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German and Your PDA: WiFi or Plain Modem

More German in Your Palm

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Toshiba Pocket PC

The Toshiba Pocket PC is just one handheld that can help you learn German.

Even Beginners Can Do It!

In a previous article called German in Your Palm we concentrated on how to use a PDA or handheld PC for reading e-books in German. This follow-up article focuses more on another aspect of reading "real" German online: following the news and current events in German.

I'm writing this update and expansion of the earlier PDA article because of a forum post by Geoffrey M., a reader in New Zealand. In his forum message Geoffrey wrote enthusiastically about using a PDA for learning German — real German, not lessons or vocabulary lists.

I asked Geoffrey if he could share some of his own experiences using a handheld device for German, and he was kind enough to share them with his fellow German-learners.

I have long advocated that even beginning German-learners start reading authentic German from online or printed sources. I was happy to see that Geoffrey, who has made a lot of progress but is not yet an advanced student of German, had developed some rather advanced strategies to help himself read the news in German:

"You should start reading original German material as soon as possible. There are 'graduated' reading paths available even in native German texts! Start with the easy (let's call it the 'red colour') Bild. Then move on to n-tv, then when your knowledge is advanced, try the broadsheets, Südeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung and the newsweekly Der Spiegel. For a long time I avoided reading news in German—I thought that it would be much 'too hard' and stuck to the boring written-by-Professor-X-of-PutBritishUniversityHere readers, with 'exciting' names like Das Versprechen. (Bear in mind that I live in New Zealand with nearly all study materials for German originating out of Britain!). Reading real German sources gives far more satisfaction and I think they are also far more interesting."

Note: You can get additional help with German news vocabulary from our Vocabulary in the News glossary.

Although Geoffrey does occasionally read German e-books on his Palm PDA, he prefers the shorter, easier news online. To follow the German news from TV, radio, or periodicals, he uses a normal 56k modem at home, rather than a broadband or Wi-Fi connection. I can understand the use of a PDA or handheld while on the road, but I wasn't sure what the advantage was for home use. I asked Geoffrey why he prefers to use a PDA/handheld rather than a normal computer, even at home.

"I have always found it far too hard to read any large chunks of text on a computer screen. I think the reason is, for me in any case, that we are used to reading looking down, not sideways. A PDA makes reading much more like reading a newspaper or a book. After all, you don't stick your newspaper up on the wall to read it—you have it on a table, or at least angled towards you, if you are on a train/bus etc. It may be different for other people, but I found it impossible to read anything more than short articles on a desktop PC. Also, I find it much more comfortable to sit in an armchair and read on my PDA than sitting on even the best ergonomically designed computer desk chair."

Again, Geoffrey stressed that some kinds of news are easier to read than others: "Articles about world events are much easier to understand than domestic news! Reading about a plane crash in German after hearing about it on CNN in English is still very beneficial, but not nearly as hard as reading without any background to the story. I used to not even bother with German domestic news, but now I have a working knowledge of the Reformen and German politics, i.e., Schröder, Angela Merkel, Edmund Stoiber, usw."

Geoffrey adds: "Do I sound like an enthusiast? Probably. But the improvement in my German has been amazing because of reading native language sources. Combine it with n-tv streamed online (link on next page), and you've got the perfect language learning system!"

NEXT: PDA/Handheld Links + Skweezer >

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