and welcome to… well… I don’t actually really know how to call it. It’s something really silly, but also really cool.
So… I was working on the article on relative pronouns that I wanted to post this week, when I suddenly ran into a problem.
I could tell you the problem now, but hey, see for yourself…
Now you’re like “Okay Emanuel… Case Fidget Spinner… we get it. You’re joking.”
And of course the video was a bit over the top.
But there is a true core to it. I really do hate case tables! They stand for everything that I DON’T like about language learning. And as stupid as this might sound to you, the thought of having one of them in one of my articles made me cringe and I decided I will try to do it differently.
Tables are no doubt the established way of displaying case forms. That’s what everyone does, and that’s how it’s always been.
But it’s not the only way.
If you think about it on an abstract level, case endings/forms are essentially just a bunch of data we need to display. And like with any data, there are various ways to do that. One of those ways is a table. Like a spreadsheet. They’re fine if the purpose is to store the information, so you can look it up. But from a visual standpoint, they’re pretty poor. I mean… in statistics we use all kind of visualizations (pie charts, graphs etc) just to NOT look at a table.
People always say that they’re learning the case tables. What that means is essentially, that they’re a visual image with ALL the details in it. But the tables are not a visual image. I mean, they are, but that’s NOT their nature.
So what I tried to do was to display the information about cases in a way that is based on visual principles rather than a grid of columns and rows.
And I’m pretty satisfied with the result, I have to say.
Here’s the chart for the definite articles:
(click on the image for full size jpg)
And here’s an overview how to read it:
- The three genders (in nominative) are spaced out, like the corners of a triangle
- the accusative form is almost identical so that’s right next to them, the only difference is for “der-den”
- the real changes are in Dative but there we only have two forms. Those are in the center with lines showing you to which article they belong
- Genitive is also in the center because we also have only two forms, it’s smaller, because it is less important
Your initial reaction might be a bit negative and you might be really confused. But as I said… there is no deeper reason to organize the information in a table and the main focus for me was the question:
is it easy to process on a visual level and maybe nice to look at?
And why? Because I think it’s easier to recall from memory than a table. If you look at both these pictures for 20 seconds, which one are you more likely to remember better, overall?
Sorry, for making this so small… I was in a hurry. But I hope you get my point. Both charts contain the same information, but they’re completely different on a visual level.
And no, I didn’t pick a particularly bad table. This one is from English Wikipedia, so it’s supposedly one of the “best”.
And the best thing is, that you can use the same template for lots of case-charts.
Here’s one for the indefinite articles (those don’t have a plural)
(click on the image for full size jpg)
And here’s one for er, sie, es (I actually forgot the plural, but technically, it’s just one extra ihnen for Dative )
(click on the image for full size jpg)
Again, if you’re used to looking at these tables, then part of you is probably rejecting my charts, but if you can let go of it, I think these charts are really helpful because you can easily remember them visually.
But of course I am not learning German :). So I’m REALLY curious what you think about them? I was really really excited when I got the idea for the layout, but maybe I’m completely off. So please, please let me know in the comments what you think. Do you like them? Do you think, you can recall them in your mind when you need a case form? And what’s your opinion about tables? Did you ever try to actually learn one?
Let me know all your questions and feedback in the comments.
Can’t wait to read it.
Now that I have my chart, I can get back to the article on relative pronouns, so that will be coming up soon :).
Have a great week und bis bald.
I find this “Fälle Widget Spinner” very interesting and I think it’s really helpful! Vielen Dank!
Freut mich, danke :)
I like the diagram… but I found this table helpful: https://postimg.cc/jnC15f1r (sorry – I can’t work out how to imbed it. Hope the link works!)
It notes the similarity in endings between the pronouns and articles, and incorporates adjectives. One less thing to learn!
Link works :). This one is actually one of the best I’ve seen so far. Maybe because it has some space between the entries and doesn’t overuse color. I like the idea of adding the adjective endings the way they did it. Thanks for sharing.
By the way, Der, Die, Das, Der is extremely easy to learn. You can learn it in five minutes. As you probably know, short term memory is five elements, so it is even easier than remember a phone number. And the image is clear, a man, a woman and a child.
The accusative is almost the same with a den instead of Der. And with that you have already half o the table!!
The table itself is not that hard to remember. What is hard is knowing how to use it. This is the hard part for someone coming from other language. Other languages have other rules.
When I started learning German what scared me was all the tables, because they looked as so much to learn. In practice tables are not a problem because they are very similar and repeat in terminations.
On the other hand, the prepositions ARE hard to learn from scratch. The system does not make sense at all.
Fully agree about the prepositions… it’s the same the other way around. I still have to look up which preposition goes with a verb at times in English and I think that’ll be a life long process.
I also agree about the tables being scary. It’s just that there are so many of them and they’re all roughly about the same thing.
I’m REALLY happy when I look at tables for adjective declension in German – happy that I don’t actually have to work with those.
