German Letters

A Word to the Reader


This collection is intended for intermediate students of German, i.e., high school German students in the third or fourth year of their study of German and college students in their second year. If you are such a student, or if you have commensurate skills, this collection is meant for you.

If you have looked through the table of contents, I hope you are thinking this book will be exciting. It is. It contains 18 letters by German-speaking men and women of some prominence. Out of hundreds of letters that I examined, I chose these because I enjoyed them especially and believed they would have broad appeal. I chose letters with a straightforward style over letters with lexical and grammatical complexities, all other things being equal. But all other things were seldom equal, and so the collection does contain some letters that you will probably find tough. Iíll not tell you which ones; youíll just have to find out for yourself.

The letters express a wide range of emotions, attitudes, and topics As sources of knowledge, the letters are gold mines in themselves, and they will, it is to be hoped, lead you, the reader, to the additional treasures that independent examination and research can provide.

Most of the letters are divided into sections, and each section is preceded by a vocabulary list. If I were you, I would familiarize myself with these words before beginning to read the pertinent part if the letter. Most of the letters are too difficult for most intermediate students to read with ease until they have taken time to master some of the words, i.e., the words in the list. The remaining troublesome words are glossed.

The exercises encourage you to use and reuse the words and phrases of the letter. In general, the exercises focus on nine grammatical areas. Five of these areas involve the verb directly: 1) active-voice forms in the indicative, 2) passive indicative, 3) imperatives, 4) subjunctive forms in unreal conditional sentences, and 5) subjunctive in indirect discourse. The remaining areas are 6) articles and adjective endings, 7) word order, 8) relative pronouns, and 9) degrees of adjectives and adverbs.

The grammar appendix is rather thorough and should serve you well; however, you will need your own German dictionary.

E. M.

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