according to the Common European Frame of References for Languages proficiency scale (both the scale and the testing format are quite different from the US, so this is also good practice). Deutsche Welle offers a free online placement test (Einstufungstest).

2) Set aside time every day to study German

Even if you are already taking a German language course right now, make a plan to do even more. You'll be glad you did! Just 20 minutes a day from the time you are accepted to JYM to the time you arrive in Munich would amount to approx 60 hours of instruction. That's equivalent to an additional whole semester of German!

• Join the German Language Preparation for JYM Group on Facebook

• Follow Slow German on Facebook for your daily dose of German and explore the many topics at the Slow German Podcast website

• Strengthen your German with Deutsche Welle A2 Level video clips & exercises

• Kick it up and challenge yourself with Deutsche Welle B1 Level video clips & exercises

• Check out the Free online German course, also from Deutsche Welle

• Explore the many B2 level Video Reports (with transcripts and exercises) from Deutsche Welle

4) Buy a German Language textbook at A2 or B1 Level

Highly recommended if you are in third semester German:
Buscha, Anne and Szilvia Szita. Begegnungen A2+ Integriertes Kurs- und Arbeitsbuch. Leipzig: Schubert Verlag, 2008. Comes with an Answer Booklet and 2 CDs for listening comprehension. Available from Amazon (make sure you select a source that ships from the US to save you time and money). Schubert Verlag also has additional exercises and PDF worksheets online, covering Levels A1 to C2.

4) Grammar Review

Buscha, Anne and Szilvia Szita. B Grammatik. Sprachniveau B1-B2. Leipzig: Schubert Verlag, 2011. Comes with an Answer Booklet and CD for listening comprehension. Available from Amazon (get it from SuperBookDeals; they ship from IL)

Online Grammar Exercises:

Verbs with Prepositions (26 exercises)
Verbs with Cases (22 exercises)
Adjectives with Prepositions (8 exercises)

Online Listening with Exercises:

German News from Deutsche Welle - read slowly (langsam gesprochene Nachrichten)

5) Practice Tests for Zertifikat B1

Glotz-Kastanis, Jo and Aliki Ernestine, Olympia Balser. Zertifikat B1 neu. 15 Übungsprüfungen. Munich: Hueber Verlag, 2013. (15 practice tests at the B1 level, incl. CD for listening tests; answer key can be downloaded from Hueber Verlag website) Available from Amazon (order from SuperBookDeals; they ship from IL)

And there's lots more you can do!

A. Build your Vocabulary

Online Vocabulary Exercises:

Online Vocabulary Lessons (45 everyday topics with lots of examples showing how a particular noun or verb is used - you learn a lot just by looking at the examples!)

Online Irregular Verb Lessions (24 exercises; also with lots of examples)

Online Vocabulary Tests (200 exercises - all levels, from super easy to more advanced)

Vocabulary Books:

Langenscheidt Grundwortschatz Deutsch (Basic German Vocabulary)
Covers Level A1 to B1. (ISBN 978-3-468-49400-0)

Langenscheidt Grundwortschatz Deutsch: Übungsbuch (Exercise Book)
Covers Level A1 to B1. (ISBN 978-3-468-49419-2)

Forst, Gabriele. Mastering German Vocabulary: A Thematic Approach. New York: Barron's Educational Series, 1995. (ISBN 0-8120-9108-6)

Hachenburger, Petra and Paul Jackson. Topics, Questions, Keywords. A Handbook for Students of German. London: Routledge, 2000. (ISBN 0-415-19405-9)

B. Dictionaries

Different kinds of dictionaries serve different purposes. You should familiarize yourself with all of these.

  • leo : useful for direct, one-to-one translations
  • : useful for direct, one-to-one translations
  • linguee :   useful for determining which terms to use in which context)
  • forvo : pronunciation dictionary
  • duden : THE German-German dictionary. Useful for formulating German-language definitions, also has pronunciation examples
  • Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm: the German equivalent of the Oxford dictionary. Useful if you are interested in the history of words and linguistics, or if you are reading older texts. 

C. Specialized Dictionaries

De Vries, Louis.German-English Technical and Engineering Dictionary. First published 1950 by McGraw-Hill, inexpensive used copies of the 1965 edition can be found online.

Freeman, Henry G. and Günter Glass, eds. Taschenwörterbuch Technik. Ismaning: Max Hueber Verlag, 2000. Available as Deutsch-Englisch, or Englisch-Deutsch.

D. Grammatical Structures and Functional Use

Whittle. Ruth. Modern German Grammar: A Practical Guide. Third Edition. Routledge, 2011. For intermediate to advanced learners, i.e. Level B1 and beyond. (ISBN 978-0-415-56726-8)

Zojer, Heidi. Modern German Grammar Workbook. Third Edition. Routledge, 2011.
For intermediate to advanced learners, i.e. Level B1 and beyond. (ISBN 978-0-415-56725-1)