Introduction to Translation (GERM 402)

Required Reading:

You will develop the skills you need to read and accurately translate German texts to English. Using relevant scholarly texts and excerpts from modern literature, you learn the fundamentals of the German language and German-to-English translation. Start with the basics and work your way through progressively more challenging grammatical concepts that appear in the scholarly texts you translate. Along the way, you learn key grammar structures and reading strategies and build your vocabulary. Textbook included.

This course is open to all. You do not have to be a UW–Madison student to register. The graduate student fee is applicable to graduate students from any institution.


The course builds on a fully online free open education resource (OER) textbook and includes instructor notes, interactive games and comprehension checks that get you working with the concepts straight away. Top it off with instructor-graded translation assignments so you know exactly what you need to do to improve. While no prior knowledge of German is required, basic to high-intermediate German-speakers can use the course to review essential grammar, build vocabulary and increase accuracy in translation.

Course components

This course uses a free open online textbook and builds on that material through more examples and explanations, as well as a variety of activities and assessments that you access via the Canvas course site:

  • Comprehension Checks (quick, non-graded self-checks).
  • 8 Module quizzes (in-depth, graded practice that can be repeated).
  • 12 Self-practice activities (short texts that you translate and compare to sample translations).
  • 6 Written assignments (assignments that increase in complexity and are corrected by the instructor with personal feedback).
  • 1 Final project (you choose 1 of 3 scholarly texts to translate and turn in to the instructor for comments).

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Read and understand, with the help of a dictionary, scholarly texts pertinent to their field of research.
  • Identify fundamental German grammatical structures and syntax.
  • Recognize essential German vocabulary words.
  • Have increased confidence in translation abilities.

Required Materials

Is this course right for you?

If the following statements accurately describe you, you are a good candidate for our online course:

  • I am a skilled reader who is at ease with written instructions and lessons.
  • I am a self-directed learner, with the initiative to visit a course site regularly.
  • I am comfortable participating in a course in writing.
  • I can continue learning independently while waiting for feedback on assignments.
  • I am organized and able to meet deadlines.
  • I enjoy working on a computer.
  • I have 5 to 8 hours weekly that I can devote to this online course.

If these statements do not accurately describe you, please consider taking a face-to-face class.

Two Things You Will Need to Succeed

  1. You are assumed to have no previous German experience, but thorough competence in English grammar and syntax. If you need help with English grammar while working through this textbook, we recommend, for example, English Grammar for Students of German, by Cecile Zorach, Charlotte Melin, and Adam Oberlin, Olivia and Hill Press (any edition).
  2. You will also need access to a comprehensive, full-sized German-English dictionary to succeed with this material. Students in University of Wisconsin German 391 typically need a dictionary equivalent to the Oxford-Duden German Dictionary, which weighs in at over 5 pounds with over 1,700 full-size pages.

This open textbook was launched publicly on 22 October 2014 and is revised continually. You are permitted to adapt this work, titled A Foundation Course in Reading German, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This original work should be attributed to “Howard Martin, revised by Alan Ng.”