There’s a company called Champs-Elysees, which makes four different audio magazines for language learners: Champs-Elysees, Puerta del Sol, Acquerello italiano, and Schau ins Land. Each issue of the audio magazines comes with a CD or cassette tape (around an hour long), along with a small magazine. In the magazine, there is a complete transcript of the audio on the left page, with vocabulary words in bold; on the right page are the vocabulary words and definitions. Throughout the text there are endnote numbers, which refer to the back of the magazine, where lots of cultural / news information is given in English.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? They are pretty nice, I’ll admit. I had a subscription to Schau ins Land at one point (which, at the time, amounted to 5 issues per year), and quite enjoyed them.
The problem, however, is the price. For 6 issues of Schau ins Land, you’ll be paying a hefty $129. If you want the study supplements for each issue, add on another $30. Assuming you don’t want the latter, you’re still paying $129 for 6 hours of audio, along with the transcripts, the select translations, and the cultural information in the back. Considering the aim of the magazines – to help learners improve their German – while the cultural stuff in the back can be interesting, it doesn’t really add much language learning value to the package. So, one could argue that, at least in regards to language learning, you’re paying $129 for 6 hours of audio, transcripts, and translations of the trickier words.
This may have been a decent deal years ago, but in my opinion, it’s rather steep now, considering how many free, high-quality resources are online. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’d argue that Deutsche Welle‘s offerings trump Schau ins Land, and Deutsche Welle is all free. They have four podcasts which all have studio-quality audio (they are, after all, made in a studio 😉 ), complete with transcripts and, in the case of one, vocabulary lists:
- Top Thema mit Vokabeln (main page; archive) – This is the one that has vocabulary lists for each article (as anyone could probably guess from the name of it 🙂 ). Note: the definitions are given in German.
- Sprachbar (main page; archive)
- Alltagsdeutsch (main page; archive)
- Stichwort (main page; archive)
The Top Thema mit Vokabeln podcasts usually come out a couple times a week; they’re 2-3 minutes long each, and the archive for them goes back to April 2004. With some very rough math – an average 2.5 minutes per episode, with episodes coming out twice a week – it comes out to about 21 hours of audio. I can’t give the rough amount of time that the others total up to, as the archive pages for them are done alphabetically instead of based on date. Sprachbar and Stichwort episodes all hover around 4 minutes each; Alltagsdeutsch comes in at around 15 minutes apiece. Suffice to say, add it all up, and there is a lot of material here.
It’s really hard for me to recommend Schau ins Land to anyone when such a comparison is done. To be fair, I do think that the translations in Schau ins Land are a little better than provided with Top Thema, because they’re in English, and generally speaking, Schau ins Land provides a higher number of word translations per paragraph of text. But, I’m no stranger to looking up words in a dictionary, just as anyone else who’s understanding of German is good enough to use Schau ins Land. So for me, I suppose it comes down to: is having the transcript in a pretty little magazine with copious endnotes in the back worth $129 per year for 6 episodes?
I’m afraid I’ll have to say Nein, danke to that.