Learn German quickly and effectively
So, you have decided to move to Germany. Perhaps it is for work or even a better quality of life. Maybe you have a German-speaking partner or perhaps you don’t know anyone in your inner circle who speaks German yet. There are so many different variables and situations each expat brings to the table when it comes to their German-learning adventures. No matter what your circumstances – if you are wanting to live in Germany for a long period of time (more than a few months), you will need to learn the language.
You don’t have to be fluent at first, but it really helps to know some German. Especially if you want to get a job in Germany or if you have to meet language requirements for your visa. Let’s be real here – learning German comes with its challenges. For some people, the process is easier than for others. If you are like me, and you find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed with the process – take a deep breath and read along. I have some great tips that will get you started in your journey to successfully mastering the German language.
1. Set achievable goals
This may seem like such a simple step, but it is a very important one. Otherwise, you will find yourself feeling like you are not making progress at all. Taking the time to set small obtainable goals will really help keep you on track, while also helping you see your progress to help keep you motivated. When setting goals it is important to set specific, achievable goals that can be broken down into smaller goals throughout the week.
You don’t want to just set a goal that states you will achieve level A1 in 4 weeks. Yes, it is a goal you can measure, but there are a lot of things you will need to master along the way in order to make progress.
Here’s an example of how you can break down your main goal into smaller, more attainable goals:
- I will build a vocabulary of 200 commonly used German words and phrases within the first week of learning. I will use flashcards for 20 minutes each morning and evening.
- I will master the basics of German grammar, including verb conjugation and sentence structure, within the first 2 weeks of learning. I will use grammar resources, such as textbooks or online grammar guides, and practice with exercises and quizzes. I will spend 20 minutes reading these resources each day, and apply what I have learned when I speak with my German language partner.
- I will participate in conversational German practice sessions for at least 15 minutes each day during the first 2 weeks, and 30 minutes each day for the final 2 weeks. I will find a language partner or group online or in person in order to engage in regular conversational practice which is essential for building my speaking and listening skills, and it will help solidify the language learned in the first few weeks.
2. Immerse yourself in the language
You have probably heard this a lot. Before I moved to Germany, I really thought from what I had heard from other people who traveled and lived in a new country where they had to learn the language, that I would quickly pick German up just by going around town and running my errands. Truthfully, this was so wrong. I did pick up a bit of German through this method, but definitely not enough.
Things really started to pick up for me when I started watching shows in German with English subtitles, reading short easy news articles on apps, and speaking as much of my broken German as I possibly could, and when I took a language course. This is something I really wish I had done before I arrived in Germany. There are some really awesome resources out there that I would recommend.
Here are my top 3 favorites (some of them a free and some you have to pay for):
- TODAI is a news app with short easy-to-read news articles. Reading these articles, and then talking about them can be very helpful.
- Slow German is a great podcast with short easy-to-follow episodes. Write down your thoughts in German about each episode you listen to, or talk with someone in German about your thoughts on the episode. Engage in questions to clarify things you are unsure of.
- Dark is a show on Netflix. The language is slow and easy to understand. It really helps to watch it in German with English subtitles and then go back and watch it in German with German subtitles. To make it more fun, talk about it in German with someone else who is watching the show – ideally, you should watch the show together.
3. Practice regularly
Consistency is so important. I know when I slacked off, I could quickly see a change. When you immerse yourself daily and speak German daily, you will begin to see signs that it is really starting to become a part of your daily life. You may even find yourself thinking or dreaming in German more frequently. There have been times when work or life became too complicated so I stopped practicing daily. I quickly noticed that I stopped thinking as much in German and my dreams were just in English.
Tips for incorporating language practice into daily routines:
- Find a time of the day when you dedicate yourself to speaking only German. Even if it is talking to yourself about how you are making breakfast or what you will do for the day.
- Narrate things you are doing. I know it sounds funny but it is easy to practice.
- Sing songs in German. Sometimes you can even find English songs that have been covered in German.
- Take a language-speaking course. These are wonderful for daily practice with other students and you have a teacher with you to help guide you to speak correctly. There are several online courses available where you can learn quickly or at your own pace. Zwei Kapital has amazing fast-paced courses with small classes and Lingoda has classes where you can learn at a slower pace.
4. Learn actively, not passively
Active learning and passive learning are two different approaches to learning a language like German. Both passive and active learning have their place in language learning. However, if you are looking to improve your language skills quickly and effectively, active learning is typically the more effective approach. So far, I have mentioned using a good mix of the two learning approaches. But what’s the difference?
Passive Learning: Passive learning involves learning German through methods that don’t require you to actively engage with the language. Examples of passive learning include watching German TV shows or movies, listening to German music, or reading German books or articles without actively engaging with the material.
While passive learning can be helpful for improving your listening and comprehension skills, it’s not as effective for building speaking and writing skills. Passive learning can also be less engaging since you’re not actively engaging with the material or receiving feedback on your progress. This is why I suggested adding to your passive learning practices by discussing things you read or watch in German with a speaking buddy.
Active Learning: Active learning involves actively engaging with the German language through speaking, writing, and practicing with others. Examples of active learning include participating in conversation practice sessions, writing German sentences or paragraphs, or practicing grammar exercises.
Active learning is more effective for building speaking and writing skills, and it allows for more feedback and engagement with the language. While it can be more challenging and require more effort, active learning is often more engaging and can lead to more progress in a shorter amount of time.
5. Get a language-learning buddy
This has to be the most beneficial way to learn, in my option, because you have so many more opportunities to engage in active learning. With a language buddy or group, you really get to dive into speaking and listing, you receive feedback and correction, it helps with staying motivated, and it holds you accountable.
As I already mentioned – language courses provide this opportunity, but there are other ways to find a person or group to practice with. Here are a few suggestions:
- Attend language exchange events: Many cities have language exchange events where language learners can meet and practice with each other.
- Ask friends or colleagues: You may have friends or colleagues who are also learning German and would be interested in practicing with you.
- Post on social media: Post on social media asking if anyone is interested in practicing German with you. There are a lot of groups that are dedicated solely to finding a language buddy.
- Join a German-speaking club or organization: Joining a German-speaking club or organization can provide opportunities to practice with native speakers and other learners.
Learning a new language can be challenging, but with dedication and perseverance, it is an achievable goal. As an expat in Germany, learning German will not only help you communicate with locals – it will enhance your overall experience of the culture and help you integrate smoothly as an expat.
Embrace the language learning process and stay motivated by finding a language learning partner or group, practicing regularly, setting achievable goals, and celebrating your progress. Remember, every small step counts, and with patience and commitment, you will see improvements in your language skills. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, embrace them as opportunities to learn and grow. Keep an open mind, stay positive, and enjoy the journey of learning a new language.