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UD German Professor Publishes Fairy Tale Reader for Beginning Learners
Eidt’s book retells the fairy tales plainly but authentically, bringing students into “the ongoing great conversation” of German as soon as possible.

IRVING, Texas (March 21, 2023) — UD modern languages professor Laura Eidt, Ph.D., describes her teaching style simply: “We’re not doing German for tourism.”

Although Eidt means that she guides her students toward literacy as well as fluency, her statement also feels a bit like a warning. Her latest publication, a book for beginning learners, doesn’t walk readers through a trip to the grocery store. “Märchen und Legenden” retells fairy tales in their original form — Cinderella’s stepsisters get their eyes pecked out by birds, for example — with authentic but simple speech meant to help students acquire the language naturally.

Eidt said she saw a need for materials that can ease students into grammar without compromising culture.

“There really isn’t anything out there. A lot of the easy reader books are really just silly. They are about people’s everyday lives, and not really very significant topics,” Eidt said. “So introducing students to those aspects of German culture is a great way to bring in high culture even in the early levels of language classes.”

Folklore readers may already have English versions with all the old dismemberment, witchcraft and other unsettling elements that couldn’t get a PG rating. However, Eidt said even uncensored versions often ignore subtle but crucial elements of the original German stories.

“What’s great about fairy tales is that there’s so much repetition in there. Rewritten American versions tend to leave out all of these repetitions, but they’re really good for language learning,” Eidt said, adding that repetition is important to the structure of the story as well.

“Events in the stories happen three or seven times, which is a deeply religious and significant element. There’s, of course, the Trinity, the reflection of the Trinity, and then also the seven vices and virtues. I’ve tried to retain those elements, and I’ve simplified the language but not the structure of the fairy tale.”

The published book evolved from Eidt’s class lesson plan, a meticulously developed collection of text and grammar aimed at training students to read German literature.

Eidt doesn’t just pore over Goethe with upperclassmen. In addition to her scholarly writing, Eidt has invested time and research into finding the best teaching methods for language learners of all ages. Alongside her work with undergraduates, Eidt has mentored at a bilingual school in Dallas and serves as a director of the K-5 “Latin Through Stories” curriculum of the St. Ambrose Center for Catholic Liberal Education and Culture.

For Eidt, stories are the heart of language pedagogy.

“The classical reason for learning a language is to be able to participate in the ongoing great conversation in that language,” Eidt said.

“My advanced language students participate in that great conversation by reading Faust and having Socratic seminars about Kafka. At the beginning language level, that looks a little bit different, but that is still part of the goal: that they become initiated into elements of German culture that they can interact with at their level. And first you need a good basis, a good grounding, and reading gives you a lot of that.”

About the University of Dallas

The University of Dallas is the premier Catholic liberal arts university in the country, nationally known for its undergraduate Core Curriculum. With campuses in Texas and Italy, UD is committed to the pursuit of wisdom, truth and virtue as the proper ends of education. For more information, visit udallas.edu.

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