Tips for learning German
Even if your study program is in English, it’s extremely valuable to learn German. You’ll find everything a lot of easier with some German—you will be able to join the conversations held in German, go to cinema every day of the week 🙂 (as I mentioned in my previous post, they use German dubbings for ALL the movies! Usually, the original versions with German subtitles are only screened once a week) or understand the announcements in German trains.
Learning German does not have to be difficult or take years. Even if you’re flying to Germany in a week, it’s never too late to start studying! Once you’ll be surrounded in German language, the learning will be easier and take place in the everyday life.
Here are a few tips that could help you!
- Getting started right away – don’t put it off. If you start learning in your home country, you’ll have an advantage when you come here. Even the basics will help—the grammar will prove useful in further studying, and the simple dialogues will help you to buy meat or set up a doctor’s appointment. Being able to communicate in German, even in the small matters, will boost your confidence and reduce your stress levels.
You could take classes in language schools in your country – Goethe Instituts are one of them. You could also sign up for an online language course. Myself, I am using www.deutsch-uni.com and it has proven useful both in the basic learning process (whole B1 level) and the specified examination practice (TestDaf preparation).
In Germany you’ll probably have an opportunity to take German classes in your university. It would also be beneficial to arrive 1-2 months before the start of the academic year and take summer classes in one of the German language schools in Germany. I took such classes (3-4 hours everyday) for two months and they helped me tremendously!
- Learning in Germany – try to speak German whenever you have a chance and don’t be shy! Ask for the directions in German, use it in the shops, engage your friends in German conversations… just immerse yourself in the language!
- Approach of the Germans – they are actually extremely helpful! They appreciate that you’re taking an effort to learn they language, so they will not interrupt you to point out that you said “den” instead of “dem” 🙂 In everyday conversations, they can be very good teachers! A common pattern that I observed here is that when a German person realizes that you speak/understand German (even a little!) they would abandon English and speak German to you. If you prefer to speak English yourself, or ask for a translation of what they said in English, it’s no problem. However, they will continue in German as long as you understand (or seem to understand 🙂 ). I find this approach really helpful and sympathetic. Thanks to it, I have an opportunity to practice the language in everyday situations.
- Learning on the way—finding the rhythm of your learning practice is very important. You should learn regularly, preferably every day. It’s hard to plan it in your schedule, but fortunately there are apps that could manage it for you. For example, https://www.duolingo.com is completely free and motivates you to make short, fun exercises every day. You can play it on the bus or during a short break in your everyday duties. I found it a little bit too simple for my level, but it will be perfect for the beginners!
- Watch movies in German! – it’s a great way to learn and relax! Go to cinema often—everything is dubbed in German and the setting will help you focus! If that overwhelms you, try watching the movies that you’ve already seen. Then you will be able to concentrate on the language instead of trying to follow the plot.
German television (ZDF) has the database of their programs accessible online. If you’re a movie-fan you could also buy a Netflix/Amazon Prime/MaxDome access. These streaming services offer movies and TV series that are both dubbed and subtitled in German. Netflix and MaxDome offer monthly 8-9euro subscription. As a student of a German university, you can get discounted Amazon Prime (Amazon Student) for 24 euro for a year.
What are your language-learning strategies? Anything that helps you stay motivated and immersed in German is great!