Learn German like a pro: 10 top tips
With approximately 220 million speakers worldwide, German is one of the most widely-spoken languages on the planet. Plus, it’s spoken in more places than you might think: not only is it the official language of Germany and Austria, but it is also one of the official languages of Switzerland, too. There are even numerous German speakers in destinations as far flung as Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay! It’s not surprising then that it’s a popular language choice for Brits who want to travel and do business all around Europe and the world.
But, it is a tricky language to learn, with a complicated case system full of gendered adjective endings and a vocabulary based on ever expanding compound nouns (the word for science is Naturwissenschaften, for example). Lucky for you, we’ve put together a list of our top ten language-learning tips.
Our top ten
1. Face your fears
The number one reason people are put off learning a new language is fear. We worry that people will laugh at us if we make a mistake, but the truth is that fear is all in our minds! Everybody makes mistakes when trying something new - in fact, making mistakes and learning from them is a vital part of the process. Don’t be afraid to practise speaking German out loud - even if you make a mistake, most native speakers will just be pleased you’re making the effort.
2. Practise every day
When it comes to learning a new language, practise really does make perfect. Set aside some time to practise your German every single day and soon enough it will start to come naturally. With portable technology like smartphones, not having the time is no longer an excuse. Apps like Babbel make it easy to learn on the go, so whether it’s during your morning commute, while you’re grabbing lunch, or if you find yourself with five minutes to spare between meetings, take advantage of the technology at your fingertips. Ideally you should aim to read a little, write a little, listen a little, and speak a little every day.
3. Switch your settings
On the subject of smartphones, you might not realise how easy it is to switch your language settings. Most people pick up their phones around 100 times a day, so you might well be pleasantly surprised at how many new words you learn just by changing your notifications to German. Pro tip: as well as your phone’s internal settings, why not see if you can set your social media, games and other apps to German language too?
4. Watch TV
You heard correctly. Many people think learning a language means spending hours poring over textbooks, but that’s far from the only way to improve your knowledge. You can make learning fun by incorporating it into things you enjoy, like watching TV or movies. You could add German subtitles to your favourite shows, or even better, watch German programmes or listen to a German radio station to help you master your pronunciation. If that’s not your thing, you could flick through a German newspaper or magazine. You could even try a novel, although you might want to start off with a children’s book or young adult fiction.
5. Try a language-learning podcast
Podcasts are another invaluable tool when it comes to learning how to speak German. There are many educational podcasts available dedicated to language learning, made by professional teachers and other experts, including the BBC. These allow you to listen to real German conversations but at a slower pace, allowing you to get to grips with the language. If you’re out and about and don’t want to practise your German out loud, putting on your headphones and listening to a podcast instead is the ideal alternative.
6. Use post-it notes
Never underestimate the power of the post-it note. Whenever you learn a new word in German, write it down on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you will see it regularly, like on your bedroom wall. These visual cues are very useful as they jog your memory every time you see them, helping you to better retain your new knowledge. If your whole house ends up a sea of yellow sticky paper, that’s even better - your brain will subconsciously take the information in, even if you don’t realise it at the time!
7. Join a language exchange
It’s well known that listening to and speaking regularly is the best way to improve your language skills. This can be tricky if you’re studying by yourself, but it’s far from impossible. These days, a German conversation partner is just a click away! Language exchange websites are places where you can find a native speaker to practise your language with, usually on the condition that you help them with their English, too. This quid-pro-quo style of learning is easy and fun, and you might even make a new friend out of it. Think of your German buddy as a pen pal, but instead of writing letters to each other, you can talk on Skype or chat over the phone instead.
8. Go to summer school
Many language schools offer short term, intensive courses, designed to take you from beginner to conversational speaker in as a little as a couple of weeks. This is often achieved through what is known “total immersion”, where English is verboten and you may only communicate in German. You can find classes like this in the UK, but if you can, attend a short course in a German-speaking country - with courses as short as two weeks, you can combine it with a holiday.
Learn German online with Babbel
Not everyone has the time to attend classes, but that doesn’t you can’t learn German - Babbel allows to you take language lessons at home, in your own time. Why Babbel? For one thing, your course will be customised just for you, based on your interests and native language. It’s been developed by language experts, using cognitive techniques that are proven to help you remember German words and phrases as you learn them. Using real-life conversations, Babbel also encourages you to start speaking from your very first lesson - the Babbel method is one of the fastest ways out there to get speaking another language with confidence.
Babbel is excellent value for money, too - you can enjoy a professional learning experience for less money per month than you’d spend on a latte with a flexible subscription of 1, 3, 6 or 12 months. The Babbel app is available for both Android and IOS, meaning you can learn on the move, and all of your lessons and learning progress are synced to the cloud, so you can pick up where you left off on any device.