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GERMAN LANGUAGE

Six ways to fall in love with learning German again

It's easy to get stuck in a rut while learning a new language - but honing your German skills isn't all about textbooks and vocabulary apps. Here are six ideas to help you get back into the German-learning habit.

A bartender serves drinks to two customers
A bartender serves drinks to two customers in Bayreuth, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Anyone who’s ever tried to learn a new skill will know how it goes: you start off full of enthusiasm and make some great progress, but then at some point, the excitement fades and all those Teach Yourself books start to gather dust on your shelves.

Learning a language can be just the same, especially if you don’t switch things up occasionally. 

With a language as tricky and grammar-heavy as German, it’s a great idea to find some quirky ways to introduce a bit of fun into your learning once in a while.

So if you’re bored of doing the same old things, here are six ideas to get you back on track. 

1. Integrate it into your hobbies

Traditional language courses can be a great way to learn, but learning in a classroom setting can also feel dry and theoretical.

In reality, languages are meant to be used in real-life, everyday settings – from debating politics with friends to ordering brunch at the weekend. 

That’s why it can be a great idea to find a practical way to apply your German skills by doing something you already love to do. If you’re a passionate chef, why not cook a new dish in German from start to finish? You can start by finding German-language recipes online, write your shopping list in German, and follow the instructions in German at every step. 

A home cook pours pasta into a pan.

A home cook pours pasta into a pan. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Deutscher Verband Flüssiggas e.V. | Steven Lüdtke

For DIY enthusiasts, learning the names of different tools and materials, as well as any useful verbs related to home improvements, could be a great place to start. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you could try out some of your new vocab at the hardware store – or delve into some YouTube videos in German before embarking on your next project. 

Football fans could watch the next tournament with German commentary to brush up on some words, while budding athletes could join a local sports club where they can put their knowledge into practice and get used to discussing their hobby in a foreign language. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to free language lessons in Germany?

2. Browse your favourite websites in German

Are you the sort of person who opens a tab for five minutes only to accidentally spend an hour scrolling? Then checking out German-language versions of your favourite websites may be your best bet.

This tends to work especially well on websites where the community generates the content. Think Twitter, Reddit and Quora. That’s because you get to see German being used by everyday people in a conversational tone, and you also have the chance to practice your writing skills and get involved.

The other upshot of checking out German-speaking communities on social websites is that you’re bound to learn way more about Germany and the people in it. You’ll hear anecdotes, jokes and commentary on current affairs and be part of the conversations going on in German-speaking countries.

German-language Reddit can be found here, learn how to change your language settings on Twitter here (and be sure to follow German speakers!), and add new languages to your Quora profile on the homepage by clicking on the little globe icon. On other websites, simply switch your default language to German or tell the website not to translate German in the future. 

3. Get your gaming hat on 

Playing games is a hugely fun and interactive way to learn a language – and the best thing is, there are ways to do it at almost all levels of German. 

From simple mobile games to first-person shooters, you can find pretty much any game to suit your tastes. And if you do, you’re far more likely to keep coming back and playing more. That said, if your German comprehension is fairly good, a narrative-driven computer game can be the perfect way to expose yourself to more of the language in an interactive setting. 

Games play the boardgame Powerline

Games play the boardgame Powerline. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roland Weihrauch

Incidentally, there are few up and coming German games studios who do just that, including Hamburg-based Daedalic Entertainment, who specialise in RPGs and point-and-click adventures such as the hilarious Deponia series. 

If sitting at a computer or console isn’t your thing, you could always get friends round for a German boardgame like Kingdom Builder or the ridiculously named trivia game Klugscheißer (smartass), which is similar to the English-language Smart Ass game. 

READ ALSO: The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

4. Explore your neighbourhood – or a new city 

Want to get out in the fresh air but also improve your German skills at the same time? Then why not join a free German-language walking tour or download a walking tour app on your phone?

With advances in GPS, mobile apps that guide you around a city and offer you new insights into the neighbourhood are all the rage right now, and many of them are available foreign languages. One popular option is GPS My City, which offers tours of the major German cities, but there are endless options out there for would-be explorers. 

5. Make it social 

As counterintuitive as it sounds, studying a language can get lonely sometimes. If that’s one of the reasons you’re falling out of love with learning German, then it’s a good idea to add a bit of social time into the mix. 

That could be as simple as finding a tandem partner who you can meet up with or talk to online. The idea with tandem partners is that you help them learn one of the languages you speak in exchange for them helping you learn German. There are plenty of ways to find a tandem partner these days, including the Tandem Language Exchange app or the online portal Tandem Partners

Tandem bicycle

Tandem partners… on a tandem bicycle. Photo: picture alliance / Lino Mirgeler/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

Another option is to join a language learning group in your local area, or even set one up. Unlike a formal language course, these usually just involve a group of German language learners getting together in a pub or cafe to practice their language skills together. Websites like Meetup can help you track these down, and can also be a good place to find teachers offering less conventional courses, like learning German through theatre games or music.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pick the right German language school for you

6. Get to know the best (and worst) of German culture 

Your German friends can help with this one: if you want to get motivated about learning a language, a great way is through the culture.

