Monday, June 08, 2009

Bobo Siebenschläfer is my friend (or Why Audio is so Important for your German Language Learning.)

"Hoopla, der Turm fällt zusammen. Bobo mag nicht mehr spielen". I have heard these words every night for the past 18 months, as my son listens to the Bobo Siebenschläfer CD while going to sleep. I can recite practically the entire CD from memory. And guess what? Repeatedly listening to this simple children's story, written for 2 year olds, has helped my German more than I ever expected.

How has this CD helped my German?
As a non-native speaker of German, my accent is pretty good. My vocabulary, on the other hand, needed work, especially when relating to children and daily life. College German classes don't teach you how to talk about playing with toys, getting dressed, and comforting a child. Bobo, however, does! Bobo takes a bath, goes to the zoo, gets sick, and plays in his backyard and I get to soak up all the words and phrases that accompany these activities. As I listen to this CD with my son, I pick up words and phrases I hear myself repeating the next day.

Repetition is key
It's not enough to listen just once. It's the repetition of hearing the CD many times that really cements the language and the pronunciation in my brain. And each time I listen, there's a new nuance, or a new word that catches my ear.

Why has this CD made such an impact?
This CD has been perfect for me because it's so relevant to my small children. It covers things we do every day. The native German speaker on the CD has a perfect accent for me to follow. Plus, the repetition over time has helped me to retain much of what I've heard. You could get a similar benefit from hearing another relevant audiobook repeatedly.

Isn't this giving too much importance to a simple story?
Well, the story is simple but since it lasts for 45 minutes and there is so much German language to listen to, that it's really a lot of material to cover. Most German children's stories are actually written at a level which is intermediate for adult learners. Language that is simple for a child is not always simple for an adult learner. When you add the value of the repetition and the native accent on the CD, it's a very useful activity.

Music isn't the same
This process won't work with music. Listening to music auf Deutsch does have lots of benefits but to acquire new vocabulary and improve your accent, stick with audiobooks.

Don't overdo it
I wouldn't suggest that anyone take this kind of CD and sit down and listen to it over and over again. It's best used as something in the background - something you listen to as part of another activity - driving in the car, putting a child to sleep, while making breakfast. As your hands stay busy, your mind can process the audio over time and absorb it. But don't think I'm suggesting it is a work to be studied intently!

Try it yourself.
Create your own regular listening routine. Try it every day for a week and see if you've picked up any useful phrases. Mine was accidental but yours can be purposeful. Soon you'll be able to say Bobo Siebenschläfer is your friend, too! Check out our selection of audiobooks and pick something you can play repeatedly and soak up.


Thea said...

Sarah - thanks for a totally spot on posting! I also would like to recommend the Conni CDs and Die Reisemaus. Both are for slightly older children and include some songs which holds the attention of my kids a bit more. We play them all the time while driving, and then use them as a basis for conversation.

Sarah Mueller said...

Yes! Conni is excellent for everyday conversations. I like Reisemaus for their songs :)

Sarah M. said...

Hi Sarah,

I haven't listened to /read Bobo, but I agree that children's materials are excellent tools to help adult learners as well as to provide entertainment for the little ones.

Hearing/reading "simple" German materials introduces some of the idioms and "comfortable speech" that are more easily caught than taught...along with lots of vocabulary.