Geek Madel: 10 tips to reach German fluency
Learning German fluently is about integrating it into your daily life but without making it a chore; Germany-based expat Meg McFarlane shows us how.
Learning German can be difficult and frustrating. But there are many ways to not only make it easier but also incorporate learning German in your daily life so you don’t even realise you are doing it. Here are 10 tips I have either done or, in most cases, am still doing to boost my German.
1. Read German books
This is the most important tip I have for improving your German, which is why it is number one. If you want to expand your vocabulary, improve your grammar or gain confidence in reading German texts, reading books written in German will achieve all of these goals. Start out with children’s books, especially if you are a beginner. I started reading basic chapter books designed for six years old. Slowly over the years I have worked my way up to reading young adult books.
Try reading books you enjoyed as a child like Paddington Bear or Harry Potter or anything written by Enid Blyton, that way you already know the story and can work on learning new vocabulary and gaining confidence reading German.
2. Change your phone’s language to German
Let’s face it, you probably spend more time looking at your phone than you want to admit – so why not use this time for a little language practice? You are probably already an expert user of your phone so changing the language isn’t going to leave you helpless but it will teach you some handy vocabularly such as the names of the days and months.
3. Listen to German radio
Every morning I turn on the radio and listen to NDR Info as I go through my morning routine. I’ve become a particular fan of the traffic report mainly because of the weird stuff that tends to find its way onto the road in northern Germany. Even if you are a beginner, listening to news/talk radio is a good idea as it will tune your ears into the flow of German and you get to feel that thrill when you catch a word you understand.
4. Listen to German podcasts
This is another listening exercise but one you can do on your way to work. Travelling on public transport is not the most exciting thing but a great time to work on your listening skills. For beginners, podcasts like Deutsch-warum nicht? are a good place to start. Intermediate learners may enjoy Grüße aus Deutschland and advance learners Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten or Alltagsdeutsch.
5. Watch German TV and films
This is a perfect way to improve your German while doing something fun. I suggest watching a mixture of dubbed German TV/films and TV/films made in German. The first is a great way to watch a film or TV series you already know in German and the second is a handy way to learn slang and everyday speech. Don’t forget to turn on the German subtitles (if available) to help you understand the dialogue. If watching films or TV series is beyond your ability right now, then start with something like Sesamstraße (Sesame Street).
6. Work on vocab using memrise
Memrise is an online tool where you can learn vocab using spaced repetition – which is reviewing learned words in a way that is designed to boost lodging those words in your long-term memory. You can make use of vocab lists that have already been created or you can create your own.
7. Label everything in your house
A great tip for beginners is to use your house as your language classroom. Label everything (and I mean everything) in your house in German – and don’t forget to include the article der, die or das. Use blue paper for masculine words, pink for feminine and white/yellow for neutral to help you remember which words are which. My old apartment was plastered in sticky notes when I first starting learning German.
8. Play games in German
For those of you with gaming consoles, you can, depending on the console and the game you are playing, change the language into German. For those of you who enjoy playing online games, you can hunt down the German language version of your favourite games or find new games in German. Since I love trivia games, I have just started playing Triviador. Yes, it’s cheesy but that’s part of the fun. For those of you who like your games old-style, then I recommend the board game Tabu (Taboo). I played it in German class this week and it was more fun than it honestly should have been.
9. Listen to German music
Load up some German music and listen to it whilse you workout, clean the house or whenever you normally listen to music. If you have no idea where to start with German music, then check out my Deutsche Musik playlist.
10. Lyrics Training
This is a great, fun way to combine listening to German music with improving your listening skills. Lyrics Training has three different skill levels from beginner to advance and it’s a great way to discover new music while working on your listening skills.
Hopefully you will find some or even all of these tips helpful. If you have any tips that you have found made a real difference to your German learning, please let us know in the comments below.
Meg McFarlane is an IT geek whose company gave just 30 days warning before transferring her from Sydney, Australia, to Hamburg, Germany. Three years on, saying yes to that transfer was the best decision ever made, even though she was in no way prepared. Her blog Geek Mädel is a chronicle of her attempts to integrate into life in Germany and get her head around German grammar. As a social media addict, she can also be found on Twitter and Tumblr.
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