Why you probably shouldn’t buy Schau ins Land

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:

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.

13 thoughts on “Why you probably shouldn’t buy Schau ins Land”

  1. Josh, I don’t think that Deutschlandfunk/DeutschlandRadio has been recommended to you. DLF/DR has a very generous audio on demand service which makes available each day dozens and dozens of programs and keeps them on its servers for months.

    You can either use flash or html interfaces to access the DLF/DR archives.

    Of course the question remains whether Deutschlandfunk isn’t too challenging for your language skills for the time being but I’d wager that it’s worth trying because there are a lot of interesting series like “Wissenschaft im Brennpunkt” or “Buechermarkt”.

    I’m a big fan of DLF’s aod!

  2. FrF: Indeed, I’d never heard of the site; thanks for the link! I just did a preliminary poke-around, and there’s a lot of material there. I found a bunch of interviews complete with transcripts that I’m definitely going to check out more thoroughly.

    Welcome, by the way!

  3. For many years I have subscribed to Schau ins Land and was generally satisfied. The main problem for me was delivery, often never knowing when it would arrive. Even now, there’s no communication and I wonder if they are even in business since I cannot get them by phone. I have always thought their format was good and articles challenging and if one really concentrated on working through every thing presented, he could learn a great deal about all facets of speaking and understanding German, as well picking up a lot of culture. It is, as pointed out, expensive.
    I would like to learn about other good possibilities such as Deutsche Welle. What’s the best way to start? Vielen Dank ! Robley Bates

  4. Robley,

    Indeed, they went bankrupt and folded as a company. They didn’t send out emails to subscribers telling us this because they didn’t want to tell you that they were no longer going to fulfill our subscriptions, and they aren’t giving anyone their money back. Sad but true.

  5. I figured they had gone bankrupt. I’m sad about that because they put out a high quality product for many years. I started my subscription with them sbout 20 years ago on audio cassettes. Dropped the subscription for a few years, but missed it and then ordered it again with CD’s. The programs were fun and varied and the cultural notes, current news and politics were all excellent. It was an advanced level program — definitely challenging for intermediate speakers. It helped keep my German skills polished. Even my Swiss German native husband enjoyed listening to the programs on car rides. I wish all the folks who produced this quality program well in their future careers.

  6. How sad Schau ins Land has gone bankrupt. I always thought the price was steep, but the material was superb. I especially appreciated the news recorded in various dialects which tuned my ear to understanding them.

  7. Hi. It’s now 2015 and I found Schau ins Land available for $5.99 as an in-app purchase through “Plango!” which I found through the http://www.champs-elysees.com website (by clicking on Schau ins Land there, and then on “Where to buy”). I just downloaded and installed the free Plango! app and purchased one issue of Schau ins Land to see what it was like and it has the full text and high quality voice reading as the CD’s used to. Thought I’d mention it here for any loyal and forlorn Schau ins Land folks!

    1. Peggy,

      Thanks for the heads up! I took a look at it and it looks promising. $6 is a steal compared to what they were charging before. Hopefully they’ll add more issues as time goes on.

  8. Very late to the party on this thread, but just want to say thanks for the many useful links. Really like the Deutschlandradio link and the content there is enormous!

    I was a previous Schau ins Land customer. It was okay, but very pricey at the time. I was considering staring again and saw that their old delivery model is now defunct. I have about two years of tapes and booklets from them, all dating back circa 2000, so the content is very dated. But still useful. Was planning on ripping the cassettes to MP3, but probably won’t do that now that I found the above mentioned link.

    Appreciate all the feedback and hopefully the thanks will get back to the OP on this thread one day!

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