As a person who alway mixes cases with persons i Carved the diagram to my brain :)
Special thanks to german learning community that i have been sponsored by, now i am able to use all these useful content :)
Funny video!! I love the diagrams. Very creative and helpful. Thank you!!
I just opened my mail and got this. Yeah I’m slow with the stuff that isn’t personal. You did a splendid job. It seems pretty intuitive when I look at it. Very creative.
Thanks a lot :)! And good on you for being so in charge of your own inbox. I wish I had more control over myself :)
My feedback is going to be brutally honest without considering your feelings as the creator:
From my perspective the table and your system is equally absent on visual images. Your system starts being a Mindmap without images. It does not help me in any way over the table system because it only has letters and letters means nothing or worse, they are negative in a sense that every European(or American) already has a pronunciation for latin letters on their languages for “der”, that works as a learning “vice” because they are not forced to learn the German way from the beginning, so they just don’t do and take as a default their native pronunciation.
In Spanish for example, “der” is pronounced with a pure E sound that does not change(all Spanish vocals are pure), a D way more soft than german(almost t for Spaniards), and a frontal R(IPA r).
In German it changes, the E sounds as an Spanish I, and the R sounds like a vocal, and spanish A(IPA a).
Have you heard the Michel Thomas method for learning languages? I t does not focus on the names of things, like genitive or participle, he makes you practice and practice and practice until it becomes second nature to you, just like a kid will do, but accelerated.
IMHO you should add images like you add to your articles, and make a mindmap. Then explain the mindmap. I know what you are thinking “What images? there are no images? There is no sense on this being this way(DER) or another DEN.
Well that is the key, you can create those images out of nothing, strong associations so it becomes easy for newcommers to memorize. They can’t do on their own because they do not understand German as a whole, they don’t even grasp yet what genitive or dative really is.
By the way, I learned the articles using the tables and anki and strong associations. It took me a while to understand that “DEN” is pronounced /DEIN/. And the contractions drove me cracy(for understanding ZUM, you need ZU+ DEM, so you need to understand this use of ZU among other couple million, the use of DEM, why we are using DEM…)
“My feedback is going to be brutally honest”… I appreciate it :). That’s how it should be. Usually, if I feel a bit triggered is because the feedback is correct.
(once someone said my articles were a bit verbose. I was pissed. Because they were :D)
Anyway, you’re right that it’s not REALLY an image in a sense of having real life scenes in there. Me personally, I am no fan of that. I always found it super distracting in textbooks when they had all these cartoons and photos on a page.
But that’s completely personal.
My goal for this diagram was not something that “explains” cases. I just wanted to create a visual look up that is easier to remember on a visual level than a table.
Since you mentioned Michelle Thomas… I do know him. The founder of Seedlang, a great new app for German, was heavily inspired by that and introduced it to me a while back.
I think, the method has some merit, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.
Have you tried Pimsleur?
I learned the articles from a song posted to YouTube by SmarterGerman. It worked really well for me!! Three years later, and I still sing it sometimes when I need to remember the less-common cases…
Yeah that looks pretty cool too. But I don’t have a lot of time for it right now. There are so many things in another language you have to have a feel for like the da compounds, the wo compounds, and then the nach compounds, and the list is big enough to sink the QEII. I mean after I learn the cases I still don’t know the gender of almost anything. So God…
I’ve seen that song as well, a while back. It wouldn’t work for me, since I am pretty visual, but fundamentally, it is the same idea as I had here…you take the “data” from the table and “display” it in a different format. Sonification, so to speak :). I actually wrote my masters thesis about that. Oh, those were the days (that sucked).
I like it! My notes usually end up looking a lot more organic than any of the usual charts, so I agree it looks better. What are the chances that most of our grammar tables are designed to suit the convenience of a typesetter rather than a learner? Schwer bewölkt.
Danke dir :)! Good to hear that an experienced German teacher approves it!
I much prefer your system. You’re right, when you look at it for 20 seconds, it is easier to recall than a confusing table. I dislike tables as well. The accusative makes sense and flows logically. The only thing that confuses me is the genitive, so for example, so does the tiny ‘des’ belong to the ‘dem’ which belongs to the big ‘der’ and ‘das’? To me, this visual reminds me of fireworks, exploding from the center, and then trickling off to fade away. I like it.
My only suggestion would be maybe make it in reverse, so the center is the 3 black main der, die, das words, then the accusative, then the dative flowing out. I wish I could attach a diagram of what I mean for you here, but I might just email you directly.
Or if you don’t want it in reverse, make the lines longer, further away from the other words so that they don’t cluster and it’s easier to see who belongs were.
All in all, it’s works way better visual as a memorization tool than a clunky table.
Du hast gut gemacht!
