Why I Loathe Trick Questions in German Learning Books
Heads-up: this is a rant post.
A long time ago I used a German book for both classes and lessons that wasn’t a good fit for either population. I didn’t like the layout, I didn’t like the cartoons, the instructions weren’t always clear, and sometimes the workbook exercises differed from what was in the chapter.
That made teaching with this book difficult, and it created an excessive amount of prep work, which caused me a lot of stress, because it also didn’t answer my students’ many questions. But that wasn’t even the worst part.
das Schlimmste ~ The Worst Part
The worst part was: often, the book would give beginning German students trick questions. At first I thought it had been a mistake, that somebody hadn’t properly checked and a few wrong answers went into the answer key, because I couldn’t understand asking trick questions of a beginner who could barely say “I’d like a coffee, please,” or “Yesterday I went to the bakery and bought two loaves of bread.”
It was mind-boggling.
And then it happened again. And again. And again.
We talked about it in the German class I was teaching then and my students and I realized trick questions were the norm for this book.
I was appalled.
A "trick question" in German is "die Fangfrage," a "catch question."
Was ich gemacht habe ~ What I Did Then
After that class ended, I made a decision: I would check out every book I used for a German class and make sure that there were no trick questions. And if there were, that it was in a way that helped increase critical thinking and definitely wasn’t at the beginning level, but at the high intermediate and advanced levels.
Was sich verändert hat ~ What Changed
I never used that trick-question book with my clients, and I have always used really solid books and worksheets. The situations are realistic, the people depicted in the books are diverse, and the worksheets coordinate with the topics clients are learning.
This had several kinds of positive impact on my private clients:
1. It creates a safe lesson environment for them.
When clients come to their lessons, they know I will ask them real questions which require real answers that they themselves can and will answer in their lessons because it was in their homework that way.
2. It creates a safe “book environment” for them.
My clients feel safe when they open their book, because they know that what they see is what they get. No trick questions = no second-guessing.
I want people to try learning German and to know that they won’t be “made fun of” for trying it, that their mistakes are welcome because they are part of the process, and they are in a safe environment.