When you first start learning a new language, any tips and tricks you see probably won't make much sense. However, after a couple of lessons, you will likely find yourself better understanding how those tips can help because you can see how to apply those tips to your learning process.
Learning a language can be time consuming, even with a language as similar to English as German. Beginning German language learners may have some aspects that are easier than learning one of the Romance languages, but that doesn't mean that it is easy.
Seeing progress is one way to start to improve, but classes aren't exactly a natural way to learn. Whether or not you are learning German in a class, you can still see progress through other more natural means.
The following are 10 tips that will help you start to feel more comfortable with speaking in German.
1. Know What You Want from Your Studies
The first place to start isn't with the language itself, but with understanding why you are learning the language. Determine what it is you want to get out of your learning experience. This can range from a school language requirement to a vacation abroad to an interest in the language.
Whatever your reason for learning German it should be the focus of how you go about learning the language. Your approach will be much different for a vacation than if you are learning German for work or school.
2. Apps Make It Easier to Study Daily
One of the best things about learning a language today is that you have so many apps at your disposal that there is no excuse not to practice German every day. With a wealth of langauge learning apps at your fingertips, you can even switch out which apps you use.
Variety keeps the learning process enjoyable and gives you different metrics to gauge your progress. Focus on vocabulary, diction, or lessons, whatever fits into your day.
3. Listening Is Learning
Trying to talk in German can be uncomfortable, especially in the beginning. Part of this is because you don't fully understand what people are saying. Just the sound of the language is foreign to your ears. This is when listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks can really help.
Listening is just as important as being able to speak German. It is also a lot more comfortable to passively listen than to try to speak in the beginning. Build up your confidence as you listen so that you will be more likely to understand what is being said when you start to talk with a language partner.
4. Partners Make Learning More Enjoyable
Trying to learn a language on your own doesn't make much sense, yet so many people still try to learn that way. One way to help get over the nervousness with speaking a new language is to find a language learning partner. This can be a native speaker, someone in your class, or from a langauge learning community.
Not only does a language learning partner help you to speak German, it also helps you to see how you are progressing. You will be able to have more in-depth discussions after a few months to a year. Over time, this can really build your confidence while motivating you to keep learning.
5. Embrace Mistakes and Learn
No one expects you to speak perfectly when you first begin. Many native German speakers aren't going to expect perfection, no matter how many years you have been learning the language. Yet this is the step that most people skip because we are afraid of making mistakes.
Mistakes are actually a fantastic learning device. These are opportunities for you to learn in a way that you are far more likely to remember. By being a little more self-conscious, your mind will be engaged in retaining what you learn from that mistake.
6. Being Uncomfortable Means You Are Learning
The only way to learn a language is to speak it. This is incredibly uncomfortable in the beginning because you know that you are going to make mistakes. Over time, you may start to feel a little more comfortable. This is the time when people really stop learning.
To avoid hitting a plateau when you learn German, you are going to need to keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you are feeling more self-conscious, then you are out of that zone, and that is a good thing.
Once you start to feel confident, that is a sign that you need to push yourself a little further.
7. Have Short Conversations with Yourself
One way to really break out of your comfort zone is to start talking to yourself out loud. Most of us talk to ourselves, but we aren't necessarily aware when we do it. Now you need to start intentionally talking to yourself in a language that you don't yet know.
The conversation doesn't have to be long or complicated. It could be as simple as talking about what you are doing. When you are in the kitchen preparing a meal, talk about the different components and their color. As you get ready for bed, describe your actions. Turn it into a short narration of your day to make it fun.
You can also talk to your dog or cat in German. It can help you feel like you are talking to someone without any judgment of your ability to speak German.
8. Learn 100 Words as Soon as Possible
Learning the alphabet and how to pronounce each of the letters is the starting point. Once you know how to pronounce letters and letter combinations, what you need is a vocabulary.
It's going to take you more than a couple of days to do it, but create a list of 100 German words you want to learn. Set a timeline for how many words that you think you can learn each week, making sure you are realistic.
Having a target list of vocabulary words can help you to see how much you are progressing. Knowing vocabulary words doesn't mean you have learned a language, but it does give you a foundation for using the words you have learned.
9. Don't Be Afraid to Start from the Beginning - Use Books and TV for Kids
TV shows and books for children are the perfect tools for learning a new language. They are written on a much easier level than textbooks and lessons. Kids' shows and books take a more natural approach, engaging similar synapses as when you first started learning English.
It is also much easier to figure out what words you know and which ones you don't. You can learn basic vocabulary that you are likely to need in regular conversation by hearing how the words are taught to children. With easier context to comprehend what is being said, you are more likely to remember it or have better recall when you hear it later.
10. Talk to Native Speakers
Talking to native speakers is the most difficult tip on this list because it means diving out of your comfort zone and your vocabulary. However, there is no better way to learn German than to speak it with someone who knows all of the ins and outs of the language.
No class, app, or show can teach you German as well as a native speaker. It isn't nearly as difficult to find a native speaker today, and they are usually eager to help you learn. In exchange, you get to help them learn English. This mutual beneficial language exchange will be the best way to learn a language and to build your confidence.
Learning German can be intimidating and overwhelming because of the number of rules the language has. These tips will help you start to find the confidence you need to keep going. Hopefully these tips will give you that extra edge to gaining confidence and motivation to keep learning.