You’ve probably been told that while learning a new language can be challenging, it’s also a rewarding endeavor. You get to explore another culture, make new friends, and boost your career opportunities. But if you’re reading this article, you’re not learning just any language.
German may not have the alluring melody of languages like French and Italian, but what it lacks in romantic appeal, it makes up for through its ability to come up with endless words. While it has a reputation for being a difficult language to master, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can learn German quickly!
Even native speakers say “Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache,” which means “German language, difficult language.” Non-native speakers often sense a note of Schadenfreude when Germans talk about how difficult their language is.
But don’t get discouraged.
You don’t have to drop everything and move to a German-speaking country to learn German quickly and easily. It’s actually not as difficult as you’ve been told. Here are our tips on how to go from disheartened beginner to fluent and confident.
Why Do You Want to Learn German?
Before you get started, you need to take a step back and think about why you want to learn German in the first place. There will be times when you struggle with some grammar or simply get bored. Write down your reasons so you can read them when you start to lose your motivation.
Maybe you’re learning German because you want to work in a German-speaking country. German is an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. All of these countries offer excellent career prospects and quality of life.
Or perhaps you married a native German speaker, and you want to learn the language so you can talk to members of their family who don’t speak English. Maybe you have a passion for foreign languages or German culture.
Whatever your reasons, they will keep you going when the initial enthusiasm fades, your schedule gets hectic, and it becomes harder to make time to learn German.
1. Start With the Basics
As with any language, you’ll want to start with the most basic phrases. Things like “Hello” and “How are you?”
Although you won’t be able to talk about complex topics using these phrases, starting here will teach you pronunciation and give you an idea of basic grammar. This foundation will make it easier to grasp more advanced aspects of the language later on.
Speaking of grammar, you’ll hear a lot of people say that German is complicated because there are 16 ways to say “the.” This may be true, but some simple rules will help you figure out whether a noun is masculine, feminine, or neutral. You just have to look at the ending.
The gender of the noun determines how the article “the” changes according to the case. To get a better handle on cases, you only have to learn a few prepositions that only work for some cases. This means that if you hear that preposition, you already know what case follows, so you know what version of “the” you’re supposed to use.
For example, “mit” which means “with” is always used with the dative case, and “gegen” which means “against” is always used in the accusative.
When it comes to vocabulary, it will seem overwhelming first. However, you only need to know 1,000 words to understand 80% of everyday conversations. So just look for the most common 1,000 words. If you learn only ten words per day, you’ll be able to start having conversations after three months.
2. Make It Fun
Thanks to the internet, you have a ton of resources you can use to make learning a foreign language easier and more enjoyable. You don’t have to slog through grammar books vocabulary flashcards.
Instead, you can use apps like Duolingo and Babbel that help you stay motivated by making a game out of learning. You’ll be drawn into the process by unlocking levels and earning rewards. After only a few weeks, you’ll learn a few hundred words without realizing it. And since the lessons are bite-sized, you’ll be able to fit them in even on the busiest days.
Programs like Rosetta Stone are total pros at helping you do this!
Another thing you can do is watch German content. There are a lot of German or German dubbed movies and TV shows on Netflix. You could, for example, rewatch a favorite show with a German voice-over. You can also use a VPN to unlock additional content from German television broadcasters like ZDF and ARD that have a vast media library online.
Let’s say you like cooking. You could try watching a few German shows about cooking. Since you’re already interested in cooking, it will be easier for you to stay focused, and you’ll expand your vocabulary on a subject you enjoy talking about.
You can also use YouTube to listen to German music with English subtitles. Since songs are catchy and repetitive, you’ll memorize words without even trying.
3. Practice Consistently
It’s better to set a goal to study German for half an hour every day instead of doing one session of three and a half hours every week.
On some days you’ll be well-rested and in a good mood. On those days, you can learn a bit of grammar or use a language exchange app to talk to someone in German.
Other days, it will be hard to muster enough motivation. You can listen to German music or a podcast in your car and then watch a German TV show while having dinner or relaxing before bed.
4. Use Rosetta Stone
You’ve likely heard of Rosetta Stone, but what you may not know is that it’s lauded as the gold standard for language learning software. If any program will help you learn German quickly and easily, it’s Rosetta Stone.
Another great thing about Rosetta Stone is that they have several different learning package options for different price points. If you think you can power through German in three months, you can go with their cheapest option of only $11.99 per month.
However, if you think you’ll need more time (hint: you will) and you may want to dabble with other languages down the road, you should purchase their Lifetime Unlimited Languages package. It is a one-time-only payment of $199 and you can access the program for the rest of your life!
While it is intimidating to learn German quickly, if you stick to your why and use a great program like Rosetta Stone, you’ll be conversing in no time!