Top Tips To Make Learning The German Language Easier
Expats can certainly get by in everyday life without knowing much German. However, learning the language offers many advantages: if this sounds appealing, this guide offers some tips to make the learning process a little easier. As well as practical advice for language students, it also includes an introduction to the German language. If you are a new student of German, there are several tips and tricks to that will make your studies easier.
For Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s most celebrated poet, “all theory is grey while the golden tree of life is green ”. Or rather, after previously reading such a large amount of grammatical and syntactical information on German, a few down to earth tips on how to make learning the language easier would be very helpful!
Practice makes perfect
Continual practice is the basic rule when studying German or any other language. You need to practice all your language skills regularly or everything you have learned will soon be forgotten. Create some space in your daily routine for two key things: classes to expand your vocabulary and repeating and memorising the key points from your latest lesson. Passive knowledge or listening and reading are vital skills so both your language course and your private studies should include reading and listening practice as well the active skills of speaking and writing.
Grammar and Vocabulary
To help you remember new words, try learning vocabulary in context:
- Try to form sample sentences (e.g. Die Sonne scheint im Sommer oder Im Sommer scheint die Sonne. – The sun shines in summer).
- Look out for similarities with words in other languages you already understand (knie – genou – knee).
- Use reference cards for your repetition practice.
- Memorising example sentences (e.g., Das Mädchen sagte “Hallo!” – ‘The girl said, “Hello!”’) and tables (like this one for German verb tenses) are both important parts of learning the grammar of the language.
- To practice your writing skills effectively, find an e-mail pal who is a native German speaker, an advanced student or a teacher of the language. Write to them describing your day at work, school life, or your home, and ask them to correct the mistakes you make most frequently.
Listening and Reading
In general, the internet is a very useful tool for learning German. Many websites are written in German, so it should be easy to find a topic that interests you.
Choose a subject that excites you: it will help to keep you focused on an article or website. Whether it’s German pop music, economics, international politics or celebrity gossip, look for topics in German that interest you. This will help you to develop your vocabulary and improve your skills in reading.
To practice reading comprehension, adopting a different strategy when reading foreign languages is very helpful: it does not matter if you cannot understand every single word.
Skim read the article (in particular, check the author, the date of publication, the target audience and the meaning of the title).
To work out the meaning of a sentence, concentrate on important words: verbs, nouns, and little words such as ‘niemals’ or ‘nicht’ or (‘never’ or ’not’)
Use the context to try to guess words you do not know before using a dictionary to look them up.
Focus on understanding the overall meaning of the text, rather than the details. For example, we need to know that President Obama discussed foreign policy with Angela Merkel, but not necessarily what was served for lunch in Washington.
When you can summarize a German text in a just a few sentences of your own language, you are doing well!
To brush up on your listening skills, try German radio and TV programmes. Radio Deutsche Welle, the German broadcasting station, is an excellent place to start. One section of their website is particularly helpful to people studying the German language; bulletins of world news in German spoken slowly and clearly are provided as well as video clips of topical issues that include transcripts.
What category of language student are you?
The language exercises that are most effective for you depend on which learning type you identify as:
- Auditory (learning best by hearing)
- Kinesthetic (learning best through doing
- Visual (learning best by seeing)
Written information in the form of books and vocabulary lists is of the greatest benefit to visual learners. They often find that taking detailed notes and making charts and diagrams are very helpful. Pictorial dictionaries with diagrams and illustrations and diagrams also make learning easier for them, and watching video clips is another valuable tool.
Auditory learners, on the other hand, find that they absorb information more quickly when listening to the spoken language. Web radio stations are very appropriate, and auditory learners also enjoy watching easily understood German daytime TV as well as their favourite movies in German. Auditory learners will also find that comprehension, listening and speaking exercises for their smartphone or mp3 player are helpful.
The requirements of the kinesthetic learning type are rather different: this category of student “learns-by-doing”, using very specific situations.
Kinesthetic learning types find that interactive software where learning German is part of a detailed simulation is ideally suited for them. Choosing a language class where you can learn to converse via role play (“conducting a job interview”, “at the hospital” in German) is even more appropriate. A kinesthetic learner may well find that combining language studies with a favourite activity, e.g. learning a craft or skill, will be very effective.
Viel Spaß beim Erlernen der deutschen Sprache! – Enjoy learning to speak German!