It's so easy to learn a new language that it's become a modern craze. But what if you're not interested in the latest hip languages like French, Chinese, or Spanish? What if you already have your heart set on learning German? If this sounds like your situation and you're ready to learn German fast, then let me help. I'll give you some tips for how to make the most of your time and be able to speak with Germans in no time!
To start off, know that there are actually really no best practices for learning a language from scratch. You should focus solely on what interests you. If what interests you is understanding the language and how it works, then you should focus on learning about the culture, the grammar structures and their rules, and getting a handle on how to read and write. Two great resources for this are my German language learning tips page and my favorite German grammar book . But if what interests you most is speaking to people in German, then you need to focus your efforts on speaking practice. What should be coming out of your mouth is NOT tidbits about grammar or cultural tidbits. It's actual conversations with real Germans!
When it comes to actually learning useful phrases, textbooks can be useful but they don't do much without a personal tutor or native speaker partners. So if you're going to go down this route, then get out there and meet some real people. I recommend joining the local German student association at your college or university (if there is one) and/or signing up for a class where you interact with native speakers.
What do I mean by learning useful phrases?
I mean memorizing the type of things that come up in normal everyday conversations: Favorite colors, what you like to eat, how old you are, what kind of work you do... things like that. Memorize them in different ways so that when you go to say them aloud in your daily conversations, they'll roll off your tongue more easily. You could do this by writing them down on a flashcard, or you could record yourself saying them and then playing the recording back until you learn it.
The key is to learn two things:
how to form a question in German and how to form an answer in German. This is how both native speakers and non-native speakers communicate. Don't worry about what the person is saying until you can correctly form your own sentence structure. If you can't communicate first, then communication will never happen!
If you want a resource that has plenty of German conversation questions that are useful in conversation, then check out Teach Yourself German Conversation Questions . This book will show you the best ways to start a conversation with someone you don't know.
Or, if you'd prefer a video resource, then check out my Conversational German series.
But what about grammar? How do I learn that?
So you've successfully formed a conversation in German with a native speaker and now they want to know where you learned your German skills. You don't know how to respond because you didn't learn grammar... am I right? This is where many people make mistakes. They think that learning grammar is the main thing when in reality it's way down on the list of priorities for actually speaking the language.
The reason for this is simple: Anyone can learn any language's rules of grammar but not everyone can speak it well.
If you're going to learn grammar, then I suggest getting your own copy of the Grammar in Use series by Cambridge University Press. This series is perfect for both intermediate and advanced levels and has a growing list of grammar paradigms (essentially rules or structures). The listening and reading level is at an intermediate level but the conversations are based on everyday situations. If you're interested, get a copy of my favorite German grammar book .
The last thing you should be doing is memorizing vocabulary lists. This can be done through flashcards that help solidify your learning retention or through spaced repetition software such as Anki . I personally use Anki for everything: English, Spanish, German... everything.
I hope this helps you understand why learning grammar isn't a priority for learning German and why focusing on speaking practice is the way to go. It's also important to know that there really is no "best" way to learn a language so what I've described above will work just as well for you as it has worked for me; there is no "one" way to learn anything.
As a final note, the self-learning method I've described above will help you progress at your own pace and your own time. You don't have to feel rushed and you won't have to struggle through a language without even understanding how it works.
I wish you the best of luck on your journey!
See you at the next episode of Learn German Fast !