Auf Deutsch: Communicating in German Across Cultures

University of Pennsylvania

By the end of this course you will have developed a spoken and written profile in German that reflects your backgrounds, customs and the cities you live in. Through the medium of a foreign language, we will learn about each other and exchange our reactions to contemporary German life and lifestyles.

In this experimental language course we will use the German language to learn about each other and develop an understanding of different cultural values in both modern Germany and around the world. In the process of acquiring basic language skills in German, you will be using them to construct personal or virtual profiles within the context of your own culture and society. At the same time, you will compare your cultural attitudes and Weltanschauung with those represented through the lives of contemporary German personalities, actors, artists and politicians.

Designed for a multicultural and multilingual audience, this course takes a ground zero approach to your knowledge of German language, culture and society. However, this course will also offer opportunities for advanced students and native speakers to interact with each other and with course participants on topics related to e.g. hobbies, nutrition, professions and vacation. We will also be polling your attitudes towards issues in Germany related to the family, the environment and immigration.

Expressing ourselves in German within the context of our cultural differences is an important focus of this course. To accomplish, this we will provide you with numerous models of spoken and written language usage accompanied by exercises that will prepare you for creating your own personal texts. Throughout the course, you will receive both automated feedback during the online exercises and comments from the teaching team on the most frequent and reoccurring errors found in your essays and VoiceThreads. Moreover, we will give you links to online resources for extra grammar explanations and for practicing German pronunciation.

We hope this course will pique your interest in German language and culture and that you will continue to learn and use the language as a means to communicate with each other worldwide after the course ends.


The weekly schedule for this six week course comprises daily assignments that guide you towards an understanding of German language and culture and to expressing yourself within the context of topics such as:

  • Familien und Beziehungen (Families and Relationships)
  • Hobbys und Interessen (Hobbies and Interests)
  • Ernährung und Wellness (Nutrition and Wellness)
  • Reisen und Urlaub (Travel and Vacation)

Recommended Background

You do not need to know German to join the course. This course is designed in mind for the student without any previous knowledge of German.  All you need is desire to learn or to improve your German language skills. 

Suggested Readings

There are no required outside readings for this course.  All readings will be part of original activities within the course site.  

Course Format

The weekly schedule of assignments comprises:
Syllabus with Assignments


  • Weekly Video Topic with Exercises
  • Biographies on the Topic
  • Celebrities: Who is talked about


  • Cultural Information


  • City Guide

Fridays to Sundays

  • My written and spoken contribution on the topic
  • Survey

Please note that although we strongly recommend that these daily activities be completed on the days they are assigned, students make work through the assignments at their own speed throughout the week.


Do I need a knowledge of German to join the course?

No.  You do not need to know German to join the course. This course is designed in mind for the student without any previous knowledge of German.

Can I participate in the course if I already know German?

Yes.  And we encourage both advanced speakers and native speakers to join the course and to share with participants from around the world their cultural backgrounds and experiences. Ultimately, our goal is to create a learning community in which beginners learn from advanced speakers and all of us gain through the medium of German a better understanding of the differences and similarities in our societies and cultures.

Do I need to purchase any textbooks for the course?

No.  All content needed to complete the course will be provided and has been designed specifically for this MOOC.

How will the learning of grammar and vocabulary take place?

You will learn grammar and vocabulary through numerous samples of language usage in thematic contexts. With these samples you will be able to model your own written and spoken samples.  Several online readings about German celebrities, cities and contemporary social issues will also accompany each unit with comprehension checks and automatic feedback. 

I see that the weekly schedule includes daily assignments. Will I be able to work at my own pace if I am unable to complete the assignment on the assigned day?

Yes.  Although we recommend that the daily assignments be completed on the days they are scheduled, students may work through the assignments at their own speed throughout the week.

How do the videos fit into the course?

Each video consists of segments that introduce the topics, vocabulary and grammar structures you will need to develop a social profile that describes e.g. who you are, where you come from and what you do.  Each video segment is followed by an embedded online comprehension check and corresponds to a downloadable worksheet with vocabulary and model answers to questions posed in the video.

What about discussion forums? How do they fit in the course?

The discussion forums are where you will have the opportunity to synthesize and use what you learned from the videos, online exercises and readings to communicate and describe yourself and create your social profile.

If I feel uncomfortable about describing my actual self, may I develop an avatar personality or fictional character?

Absolutely, creativity within the bounds of good taste is encouraged and appreciated. I will be doing the same.

What is uniquely different about this language course?

Unlike a traditional classroom, where people interact with people from across the room, you will be interacting with and learning from and about people from across the globe.

What do I expect to have learned by the end of the course?

By the end of the course you will have developed a social profile in German that describes who you are, your likes and dislikes, the cities you live in, your professions and some daily routines. You will also gain insights into the ways Germans live in society and in the ways people worldwide live in their respective societies. 

Will a Statement of Accomplishment be awarded at the end of Auf Deutsch?

Yes -- But please note that taking the Statement of Accomplishment is not a requirement for attending the course. Our goal is to create a learning experience with your participation.  That being said, receiving a Statement of Accomplishment will depend upon your completion of course requirements including all unit exercises and contributions to the online forums. Auf Deutsch is a non-credit course 


For more information about Penn’s Online Learning Initiative, please go to:

  • 31 December 2018, 6 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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