I’ve been learning German for about two years, learning a language is not an easy experience so I thought I would share some of the things I have learnt along the way.
Firstly my number one tip, and perhaps the most obvious is you cannot learn a language on your own. I have been teaching myself for nearly two years, but have only been attending classes since September. I wish I had started classes much sooner. The reason I didn’t was because I was too self conscious and worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the class because I am dyslexic, so I wanted to have some German under my belt before I could join a class. I wish I hadn’t left it so long.
Get yourself on a course:
I really recommend booking yourself onto to a course. I currently attend the Brasshouse, before enrolling I rang and talked to a tutor on the German course and asked their advice. I think upon reflection my class, which is Beginner’s Plus is too basic and I should have gone to a more advanced level. You do usually have the option to change your levels within the first week or two if you’ve been placed in the wrong group.
Your course will have it’s own textbook, my course suggested the Schritte International book. I really like this book because it is completely in German, which is great it forces you to use and read German. It has many levels so as your understanding of German grows the books in the series will become more challenging. I also have a couple of other textbooks: GCSE German for AQA Grammar Workbook, GCSE German Revision Guide, AQA GCSE German Second Edition Higher. These books are ok, they are designed more for GCSE students, so they fit within the course and are mostly in English and designed for teenagers. The thing that angers me the most if The AQA GCSE book, the course book has audio file links, but to access this material online you either have to belong to a secondary school that subscribes or pay a subscription fee. I’m not that impressed with that. Schritte provides their audio files for FREE on their website. So I recommend them over the other books.
You will need a dictionary. It’s a given that you will need to look up words you do not know. You can buy a paper one but honestly I would not recommend it. They are limiting by the fact they are paper and you have to buy them. If they update them you will be subject to having to buy a new one. On my phone I have two dictionaries which are apps, they are available as a webpage as well. They are fantastic and they update themselves. They are super portable and they are great. I use two. Dict Leo is probably my favourite. I like this one because when you are learning German you will have to learn that nouns have genders (for example Der Hund, Die Katze, Das Haus). Dict Leo gives you the article within the dictionary. Dict.cc gives the nouns as either (m, f, n) which is ok, but I like having the less abstract form of Der, Die, Das, it stops the thought process of M > masculine > Der. So I find it slightly quicker. Dict.cc is better for more obscure words and idioms. Dict.cc also has the options to work with difficult languages, such as German-Italian, German-Polish, so if English isn’t your native language, I recommend looking at that for your native language. Both of these dictionaries are German based rather than English based.
The main app I have to recommend is Duolingo. I have done a review of it here. I think it’s really amazing. It’s not perfect sometimes you write things that are correct but it’s not the answe the moderator picked, and didn’t think of that translating it. So I recommend reporting it, it always makes me feel great when I can a translation accepted. This is my most used program for learning German, I really love it. I recommend using the website and the app, as both have different types of lessons which I think are useful.
Memrise is another app, I have used it a little bit but I don’t like it as much as Duolingo. I will be planning to use it more when I’ve completed Duolingo. It is good though because you can create your own lessons and learn vocab that is tailored to what you want to learn.
I recommend a German word of the day app, it’s great for building vocab. I think you need to write these down though to help you retain them. I don’t really remember them as they can be quite obscure, particularly as I think my one is quite advanced. You can probably find one more tailored for beginners though.
You can find some other apps such as Wortschatz (word search) and other games which can be quite fun to plan.
You need to start listening to German to get use to how it sounds, so I recommend listening to radio, Einslive has an app on android which is good.
It’s good to try and find some things on youtube. I quite like crime documentaries and I found some that were dubbed in German. They are good to listen to. Documentaries which have German in them are good too.
You can also find websites that have children’s stories this one has audio files. This one is text. Children’s books are great because they are short and simple language, so it is more manageable. I have a copy of Brother Grimm in German, and I don’t recommend using that one as it is like reading Dickens or Shakespeare, it’s quite old German.
Get Germanized is a set of youtube videos which cover a range of things, they are short bitesized and informative videos that are quite entertaining.
Another good thing to get is something like Harry Potter. You’ve probably already read Harry Potter before in your language so you’ll be familiar with the story. They also have words that have not been translated into German, so you can follow the story. You can get audio books of it too…so someone will read you the story and you can follow and see how words are pronounced.
The next thing to do is to get out Meetup and see if there is any local German speaking groups. I attend one and quite often speak English there because I’m not confident about my German. It’s great to listen to German being heard though. My group is great and will speak to you in German, speak slower if you don’t understand…they even will then repeat in English if you really struggle.
Michel Thomas has been recommended to me and it worked really well for the person who recommended it. I don’t personally like it. I find it difficult to follow and think I need visual and audio for effective learning. I also think it’s quite pricey and risky if you find like me you don’t get along with it so I recommend going to your local library and checking to see if they have a copy of it before you invest in it.
That’s all I can really recommend at the moment. If I come up with anything else I’ll give this post an update, alternatively if you use anything that I’ve not mentioned please let me know.