Project manager of HED journal
Mari El Republic, Йошкар-Ола
Publication is placed in the group «Teaching and learning foreign languages: problems, solutions, strategies»
Starting out learning German can seem frightening at first. Words can fill the entire length of a piece of paper, and pronouncing letters you’ve never even heard of can feel like an impossible task.
Can anybody say words like freundschaftsbeweis or lebensabschnittsgefährte?
And why would you want to?
Grasping new concepts like word genders, learning new word order, and the invasion of inflected speech can leave you questioning your desire to learn to speak German.
In this article, I’m going to tell you why German is a language that opens up a world of possibilities.
You’ll learn how this Indo-European language is going to make a difference in your life and why it’s actually not as hard to learn as you might think.
I’m going to reveal everything I’ve discovered about how to learn German as a beginner, so you can benefit from my experience and start your journey to speak German off on the right path.
German was my 8th foreign language, so I think you’ll see I’ve learned a few things along the way about what it takes to learn a new language successfully.
This article will give you all the information you need to know about this rich and beautiful language as well as how to start learning it.
Here’s what we’ll cover. If you’ve ever asked yourself any of the following questions, then this article is what you’re looking for. If you want to skip ahead, just click the section that interests you.
Why Should I Learn German?
There are lots of different reasons you might be motivated to learn German.
- You live in Germany or hope to move there
- You have family or friends who speak German
- You’re planning to visit Germany or another German-speaking country
- Your significant other is a German-speaker
- You’re intrigued by German Culture or History
Whatever your reason, you should be excited!
German is a fascinating and rewarding language to learn. By learning
even basic German, you’ll open a world of opportunities for yourself.
Perhaps you’re already motivated to learn German, but here are a few more reasons learning this beautiful language could be a life changing experience for you:1. German Is A Popular Language
When you think of learning German, you might think you’re learning a language only 81 million people speak in some small country in Europe.
Well, you’d be wrong, because it’s spoken all over the world, often in the most unusual places.
Including foreign speakers, German has up to 220 million speakers worldwide. Opening up your networking possibilities to such a large group of people can mean new opportunities for jobs, travel, friends, personal growth, love, and much more.
Aside from Germany, German is also the main language in:
- South Tyrol
- Parts of Belgium
And it’s also recognised as a minority language in:
- Czech Republic
- And many others countries …
This means it’s a great language to learn because you’ll find opportunities to use it all over the world!
2. Learning German Can Change Your Life In Many Ways
- If you love to travel, German will help you get by all across the globe. The ability to speak German while travelling opens up new experiences in all of the countries highlighted on the map above. In German-speaking countries, natives can often steer you towards insider tips and top suggestions for things to do that wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t speak the language.
- Learning German can do wonders for your career. With one of the strongest economies in the world, Germans are all about efficiency, working hard, and saving money. They love to plan and organise their lives to be comfortable, sustainable, and cost-effective. Their workplace is similarly structured, with health insurance, pension plans, and long paid vacation periods being standard. Countries like Germany and Switzerland have some of the highest standards of living in the world, which makes German speaking countries attractive places to live. If you’re a professional working in an on-demand field, some German language skills might just open up new career opportunities for you.
- Learning German makes it much easier to learn additional languages. Having a knowledge of one foreign language makes it much easier to grasp the concepts of others. Once you start learning about new grammatical structures, their differences, and similarities, you will have an easier time adapting and applying your learning methods to other languages. Even if you don’t continue to learn other languages after German, you’ll find that German still helps you understand some basic vocabulary in a lot of other foreign languages. Many Indo-European languages have words that are spelt similarly, or share the same roots so you’ll be able to decode simple words in related languages like Dutch or Danish.
- Enjoy Authentic German Culture. Germany has a rich cultural history, and learning the language will allow you to appreciate some of its finest masterpieces in their original state. Some of the greatest philosophical and literary works in the world were written in German and some of the most famous classical music composers come from Germany. German culture has had a tremendous impact on the rest of the world.
What Is German Culture?
When you think of German culture, what comes to mind?
Octoberfest? Beer? Currywurst and other meats? Giant pretzels? Punctuality and organisation? Like any country, Germany has a lot of stereotypes.
However, Germany has a rich culture that has touched many of our lives at some point. German philosophers, writers, musicians, inventors, media, and society have all been inspiring the world for centuries.
The Land of Poets and Thinkers
Germany has a literary background that goes all the way back to the middle ages.
If you’re interested in literature you may be familiar with Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Böll, and Herta Müller; all Germans who have won Nobel prizes for their work.
I’m sure most people have heard of the Brothers Grimm, who wrote many Folklore masterpieces, such as “Rapunzel”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, “Hanzel and Gretel”, “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and “Snow White”, just to name a few.
Schiller, Goethe, and Lessing are some of the other most famous German authors and influential thinkers of the modern era.
