DANDELIN – German for Children – A New Language App for Learning German

You are a parent of a 7-year-old child who studies German at school. Your child is not very much interested in the language and finds the German textbook boring. Or, even worse, you find yourself in a German speaking country, eager to start a new life, and your 5-year-old child has to attend a kindergarten where all the children speak German. And the last scenario, but not the least important, you are a German teacher, trying to make your primary school lessons more attractive for your students who find the German language quite challenging.

One of the first thing to do under the circumstances described above would be a simple Google search to find out if there are any language applications which can be helpful with making the German language more attractive and easier to learn for the very young learners. Unfortunately, even though there are plenty of video, audio and written materials online which can be very important tools for parents, teachers or even children who try to learn by themselves, there is still scarcity of applications designed for such young learners.

So, Dandelin – German for Children was created starting from the idea that an app like this is practically a necessity. The App was developed during an ERASMUS+ project from 2018 to 2021 coordinated by Österreich Institut in Vienna and is currently being further developed by the same team coordinated by Studio Gaus Institut in Berlin in another Erasmus+ project that will end in 2025. Among the partners working at the further development of the App are a school and a kindergarten from Maribor, Slovenia, a kindergarten from Graz, Austria and a school from Bucharest, Romania, which is the school where I teach, of course.

The general objective of this project is to increase German language skills of 5 to 9-year-old children who either study German as a foreign language in a non-German speaking country or study German as a secondary language in a German speaking country. Whether we like it or not an increasing number of children are using technology from an early age. Smart phones and tablets are already attractive for children and many of them are allowed to use mainly mobile devices at home at a very early age. Watching YouTube videos is by far the most popular activity, but sometimes parents also download educational applications, where children can learn numbers or solve different types of tasks.

So, why not learning German, too? However, creating an app for learning German implies plenty of responsibilities. First, the quality of the application has to be very high, as any CALL (computer assisted language learning) application should be. Then, by using the app, German language teachers not only have a real opportunity to develop their CALL competences but they also have the chance to increase their young students’ motivation for learning German. So, basically, what can the Dandelin App do? The application is structured into different vocabulary topics such as “At Home”, “At School”, “In the Park” and “In Town”, the latter being currently in development. Therefore, there are videos, songs and online exercises containing grammar structures and vocabulary that are suitable for kindergarten and primary school children. The application can be used by smaller children accompanied by a parent, by third and fourth graders all by themselves as they need to know the timetables if they want to go further in the app and, of course, by German language teachers who can use any elements of the app in their lessons. Moreover, if the app cannot be used in class as it generally implies the use of a mobile phone or a tablet, there is always the site deutsch.info/dandelin that can easily be accessed with a mouse click.

On the site, there are specific materials for parents which include mostly CLIL activities that can be performed at home, as well as materials for teachers that can be used offline in lessons that use specific elements of the app such as some illustrations, a video or a song. There are also lesson plans which can be a very important tool for teachers who want to devise fun and interesting lessons based on this app. The lesson plans are thus designed that the first activities in a lesson can take place both in kindergarten and in primary school and the last ones only in primary school. Some worksheets have also been created in order to facilitate a better understanding of the vocabulary and the grammar structures used in the application. In addition, the app can also be used with secondary school children, especially fifth graders that study German as a second foreign language. After all they also start learning German with the basics.

To conclude, I would start by saying that working on an educational app is quite challenging. There are so many variables and constraints such as technical issues when it comes to programming, or cost issues when it comes to illustrations, not to mention the challenges of writing, transcribing and recording the songs. Last, but not least, the teaching methods and techniques used in the offline materials have to be state-of-the-art in order to bring a plus in the academic endeavour of the teachers using them. So, given the present context when face-to-face educational processes are not always the norm, and some of the teaching and learning can also take place online, using a language app or a site dedicated to studying a foreign language can certainly become a plus. As a teacher with a 30 – year experience, I am very aware of the parents’ concern that their children might be spending too much time online already. But, apparently, the generations to come will inherently use more and more online tools, as technology will continue to evolve and progress. Learning and mastering a foreign language is definitely not an easy task. Especially learning German. But if this is done in a fun and playful way, then everyone (i.e. children, parents, teachers) has something to gain.


prof. Doina Cucu

Școala Gimnazială Pia Bratianu (Bucureşti) , România
Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/doina.cucu

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