FSI German Headstart Course

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Express Download All German Courses (FAST)
Pages of Instruction
6 months+
Completion Time

What is German Headstart?

The Headstart language courses were originally created by the American Defense Language Institute and were designed to give US service personnel the basic language skills they needed for life abroad. The courses were intended to teach the vocabulary and expressions required for daily communication in the range of situations they were likely to meet in the countries where they were stationed.

The German version, first published in 1977, is one of the oldest. It consists of nine core modules, and each one deals with a different communicative situation that you are likely to encounter – for example, asking for directions or taking a taxi.

In general, the new language for each module is presented in the form of a dialog, after which you will find a range of drills and exercises that allow you to practice what you have learned. Each module has an accompanying audio recording so you can hear the sound of spoken German and work on your pronunciation.

The course also contains a guide to Germany, which, although now quite dated, provides an introduction to the country, explaining details about German life, culture and traditions.

Finally – and interestingly – there is an extra module designed specifically for female service personnel or dependents. This module, which has no accompanying audio, teaches the language required for taking laundry to the cleaner’s, going to a drugstore and visiting the hairdresser.

While this module would be out of place in a modern coursebook, it provides a fascinating insight into how attitudes have changed since the time when this course first appeared.

How can you use Germany Headstart?

Since these courses were designed to be useful for students studying alone, you can work through the materials more or less as you find them. All the instructions are contained on the audio recordings, so you can just start with Module 1 and go from there.

Headstart courses are supposed to be flexible, so feel free to adapt it to whichever style suits you best. It is recommended that you listen to the dialogs before reading the text, but beyond this, if you find that something works for you, then just keep doing it.

Most people who have never studied German before will be able to finish this course in around 40 hours, but this is simply a guideline. Your objective is to master the language in the course, so take your time and work at your own pace – you don’t earn extra points for finishing quickly.

Since this course was created for service personnel, you will find that much of the vocabulary is related to the military. However, don’t feel you need to memorize all of this if it isn’t relevant to you – instead, just focus on the language and expressions you think will be most useful, and don’t worry about the rest.

For more details about Headstart courses and how to use them, check out my detailed post here.

Taking it further

Of course, you can’t learn a language just from a book, however good it is. If you want to speak a language, you have to use it, so you should look for opportunities to take your German into the real world and try it out. Take every chance to practice with native speakers and make using German a part of your daily life. This way, you will soon see how much progress you have already made!