Learn Germany Quickly

Learn German Quickly

Learning a second (or third) language is a fantastic idea no matter what age. There are numerous benefits beyond the simple enjoyment of being able to converse with people from different countries and cultures. Of course if you happen to be living in Germany, then learning German (and helping your children to do so) can really help you get the best out of living here.

There is strong evidence that being fluent in a second language can improve your ability to make good decisions, to problem solve and to think laterally. In addition, speaking many languages can actually make your brain healthier and people who are bilingual tend to be less likely to suffer degenerative disorders like dementia.

So now that I’ve convinced you to do it, how is the best way? Well, there are a few things you can do to speed up your learning. Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to become fluent within less than 6 months. The Single Biggest Key Is Motivation!

Words – You Need Words

This is pretty obvious, but unfortunately the vast majority of language courses and teachers neglect to focus on what is easily the most important aspect of a language. So from now on, your focus must be on learning as many words as possible as quickly as possible. 

1000, 2000, 3000 Words

In your native tongue you probably know between 50,000 to 100,000 words. But in reality 99% of what you say and what you hear is made up of only 3,000 or so words. In fact, depending on the language, 1,000 words are sufficient to understand around 90% of spoken conversations.

For practical fluency, 2000 – 3000 words is a good target, so start by creating a list of the words you want to learn. If you have been studying the language for a while, you may be surprised by how many you already know. You need to focus on the most used words of course. A simple Google search will normally give you the most frequently used words in most languages, or alternatively you can build it yourself (takes longer, but worth the effort). 

Use Spaced Repetition to Remember

Spaced repetition is a simple and incredibly effective concept. Basically, the first time you see new information your brain will forget it very easily. This is because your brain is constantly processing information and without the ability to discard unnecessary information you would go insane! If you see and use a piece of information and then repeat it, soon after your brain will hold onto it a little longer. This is how it goes:

  • With spaced repetition you see a word
  • Then you try to remember it
  • A minute later you test yourself
  • If you forget the word, you try again a minute later
  • If you remember the word, you test yourself again 10 minutes later
  • With each successful test you make the interval larger.

If you do this with several cards at once, you can remember several things very efficiently and before long you will know the answers without seeing each card for a month or more.

There is a free program called Anki which does all of the calculations for you. All you need to do is install it and upload your list of your 3,000 words and work through them. If you learn 35 new cards each day (easily doable), you will have learned 3,000 words in less than 3 months.

How to Handle Conjugation

Conjugation of verbs simply means changing how you say it depending on the person carrying out the verb or when they are doing it. For instance, let’s conjugate the verbs (irregular) “to be” and (regular) “to have” in German:

Sein (to be)

Ich bin             I am

Du bist             you are

Er/sie/es ist     he/she/it is

Wir sind           we are

Ihr sied             they are

sie/Sie sind      you are

 

Haben (to have)

Ich habe          I have

Du hast            you have

Er/sie/es hat   he/she/it has

Wir haben       we have

Ihr habt           they have

Sie/sie             you have

German does not have simple conjugation structure. Rather than trying to memorize all of the rules and all of the exceptions (irregular verbs), it is better to just learn the most useful forms. So when you create your word list, you should create several cards for each verb so as to practice each conjugation for that verb. For instance, you will have separate cards for “ich bin”, “bist du”, “ich war” etc…

Because you will be using spaced repetition, learning all of these will be relatively straightforward, and as you learn them you will get an intuitive feel for the “rules” without realizing that you have learned them. Eventually you will be able to guess the correct conjugation for new verbs as you need them. But because you will be guessing based on what sounds right, the words will come much more fluidly.

Practice Using Your Words – A Lot

You’ll notice I haven’t even mentioned grammar yet. Well that’s because learning grammar is boring and the reality is this:

  • If you know 1000 words and zero grammar, you can probably get by
  • If you know 100% of grammar and zero words, you can’t get by

Once you know a few words, you can practice speaking. There are a few ways to do this. Getting a language tutor is a good idea because they will be able to gauge your ability and help you to practice the bits that you most need.

Other than that, having a language exchange partner is a good idea. You can find one on sites like Conversion Exchange. The idea is simple, you find a native speaker of your target language who wants to learn your native language and you talk with them. You might agree to talk for an hour a day – 30 mins in your language and 30 in theirs. This is free and it’s win-win.

At first your grammar will be bad and you will have to talk slowly and make lots of mistakes. What you will then find is that as you use those words that you have memorized your grammar and fluidity will improve rapidly. When you first start, you will be amazed by how things fall into place. You will struggle at times of course, but the more you speak the better you will get. Ideally you should aim to speak to your language tutor only using your target language, but occasionally falling back to English (or your native tongue) is ok. 

And Just Be Patient

If you practice for an hour or two every day, then going from nothing to fluent in 6 months or less is possible (I know, I have done it). You will struggle at first and there will be occasions when you feel frustrated. But if you follow all of the steps above and put in the time, you can achieve what most people fail to do over several years of study. Good luck! 

Author profile:
James Radcliff works for a website called UK Tutors. Amongst other things, he is a tutor and an education writer. He loves writing about education as well as he loves learning. He hopes that his education will never end.

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