10 Effective Ways of Learning German
Learning German is a must when you live in Germany. Even if your study and work require you to use other languages, German is needed for everyday needs. Some of the daily challenges I faced when I moved to Germany were the inability to:
- Read official posts
- Read general house-related notifications.
- Communicate at shops
- Communicate with school teachers, etc
- Explain my problems to doctors
, and there were many more. Every day, it became increasingly obvious that German learning should be my priority if I wished to feel comfortable in this country. So, here are some of the steps that I took to improve my language skills.
Please note that I am not the best at the language, I still have a long way to go in perfecting it, and I still face some difficulties now and then. Still, I can confidently manage basic communication, read texts without extensive use of translation apps and follow at least 90% of what native Germans speak. This gives me comfort. So, if you are new in Germany, read these tips. These are based on my experience. I have benefitted from them, so I recommend them to my readers.
For learning any language, four areas of learning have to be covered. These are Reading, Writing, Hearing and Speaking. The tips that I have shared in this article cover all these areas.
So, let’s start:
- Join a German Integration Course:
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BAMF (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge), the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, offers a language and orientation course for foreigners. This program is called the Integrationskurs in German. Through this course, you can learn German from A1 to B1 Level. The best part about the course is that you get to learn from a native German speaker and the course is subsidised. I have written a detailed article about it including information about how to apply for it, how it works etc. You can check it out here.
- Read Children’s books:
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One of the ways to add everyday words to your vocabulary is by reading simple children’s books. The advantage of reading children’s books is that the language is simple, the topics are uncomplicated, and there is no ‘reading between the lines’. Typically, if you have completed B1 learning through a formal course, you could start with reading books meant for 8-10-year-olds. It will help you pick up many words you will need for your everyday conversations. As you become better, move on to books intended for older kids. You can also check my Books and Storyline Page, where I have reviewed some children’s books that I have read in German.
- Read the newspaper:
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Continuing with improving your language through reading, I highly recommend getting your hands on a local newspaper of your choice and reading it. If you can’t read daily, get the weekend edition of any German newspaper and take out about an hour to read a couple of passages of your choice. You can choose between Politics, Education, Reviews, Obituaries, advertisements etc. Each topic will introduce you to new words and enrich your vocabulary.
- Maintain a Vocabulary Notebook:
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I got this idea from my children’s school, where they encourage children to keep a Vokabelheft, which is a notebook in which children note down new words that they have learnt with their translations. Every time, while reading, when you find a new word, phrase, idiom etc., write it down in your notebook. Look back every now and then to revise those words. Because you learnt those words from context, there is a good chance that, after a few revisions, they will stay in your mind.
- Watch German Learning Videos:
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There are plenty of German Learning videos on the internet. Pick any that you like and spend 15-20 minutes a day to see those videos. These videos will not only help you learn new words, but they will also help you improve your pronunciation. I have greatly benefitted from Learn German with Anja and Easy German and would recommend them to my readers.
- Watch TV shows/News/Sports on local channels:
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Based on your area of interest, watch any show of your choice on any German Channel. I particularly like watching Tagesshau, which is a 15-20 minutes news show. You can watch sports and try and understand the German commentary that comes with it. You can watch shows on Netflix ( German shows with subtitles in a language of your choice or shows in other languages with German subtitles). You can even pick up cooking shows or TV Serials; the choices are many.
- Learn German through translations:
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I particularly like this method of learning. It often happens that when we speak to someone, the words just don’t come to our mind, even if we have learnt them. We can formulate our thoughts and think of what to say in our mother tongue, but not the foreign language we have just learnt. Translation helps a lot in overcoming this challenge. Take a simple text, say an A1-level text of about 10-15 lines daily, in any language you prefer, and try translating it to German. Then use tools like Google Translate or Deepl to check the results. This activity will improve your writing skills, grammar and vocabulary.
- Use free tools on the Internet:
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You can use free tools such DW Deutsch Lernen. I find Top Thema, Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten, das sagt man helpful in improving my vocabulary and pronunciation. DW posts content regularly, with practice sheets, exercises etc. These tools are free, and you must make the best use of them.
- Join Groups that practice speaking:
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There are plenty of forums on the internet where people get together and practice their speaking skills for a fixed time every week. If, after finishing your course, you haven’t had enough opportunities to speak and practice your speaking skills, these forums can be useful. If you find like-minded people in your German course, you can even form a small group with them and practice learning with them after the course is over.
- Take the initiative and talk:
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Use opportunities for small talk when you meet with people in lifts, interact with waiters in restaurants and cafes, helpers in shops etc. These small talks don’t require high language skills but go a long way in increasing your confidence. You will be amazed how drastically you can correct small grammar and pronunciation mistakes through these small conversations.
Before I finish my article, I have a few more words of advise for all new German learners.
- Don’t be afraid to try; no one is judging you.
Always remember that limited language skills do not indicate a lack of intelligence. So, be confident and speak what you can. A native German will, in all likelihood, understand what you want to convey even if you don’t use the absolutely correct word or perfect grammar. So, go ahead and speak. That’s the best way to practice what you have learnt.
- Don’t hesitate to talk to people.
Sometimes when locals observe that you are more confident and comfortable talking in a language (other than German), they may not initiate talking to you. It could be because they lack the language skills that you possess. But if you wish to learn German, you can initiate talking to them in German. If you do so, there is a high chance that you will get a warm response and great enthusiasm from the other end.
- Step out of your comfort zone.
It is easy to stay in our comfort zone by interacting with people in a language of our choice/ quickly google translating documents so that we can be done with reading them quickly/ OR, for that matter, limit ourselves to a circle of friends that speaks our language. If you try a bit to come out of your comfort zone, you will open many more opportunities than you could have imagined.
So, these were my tips for effective German Learning. If you have benefitted from any other methods, please feel free to add them in the comments.
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