This may sound tricky if you’re still a beginner, but nobody says you have to start by reading Goethe’s Faust. In fact, the culture in question could be a silly pop song that you print out the lyrics to and sing along to, or it could be children’s storybook that you listen to on repeat.

For many people, film and TV is a nice way to integrate language-learning into their downtime. There are plenty of well-renowned German films out there, from Goodbye Lenin to Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run). And there are also plenty of TV shows for all tastes, from political satire like the Heute Show (Today Show) to silly reality TV like Bauer Sucht Frau (Farmer Seeks Wife).

German with English subtitles is the best way to improve your listening and help you subconsciously connect the words with their meanings. Or be brave and turn the subtitles off entirely. You may be surprised at how much you understand! 

And don’t forget to check out The Local Germany’s language section and our regular news articles that come with a vocabulary section. 

READ ALSO: Seven must-read German books written by women

Member comments

  1. I find an author I like; for example Agatha Christie. Then, I get her books written in German. I already know the story so understanding it in German is easier. Sometimes the translations are a bit different; things are done differently in Germany. So I get a bit of cultural information too.

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

German is a notoriously difficult language to learn and the path to fluency is marked by milestones that every budding German speaker will recognise.

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

Stage 1: Terror

You’ve just set foot on German soil and are ready to begin your new life in the Bundesrepublik. While you may have left home feeling excited and full of enthusiasm for learning the German language, you now find yourself in a world of alarmingly long and confusing words containing strange symbols which are impossible to pronounce.

You’re confronted with long words like Ausländerbehörde, Aufenthaltsbescheinigung, and Wohnungsanmeldung and the prospect of having to get to grips with a language whose average word contains 14 letters slowly dawns on you. It’s terrifying.

Tip: Don’t panic. At first, learning German can seem like a daunting prospect, but as you start to take your first baby steps into the language, you’ll soon realise it’s not as bad as you think. And those long words are just lots of smaller words squashed together.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that strike fear into the hearts of language learners

Stage 2: Determination

You’ve got over the initial shock of realising the true scale of the linguistic mountain you’ll have to climb to learn German – and you resolve to conquer it.

You enrol in a language course and arm yourself with grammar books and language learning apps, and you start making progress very quickly. You realise that a lot of German words have the same roots as their English cousins and that words and phrases are sticking in your head more quickly than you expected. The flames of optimism begin to grow.

A couple practices the German language. Photo: Annika Gordon/Unsplash

Tip: Keep up that spirit and persist with the grammar books and vocab learning, ideally on a daily basis and start speaking the language as much as you can – even if it’s just reading aloud to yourself. 

Stage 3: Obsession

Spurred on by your new ability to introduce yourself, talk about the weather and tell people about your pets, you launch an all-out assault on the German language.

READ ALSO: How to remember the gender of German words

You’ve got post-it notes filled with vocab stuck all over your flat, you’ve got three tandem partners and Tagesschau is blasting 24/7 from your Laptop.

You are now officially obsessed with the German language.

Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself once this phase of unbridled enthusiasm burns out. Though it’s great to have a period of immersion in the long-run, regular learning – even for shorter periods – is the key to progress.

Stage 4: Experimentation

You’ve now got a solid base of internal vocab and you’ve got to grips with the most important grammar rules. You can use the dative and genitive cases with increasing ease and you’re using modal verbs on a regular basis. 

You now feel ready to road-test your new language skills in the big wide world. You don’t ask Sprechen Sie englisch? (do you speak English?) any more and instead try to communicate only in German. 

Tip: Bolster this experimentation phase by consuming more German media. Listen to German podcasts, check out German TV shows and try to read the news in German. 

READ ALSO: Tatort to Temptation Island: What do Germans like to watch on TV?

Stage 5: Frustration

Just as you were starting to gain confidence in the language, you hit a brick wall. You spent an evening in the company of German speakers, or you attended a meeting at work where you found yourself fumbling for vocabulary and stumbling over grammar.

You can’t, for the life of you, remember whether it’s der, die or das Licht even though you’ve looked it up at least a hundred times. 

A German dictionary. Photo: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

What’s the point, you ask yourself. You want to give up and just switch to speaking English permanently, as everyone you meet seems to speak perfect English anyway.

Tip: Everyone feels like this at some point when learning a new language and it’s likely to happen more than once on your language-learning journey. Keep going and don’t compare your German language skills with the English skills of German natives. Remember that most Germans have grown up listening to songs and watching films in English, so it will take you a bit longer to get to grips with German in the same way. 

Stage 6: Breakthrough

You’re not quite sure what’s happened, but something seems to have clicked. You’re suddenly using the right past participles 90 percent of the time and you’re using reflexive verbs with ease. People are rarely switching to English when speaking to you and you’re understanding almost everything you see and hear.

READ ALSO: Six ways to fall in love with learning German again

Tip: Remember this feeling when you are revisited by frustration in the future. 

Stage 7: Acceptance

You still make mistakes, you don’t know all of the words in the German dictionary, and you still mix up der, die and das – but it’s ok. You’ve come a long way and you accept that your German will probably never be perfect and that the learning process will be a lifelong pursuit. 

Tip: The more you use the language, the more you’ll improve. Keep reading, speaking and listening and, one day, it won’t even feel like an effort anymore. 

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