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Continuing Studies

German for Reading and Translation

continuingstudies.wisc.edu/9069-C-LAAS See upcoming dates


Gain the basic skills you need to read and translate German texts to English. Learn fundamental German grammar and vocabulary while translating texts from disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. This course is excellent preparation for a German graduate-level reading knowledge exam.

Start with the basics and work your way through progressively more challenging grammatical concepts that appear in the scholarly texts you translate. Along the way, you learn key grammar structures and reading strategies and build your vocabulary. Digital textbook included.

While no prior knowledge of the language is required, familiarity with common grammar terminology in English is highly recommended. Basic to high-intermediate German speakers can use the course to review essential grammar, build vocabulary and increase accuracy in translation. The higher level of German you have, the more you will gain from this course.

This course is open to all. You do not have to be a UW–Madison student to register. The graduate student fee is applicable to graduate students from any institution.

Note: You will not be able to view the course on your Canvas Dashboard or access the materials until the course start date.


The course builds on a fully online free open education resource (OER) textbook and includes instructor notes, interactive games and comprehension checks that get you working with the concepts straight away. Top it off with instructor-graded translation assignments so you know exactly what you need to do to improve. While no prior knowledge of German is required, basic to high-intermediate German speakers can use the course to review essential grammar, build vocabulary and increase accuracy in translation.

There are no synchronous class sessions and you will work through the weekly material at your own pace.

Course components

This course uses a free open online textbook and builds on that material through more examples and explanations, as well as a variety of activities and assessments that you access via the Canvas course site:

  • Comprehension Checks (quick, non-graded self-checks).
  • 8 Module quizzes (in-depth, graded practice that can be repeated).
  • 12 Self-practice activities (short texts that you translate and compare to sample translations).
  • 6 Written assignments (assignments that increase in complexity and are corrected by the instructor with personal feedback).
  • 1 Final project (you choose 1 of 3 scholarly texts to translate and turn in to the instructor for comments).

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Read and understand, with the help of a dictionary, scholarly texts pertinent to their field of research.
  • Identify fundamental German grammatical structures and syntax.
  • Recognize essential German vocabulary words.
  • Have increased confidence in translation abilities.

Required Materials

Is this course right for you?

If the following statements accurately describe you, you are a good candidate for our online course:

  • I am a skilled reader who is at ease with written instructions and lessons.
  • I am a self-directed learner, with the initiative to visit a course site regularly.
  • I am comfortable participating in a course in writing.
  • I can continue learning independently while waiting for feedback on assignments.
  • I am organized and able to meet deadlines.
  • I enjoy working on a computer.
  • I have 5 to 8 hours weekly that I can devote to this online course.

If these statements do not accurately describe you, please consider taking a face-to-face class.

Course Outline

Course organization

This course is organized into 7-10 modules or units. Here you can see the major topics covered in each module and a few of the supplemental materials. The number of modules may be adjusted depending on the semester, but will include all of the same content.

  • Introduction to translating in German
    • Relationship between English and German
    • How to use a bilingual dictionary the right way
    • Noun gender, number, & case
    • Common verbs (and how to use them)
    • Asking questions
  • Verb conjugation and declension
    • How to conjugate regular verbs
    • How to conjugate irregular verbs
    • Using definite and indefinite articles
    • High-frequency writing constructions
  • Past and prepositions
    • How to form the imperfect tense
    • How to form the conversational past tense
    • Breaking down morphosyntax
    • Prepositions: How? Why? Over where?
    • Prepositional phrases (TeKaMoLo)
  • Adjectives, adverbs, and verbs (continued)
    • Reflexive verbs (and how to identify them)
    • Adverb? Adjective? Say what?
    • How to understand complex sentences
    • Comparatives and superlatives
    • Adjective endings
  • Perfect tenses and subordinate word order
    • Present perfect: application
    • Past perfect: application
    • Combine these sentences
    • Kicking verbs to the end
  • Modal verbs in 2100
    • Future tense
    • Future perfect tense
    • Modal verbs and their use
    • Relative pronouns (and clauses)
    • Modal verbs (also in subordinate clauses)
  • Passive voice, subjunctive mood, and advanced sentence structure
    • What was done?
    • Subjunctive 1 (indirect speech)
    • Subjunctive 2 (irreal situations)
    • Da/wo compounds
    • Infinitive clauses

Earn Continuing Education Hours

By participating in this class you will earn:

Instructional Hours 30
University of Wisconsin Continuing Education Units 3

Explanation of Continuing Education Hours

Upcoming dates (2)

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Program Questions?

Contact Chris Moore at christopher.moore@wisc.edu or 608-262-7389

Registration Questions?

Email registrations@pyle.wisc.edu or call 608-262-2451.

Continuing Studies FAQs

Meet your instructor

Nick Michael Ott

(PhD Candidate, UW-Madison) speaks German, Portuguese, and Spanish and enjoys sharing his passion for learning and teaching languages. He has extensive language teaching experience in K-12 and higher education settings and has lived and taught in Germany and Costa Rica..