Those who understand German can also read the original works of some of the world’s most brilliant philosophers. Germans philosophers have been shaping the way we perceive life for centuries:
- Leibniz was one of the three advocates of rationalism
- Kant brought us his Critique of Pure Reason in the 18th century, which influenced German idealism in the 19th century
- Schopenhauer built on Kant’s work and introduced us to philosophical pessimism
- Nietzsche provided us with many important ideas including the radical critique of truth in favour of perspectivism
Of course, you can read translated versions, but having a knowledge of the German language and culture will allow you to have an even deeper understanding of the material.
Philosophy might not really be your cup of tea, but if that’s the case there are still lots of other fascinating elements of German culture to explore.Germany’s Great Composers
The Neue Deutsche Welle in the 1970s brought us a new form of German rock music. This underground movement was a mix of punk and new wave music, which introduced us to artists like Nena and Falco.
Germans were also very influential in the development of electronic music. The band Kraftwerk, for example, was one of the first bands to play only on electronic instruments. Today, Germany continues to have one of the largest electronic music scenes in the world.
Many of our Christmas songs also come from German. “Silent Night” (Stille Nacht) and “O Christmas Tree” (O Tannenbaum) are well known in their English translations.
These are just a few examples of the many ways in which Germans have had an impact on the world of music. Germany is also well known for its Schlager and folk music, synthpop, punk, heavy metal, and even hip hop.
Is German Hard to Learn?
But in fact, once you overcome the unfamiliarity, you’ll find that German isn’t as hard as you might think.
German Isn’t As Hard As You Might Think
English is a Germanic language, and both English and German come from the Indo-European language family.
This means our languages aren’t actually as different as they seem.
- Old English had a grammar very similar to German
- Our alphabets are almost the same, with a few small differences
- We share many of the same words (e.g. ‘House’/’Haus‘)
At first glance, German might seem like an intimidating language. But once you break it down into its components, you realise it’s actually very logical.
German has adopted a lot of words from the English language, making a lot of vocabulary self-explanatory for English speakers.
English is believed to have the largest vocabulary of all languages, with over one million words in the dictionary, and counting. German has at least 140 thousand words, but not nearly as many as English, making it much easier to learn.
Even though there are lots of very long words in German, these are always just a combination of shorter, simpler ones, which makes them easy to learn. Not to mention all the words German and English share in common.
Misconceptions About German
Some people might see long German words full of consonants and feel too frightened to even attempt pronouncing them.
However, most German words aren’t that long. The most common words are pretty short, and even the long words that look confusing can be broken down into short easy words.
Long words in German are mostly compound words created by combining two or more shorter words together. This is something we have in English as well, just not to the same extent as German.
English words like ‘swimsuit’ (swim suit) and ‘bedroom’ (bed room) are examples of a similar phenomenon.
As you’ll soon see, long words in German are nothing to be overly worried about!
2. It’s A Harsh Sounding Language
Another misconception is that German is a harsh language.
Many people have the impression that German is a rough language, spoken from the throat, but it isn’t actually like that.
The sounds don’t all come from the throat, rather from certain lip and tongue movements.
Once you start to practice speaking German, you’ll realise that it’s actually quite simple to pronounce.
3. The Grammar Is Difficult
German grammar actually has a lot more in common with English than some other languages.
The cases may seem confusing at first, but there are only 4 of them. In comparison, Finnish has 26!
German also shares an alphabet with English, unlike Greek, Russian, Chinese and many other languages.
Since German and English both come from the same language family, the similarities are greater than the differences.
What Do German and English Have In Common?
Many of the most common words in English are of Germanic descent.
I have and ich habe, for example, are very similar, which makes these types of word combinations easy to remember.
There are hundreds of words that are spelt the same and have the same meaning in both German and English. Here are some great examples of words shared by both languages:
You can instantly grow your German vocabulary, just by making or finding a list of all the common words.
There are also “false friends”, or words that are spelt similarly but have different meanings.
Take ‘fabric’ and ‘fabrik‘, for example.
Both words sound the same but have different meanings. Fabrik in German means factory, whereas the word for ‘fabric’ is actually stoff.
That said, a few simple memory tricks can make these correlations fun and easy to learn. Create an image in your mind of a fabric factory, for example. That way, whenever you see the word ‘Fabrik’, you’ll also think of a factory.
There are also similarities in German and English grammar.
4 Pitfalls To Watch Out For as a Beginner Learning German.
Learning your first foreign language is always the hardest. It’s hard to know where to start or which approaches really work.
What prevents people from learning a language is normally not the difficulty of the language itself. It’s the fact that they don’t know how to learn a language.
Through trial and error when learning German, you’ll learn what works and, importantly, what doesn’t work.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the common mistakes many new language learners make:
1. Don’t Skip the Alphabet
Learning the alphabet and pronunciation of individual letters is often overlooked by new learners because it seems boring and too simple.
