I learnt English mostly by reading all sorts of books once I'd a very rudimentary grasp of the basics. This was not intentional, but reading a lot is what in retrospect was the most helpful for me to learn English. Now I would like to use a similar strategy for German, as I simply lack the time to take proper language courses.
This also fits in with my experience (I speak four foreign languages) of rule based language learning only being useful in the early stages . I feel after this one needs to switch to a more intuitive, pattern-based learning, more like developing a feel for the language. Reading is very useful also in uncovering beliefs and thought processes of the target language speakers, which are not so easily available otherwise.
So my question is: what kind of literature do you think is useful to build on a basic understanding of German (say up to the B1 or B2 level) in order to improve upon ones language skills? The answers could include discussion of more useful genres, authors or any tips that may be helpful in developing a reading strategy for adult learners who want to improve upon their intermediate proficiency in German.
Just to kick-start the discussion, some of my own observations:
- Translations are not so useful, as they do no give a good feel of the language, the thought patterns, narrative structures, etc might be different. For instance, Dostoyevsky translations are not a good place to learn English.
- Children's literature sounds like a good idea, but isn't. Apart from being potentially boring for adult learners, it has fantastic elements, and informal language which are not useful for picking up meanings from the context.
- It's ok if the reader lacks the entire vocabulary of a particular work. I think even with just 75% of the words understood the context can be intuited.
- Humour is not funny. As a foreign speaker one lacks both the advanced language skills, and thought structures necessary to find something funny, so humour I have usually found confusing. The Titanic covers are funny, but I seldom get the jokes inside.
- The most useful kind of reading I have discovered so far seem to be short stories, where the incomprehensible stuff doesn't build up enough to overwhelm the reader. It also gives a nice feel to have understood something in its entirety. Also some Krimis, and Bernhard Schlink, Walter Popp were especially readable.
- Another thing which surprised me a bit was how enjoyable some poems were, and one could instantly sense the mood: Goethe's Erlkönig being a superb example