OK, Emanuel. Forget the spinner. We want German to be a world language, right? It’s never gonna happen with all the gender and case frills. Let’s go the route of English. We only have one way to say “big”. How many with all the endings do we have auf Deutsche? A zillion. what for?? Big is big….c’est tout! How many varieties of definite article do we REALLY need. English says exactly “One”. And it does fine. The is the. German had a spelling simplification – now it needs to go all the way. Uncomplicate it. Whatever it may lose in nuance can be handled – three hundred million chinese are studying English – so there is a way. I on’t need my knife, fork and spoon to be different genders!! (How crazy is that?) It doesn’t bring anything to the party. You are great, by the way. Love to laugh with you.
Oh well, es ist gut, wenn man Träume hat :D
Ich mag es!
Hey, great. I like it, let me know when the tattoo series is available ;)
Hahaha… will do. Will be a black out tattoo :D
Really nice, Emmanuel! I appreciate your existential struggle, and I think this may help me. If I cut it out and make it an actual spinner, then I can put the current case on top, and fall down to the needed pronoun, Eventually do that in my head…
You had an article some time ago in which you suggested that if in doubt, use “die” and we would be correct over half of the time. I’m thinking maybe I could sorta cheat like that for all the cases: just learn “die, der, den” and be mostly correct. On second thought, cheating isn’t German. Shame on me.
I am new to this group. Love the spin charts as I also hate the normal charts. It will take me a while to see if they help me. I’m slow. When I clicked they did enlarge and printed out to about 1/2 of an A4 page. Thank you, Emanual, for putting so much effort in to this! Deborah
Danke dir :)
Inspired by Emanuel’s insight that non-tabular representations are the way to go (ugg. I actually considered higher-dimensional rectangular tables at one point ), I played around with the articles and started telling myself stories about the different lands you can visit as you travel between the cases, or the words: https://goo.gl/sDBC3u
I still think Emanuel’s fidget spinner is better overall, but his main point is the real learning tool: play around and make up a graphical relationship that has some meaning to yourself.
Oh wow!! This looks great, what program did you use?
It took me a moment to understand the one with the train but once it clicked, I think this would actually work for me much better than a table. That’s because I am a visual learner and together with this real world analogy I can recall the map easily, I believe.
I think I’ll keep playing around myself. Especially for the adjective endings. There must be a way :)
I used Google Docs Presentation.
Thx lot for this table.. you have simplified it very effectively. Great job man…
I’m not sure I’d say there are only 2 dative forms.
More explanations for placements:
– dative is in the middle because (on a fidget spinner) it does not have motion.
– accusative is on the outside because it has the most motion
Oh wow, I didn’t think of that, but it makes a lot of sense. And you could think of it as the nominative throwing the Accusative to the Dative (which would kind of express the direct object – indirect object -constellation). Das ist super :)
I like where you’re going with these. Just change the color of accusative or dative. I’m red/green color blind and literally cannot see the difference in the diagram lol.
I was actually thinking about this but ideally, the drawing doesn’t have colors. I think I’ll modify it and make it a three step making off, so people know what is where. The colors do more harm than good, im my opinion.
Hot Goat Yoga!
-A great read and a good feed-
-The fitness best seller for those who can’t stay still
and of their words must sometimes eat their fill-
Ab heute in der Deutschen Fassung erhältlich !
Der so gennnannnnte
“Ziegen Oder Sterben!”
Klettern sie beide die Brücke zum Wellness und Wohnens hoch
und zu enger Zusammenarbeit zwischen Greis und Goaß.
Schmackhaft und EU geprüft als 100% bekömmlich
Zappelphilipp war wohl der berühmte Schaukler.
Beim Yogabaum auf m’ höhen Sockel
bist Du Eml.
auch ein versierter Gaukler?
Eine rechteckige Tafel wird zur runden
und noch einmal wurde das Rad
Das- der – die, sind aus Rand und Band
bis ich die alle umkreisend
rundum den Sonnenrad fand.
Alle Fälle sind anderswo
Gestaltet komplett anderes sowieso!
“Suppe, Brot und alle Bissen,
alles ist von Tafel herabgerissen!”
Etwas neues kann gar nicht schaden,
sonst wird’s schnell hier
Die Deutschen Sprachler tun’s gern
mit Lust/List und Übertreibung
die ständige Verballhornung
Die Doktors und Profis mit ihrer Besserwisserei
schaffen oft kaum mehr als fette Beute
für die Deutsche Druckerei .
Sechs und neunzig kam für mich der neue Test
-war durchgefallen beim Es-Zett!
Zum Schluß wünsche ich Dir ein dreifaches Horrido!!!
“A Best Case Ever” Senario!
Servus Kaiser –
an Dich Eml.
-jetzt Gruß ‘ I ‘
Es lebte hoch die k.u.k. Monarchie
(mit Slivowitz und Cevapcici!)
Prost und Mahlzeit – sind laut zu sprechen aus
beim beliebten Balkanschmaus!
VEB Abgaßßelemente Fabrik u. Sprach-Spinnerei – Rote Eros -ion
Mit Sondergenehmigung von Edwin Freyer – Verlag 7010 Leipzig
Using bing to search for google… EPIC! :))
Is that not how it’s done?!?!?