Although it’s great to dive right in by learning key phrases at the beginning, don’t forget to learn the pronunciation of the alphabet.
The German alphabet is similar to the English alphabet, which at first glance, might seem like there’s nothing new to learn.
However, German pronunciation is slightly different and takes practice to get used to. English speakers often have trouble losing their accent because they didn’t take the time to learn the basics.
2. Don’t Get Worked Up About Pronunciation
After you’ve learned the basics of pronunciation, don’t dwell too much on sounds that give you difficulty in the beginning.
Practice is key to improving fluency, so find a way to improvise a rolled ‘r’, and at some point, it will come naturally.
Focus more on the sounds you are able to get right and use this as encouragement to continue learning. In the beginning, it’s about familiarising yourself with the language, not perfect pronunciation.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Start Speaking German
Many people are hesitant to start speaking a foreign language in the beginning.
If you are unsure how to pronounce certain words, which grammar to use, or confused about an adjective ending, you might feel like you’re not ready to start speaking German yet.
However, it’s important to start speaking in the beginning and accept that you’re going to make mistakes.
Instead of becoming discouraged by your mistakes, see them as an opportunity to improve your language skills. Chances are, people aren’t judging you as harshly as you imagine!
4. Focus On The Language, Not The Resources
When you start to learn German as your first foreign language, you might not know the best approach to take.
Should you learn German online? Or with a book? Should you sign up for a class?
There are countless ways to learn, no matter where you are in life. Take the time to find something you like and enjoy using, then get started!
Focus on learning the language rather than always looking for the perfect resource – there is no easy solution.
Learning a new language can be hard to grasp at first, but it should also be fun.
So if your current approach leaves you feeling unmotivated, switch things up a bit. Try a new method, teacher, or approach, and remember that learning German should be enjoyable.
5 Steps to Learn How to Speak German as a Beginner
Step 1: Get a Good German Textbook
That’s why textbooks are the perfect tool for learning the foundations of the language. And there are hundreds of German textbooks out there to choose from!
When you’re trying to find the right one for you, there are quite a few options to consider.
- Determine which level of book you need. Languages usually start with A1, for beginners, and go up to C2, for advanced students.
- Why are you learning German? Do you want to learn the basics for a trip? Do you hope to use German for business? Are you aiming for all-around fluency?
- Look for a textbook that contains plenty of dialogues. You’re going to need lots of input via reading and listening in order to move beyond beginners German and grow your vocabulary. Dialogues are great for this because they simulate the kind of conversations you’re likely to when you use German.
Look inside the book first and see if the material is written in a straightforward way that’s easy to understand.Make sure the book is comprehensive but also includes enough descriptive details.
If possible, check out the textbooks in a bookshop before you buy anything, and choose one you like the look and feel of.
It’s not a bad idea to have more than one German book to use as a reference. That way, if you don’t understand a concept in one book, you can look it up in one of your other books for a different explanation.Step 2: Learn the Fundamentals of German
Figure out how German pronunciation works and focus on learning the basic phrases you’re likely to use in your first conversations.
These are core skills you can practice in the beginning that get you exposure to the language, without the frustration of learning any difficult new concepts.
Phrases like “Guten Tag” (good day), “Wie geht’s?” ( how are you), and “Wie heißt das?” (What is that called?) are easy to remember, commonly used, and get you speaking right from the beginning.
Step 3: Memorise Key German Phrases
There are certain key words and phrases that will give you a huge head start in conversational German. Learn these first and you’ll be surprised how much you can communicate in a short period of time.
It’s also a good idea to write down any relevant new vocabulary you encounter, not forgetting to take note of the word’s gender.
You don’t need to learn every word, but when you come across something you can imagine yourself using in a conversation, take note of it.
You’d be surprised how a few key phrases can have you leading a conversation in no time.
Step 4: Don’t Get Too Hung Up On German Grammar
Grammar is important and you will need to focus on it more as you progress.
But as a beginner, you shouldn’t spend inordinate amounts of time studying grammar books. Don’t worry if you make grammatical mistakes.
Instead, focus on exposing yourself to German as much as possible and paying careful attention to the patterns you start to recognise.
If you do this, you’ll soon start to notice the main grammatical structures becoming clear.
Try and pick up the grammar through context and use these patterns you identify as clues.
Of course, you will make mistakes in grammar. Even native speakers mess up their grammar sometimes.
Just try to stay focused on continuing to practice what you’re able to understand and build up your language knowledge on the basis you already have.
Step 5: Speak German From the Beginning
Try to find native speakers, fellow learners or friends who you can speak German with.
Look for German events in your community, such as a Stammtisch (a type of informal German meet-up), that can offer an opportunity for language practice. The Goethe Institute can be another great place to meet German speakers and fellow learners.
Alternatively, you can search online for language meet-up events or look for conversation exchange partners on sites like conversationexchange.com and italki.
The whole article you can read here