German seems so complicated! Grammar, articles, pronunciation… And yet, you decide to do it and start learning it. Today, we’ll tell you where to start learning German and give you some helpful tips for a quick and effective start.
First of all, make sure you know what you want to learn German for. Want to add a line to your CV and impress an employer?
Are you intending to go on holiday to Germany and are keen to build up a minimal vocabulary sufficient for shopping in shopping centres, ordering dinner in a restaurant, etc.? In that case, a basic level of knowledge will be sufficient to learn German quickly and it is not your primary goal to try to master all the details of grammar and pronunciation.
If you need German for business reasons, such as communicating with customers or business partners in Germany, it’s another matter. Here you need a solid knowledge of the German language with emphasis on business vocabulary, letter-writing skills, and negotiation skills in German. Do you want to pursue higher education in Germany? Advanced level is a must: you will need to listen to and understand lectures in German, do presentations and write research papers and communicate with fellow students and professors.
Depending on your personal goals, you will set a course plan.
Next to your goal is your motivation.
Interest is the engine of progress. It does not matter what your interest in German is based on, be it economic (new job) or purely personal (cute German neighbour). Perhaps you’ve always wanted to read Goethe and Schiller in the original. Do you want to understand what the cute German boy in the new music video sings about in that song? Chat? Go to live in Germany? The main thing is your interest and desire! You must have a desire to learn the language, a desire to learn new things, a desire to reach new levels and a desire to go further. The third prerequisite is regularity.
Allocate at least 1 hour every day for language learning.
The new words that we memorise first go into our working memory and add to our vocabulary. If you have read/heard a new word but your memory does not make a strong connection with the context or emotions, very soon the word will be regarded as redundant or unnecessary information and will move to the “storage shelves”. Already after two weeks without use, the word goes from the active vocabulary to the passive vocabulary. You must therefore practice the language regularly and constantly, that’s the only way to learn German quickly.
People and books and pictures
The next rule is to practice a little every day. Don’t immediately try to memorize the “1000 most common words” or learn all the tenses and case forms. A more effective technique is to try to learn new material gradually, but – as mentioned above – regularly. Make yourself a simple rule: learn 10 new words a day. In a month you’ll know 300 words, in a year 3600 and in three years you’ll have a vocabulary of about 11000 words, which is close to a native speaker’s vocabulary enough to get along in everyday life.
Try to speak and write as much as possible!
Active speaking promotes effective language learning. It is no coincidence that the most effective method in the world today is the communication method. Communication is what teachers and methodologists believe should be at the heart of any foreign language lesson. Think about the question: do you speak German? (English?). We ask if a person speaks the language, not if they can translate or read at the same time.
Learn by yourself or with a teacher.
There are many cases where individuals have studied a foreign language on their own, from textbooks or self-study books and have had some success with it. But do not underestimate the role of the teacher – it is your perfect companion in a foreign language lesson, a partner for composing dialogues and a person who will help correct mistakes and answer questions. What is better – to study individually with a tutor or take a course? Everyone should answer this question for himself, because some are more inclined to work in a group, others, on the contrary, feel less confident in the group and will be embarrassed about their mistakes. For some, an additional motivation in learning a language can be the opportunity to chat with group mates, discuss the news, exchange opinions, etc. It is worth paying attention to the size of the group – the ideal group size is considered to be 8-10 people, maximum 12, otherwise the class will be ineffective.
Furthermore, the answer to this question will also depend on everyone’s financial possibilities – individual tuition to a tutor might be more expensive than a group class. Studying at a prestigious language centre is also unlikely to be cheaper than taking a language course at a university for students. Luckily, these days there are many online resources providing access to language courses and study programmes, online dictionaries and language tandem sites where you can register and share your knowledge. A huge number of youtube videos and podcasts give you the opportunity not only to train your listening comprehension, but also to get to know the nuances of pronunciation, to expand your cultural background and to learn a lot about the other country whose language you are learning.
Many people who want to learn a language go to university to learn a language, but this is not the best option if you want to learn to speak the language. Another thing is a language course in the target language country: here you can immerse yourself in the language environment, real communication situations and you can “play” and apply in practice all the things you learned at school before – here you have “eating” and “meeting”, “railway station”, “bank”, “shopping”, “travel”, and so on. It is best to do such a course when you have already reached a certain level of knowledge and already want to move to a new, qualitatively different level.
Don’t know where to start learning German?
Check out my “All-in-One” pack. Everything you need to start learning German: from grammar to slang. The pack also features two video courses – learn German while watching. Check it out for yourself – click here!
Start small and try to surround yourself with German in your everyday life.
Listen to the radio and music in German, try to get to grips with the interface of your contact or Facebook in another language, watch German soap operas or anime with subtitles in a language you know, where understanding of the language is not required. Chat with someone in a chat room, ask friends who speak German what a word means or how to say a phrase.
Start small and work out why you want to learn the language, what your goal is and how long you want to reach it, think about the means and possibilities and take the first step.
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