8 tips that helped me learn German. Accelerate your learning and get from a basic A1 level to C1 with these helpful study tips.
Learn German as a Bilingual
I should start by saying that my mother tongue(s) are both Spanish and English. I was born in the US to Colombian parents. And as a first generation American, my parents made quite an effort for me to learn their native tongue. This included reading and writing, which I did not appreciate at the time, but came in handy when I later moved to Spain.
So growing up bilingual, I thought I would have it easy when learning another language. And it did help when learning (Brazilian) Portuguese, although I ended up with more of a Portuñol (a mix of Portuguese and Spanish), than anything else. But I was also young(er) and more motivated.
Several moves later and with Portuguese a faint memory, I was faced with a new relocation.
This new, beautiful city is Munich! So rich in history and traditions.
The language… German! Sorry, I really mean no offense, but neither is it easy on the ear nor does it roll easily off the tongue. At least for me.
Regardless, I thought I would pick it up soon enough, even though I didn’t need it for work.
Big mistake! German is a language that requires total immersion and a lot of practice.
When I was finally serious about learning German, here are the tips & tricks that helped me eventually get from A1 to C1.
8 Tips That Helped Me Learn German
Enroll in a class
Just sign up for a beginners class, which is usually called Deutsch A1.1. The Volkshochschule is a great option for learning German. It is inexpensive and many of the teachers are really helpful. You can also form study groups with fellow students. The group atmosphere can be motivating. Plus my competitive spirit works best in groups! I tried private lessons, but they did not help. I like the feeling of being back-in-school and getting input from classmates.
Learn the Grammar
Lazy Me! I decided I only needed to learn the essentials, such as ordering food, making an appointment and greeting my neighbors. Yes, that is all very important, but believe me when it comes to learning German… you need structure! Especially to get past the Basic Level. It is important to:
- Distinguish between the formal “Sie” and the informal “Du”. It is important to address most people formally, except close friends or children.
- Learn the “Nouns” together with their corresponding “Articles” – German Nouns have Genders.
- Learn the Plurals of each Noun.
- Learn where verbs are placed in a sentence.
- Match your Verbs with the right Preposition – this is also difficult in English and there is no “Rule of Thumb”… it just is.
Forget The Grammar
Yes, Yes! I know! I just said to learn the Grammar. But it’s important: Do not lose your nerve. Focus too much on German grammar and you might give up too early. Your goal is to be understood and to learn some culture through language and what better way to learn culture than by understanding the locals. You might even make a few friends along the way. So enjoy the learning process by not letting the “Rules & Exceptions” to ruin your progress!
Throw shyness and shame out the window here! Put those German words you’ve just learned out into the wind for all to hear. Use them! Who cares if they come out all goofy! Most of the time, the first time you say a phrase, it will come out wrong. But you will catch it, because you’ll just know and the second time, it will come out better.
Apart from your boring German language textbooks, there are many ways to start improving your reading comprehension. Magazines like Deutsche Perfekt have easy, medium and advanced articles with the latest news, and are structured for learning the language. Easy Readers are condensed versions of well known books in easy to learn German. They are labeled from A1 to B2, so you can read at your level. Children’s books are also very helpful.
They can all be found at your public library.
Listen To It
Get your ears used to the sound of German from the very beginning. Listen to the radio on your morning commute, even if all you understand is “Wetter”. There are podcasts called “News in Slow German”. Subscribe to them and listen to them more than once. You’ll start picking up words and then phrases. Watch cartoons on TV or your favorite series in German (like Friends). Watching with subtitles is really helpful.
Find a Tandem
A tandem partner is someone who wants to exchange a language with you. I exchange my native English with my neighbor. Over coffee and cake we practice German & English and we even have a few laughs. You have to find someone who is as serious about learning, so you can meet consistently. Otherwise, it won’t work.
It’s very important to have these apps on your phone for easy access:
- LEO Dictionary – translates any word in seconds
- Google Translator – translates chunks of text quickly. Accuracy has improved a lot in the last few years.
- Memrise – memory games to help you learn words and phrases.
Well I hope these tips help you learn German…
So you can go from feeling like this
to this… in no time
I am available if you have any questions. Tschüss!