Once you no longer worry about the best way to learn German, you’ll start to worry about how to retain the German you’ve learned. The more comfortable you are with a language, the stronger your desire to retain what you’ve learned. While it is pretty easy to keep up with a language when you are in school – especially if you are taking language classes – it becomes decidedly more difficult as you have to start making time in your schedule specifically to speak, write, and read German.
Keeping up with what you’ve learned isn’t quite as difficult today as it was 20 years ago. There are numerous apps and dedicated websites that are designed to provide a way of maintaining the knowledge you’ve acquired. That means it’s up to you to find the methods that work for you and then to ensure you make the time in your schedule to keep from forgetting what you’ve learned.
Here are the top 6 best ways to retain what you’ve learned.
1. Find Apps That You Enjoy
There are hundreds of language apps that you can download on your phone so that you can spend a few minutes every day working on your vocabulary, reviewing grammar, or whatever else helps you retain what you know. It’s important to find apps that you enjoy using. The more it feels like fun or the more you enjoy an app, the more likely it is that you will keep using it.
This doesn’t mean you should use the same app every day. We encourage you to find several apps that you enjoy and that focus on different elements of the language. For example, one day you can use an app that works on your vocabulary – there’s always more German vocabulary to learn. Another day, you can quiz yourself on different grammatical elements. By changing what you study every day, you are more likely to set aside time in your schedule to keep brushing up on your German.
2. Make Listening to German a Regular Part of Your Day
With numerous YouTube channels, podcasts, and audiobooks available, you have a wide range of audio options to listen to German. This is probably the easiest thing to add to your daily routine because you can listen while you are commuting, cleaning, or waiting around for something or someone. Passive listening is a great way to keep exposing your brain to the cadence and language.
It may take you some time to find the right channel or audio that will keep you engaged, but there are plenty of options. Take some time over a weekend to find a few different options. Remember, you don’t need to be able to understand every word; listening to German when it is spoken naturally is as much about getting the right rhythm and pronunciation as it is hearing every word. Consider how often you zone out when listening to someone speaking in English, but you can still get a good idea of what is happening in the story or discussion.
This type of passive reinforcement is a way of keeping your German from slipping away, and it is an activity you can do no matter how busy you are.
3. Read German Websites and News Sites
Like apps, there are numerous sites that you can access to read in German. This is another activity you can do without having to specifically make time for it. If you end up waiting at a bus stop or for an event or program to start, you can pull out your phone and read through German news or website.
Besides helping you continue to think in German, reading news sites in German is a great way to stay current on what is happening in German speaking countries. You can also get a different perspective on world events. The following are some of the best sites for getting German news.
Since you don’t want a steady diet of just news, look for other websites that have information, stories, or discussions that interest you. From cooking websites to Creepy Pastas, there are many sites that can keep you engaged in reading German. Nor do you really have to plan for this occupation. Whenever you have some time on your hands, you can use your phone or a computer to keep yourself happily occupied while keeping your German language skills fresh.
4. Watch German Movies and TV Shows
One of the best things about technology is that you have so much more access to German media. When you want to unwind at the end of the day, you can brush up on your German by watching a show or movie in German. It may mean that you work your brain a bit more, but if you do it often enough, it won’t be that much different than watching a program in English.
It does require a bit more than passively listening, but you get visual clues that can help you understand what is happening. If you can find a show that you really enjoy, you will have something to watch for quite a while.
5. Listen to German Music
The way we engage with music is significantly different from other forms of auditory media. Listening to lyrics provides a lot more realistic insight into the slang and common terms during a particular point in time. The fact that there is a refrain also helps to drive certain types of grammar and ideas into the mind.
Often people don’t pay as much attention to the lyrics as they do the music. Over time, people start to realize just what is being said, and then they come to a whole different understanding of the song they have been singing for months or years. At least when you listen to a song in another language, you have a better excuse for not knowing exactly what the song means. And it can give you a great topic of conversation with the final suggestion.
6. Find German Chat Buddies
Although the most challenging, the best way to retain what you’ve learned over the years is to have regular chats with people in German. You can find people in and around schools where German is taught, as well as using apps and websites. The primary thing to keep in mind is that people who are native German speakers will want to spend time speaking English. Often conversations will not be in just one language, so you will need to be careful that you don’t spend the entire conversation speaking in English.
This is going to be the most challenging exercise because you will need to coordinate with other people. However, it is important to speak in German regularly to make sure you don’t lose what you’ve learned. There are benefits to all of the other methods of retaining the language, but speaking to someone in German is the best way to access what you know about the language.
You Have to Use It
As unfortunate as it is, mental skills require regular use if you want to keep them. However, technology makes it much easier to brush up on your language, or to regularly use it if you would like to. You may have access to other ways of regularly using German. When it comes to retaining a language, there are a lot of ways to passively engage with it, but it is also necessary to make sure you actively use it. Otherwise, you will eventually reach a point where you can understand it, but won’t be able to speak it nearly so well.