A new kind of case chart

Hello everyone,

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.

 

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Suvajit Basu Roy
Suvajit Basu Roy
3 years ago

Hi Emanuel,

I find this “Fälle Widget Spinner” very interesting and I think it’s really helpful! Vielen Dank!

thehorseys
thehorseys
3 years ago

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!

goldenunicorn
goldenunicorn
3 years ago

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.

Ekin
Ekin
3 years ago

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 :)

Martina
Martina
3 years ago

Funny video!! I love the diagrams. Very creative and helpful. Thank you!!

Charlie
Charlie
3 years ago

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.

goldenunicorn
goldenunicorn
3 years ago

Hello Emanuel

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…)

Kaspian
Kaspian
3 years ago

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…

https://youtu.be/ureYGtdHCfE?t=218

Charlie
Charlie
3 years ago
Reply to  Kaspian

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…

Kerstin Cable
3 years ago

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.

Sandra Alvarez
Sandra Alvarez
3 years ago

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!

Clark Eide
Clark Eide
3 years ago
Reply to  Sandra Alvarez

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.

Sondra J Zimmerman
Sondra J Zimmerman
3 years ago

Ich mag es!

parisbongi
parisbongi
3 years ago

Hey, great. I like it, let me know when the tattoo series is available ;)

shauser31416
shauser31416
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

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.

debegger
debegger
3 years ago

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

anerbenartzi
anerbenartzi
3 years ago

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.

anerbenartzi
anerbenartzi
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I used Google Docs Presentation.

Namithaganga
Namithaganga
3 years ago

Hi Emanuel,

Thx lot for this table.. you have simplified it very effectively. Great job man…

anerbenartzi
anerbenartzi
3 years ago

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

anerbenartzi
anerbenartzi
3 years ago

Brilliant.

adidell
adidell
3 years ago

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.

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3 years ago

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