Tips for Learning German as a Adult

Make no mistake: learning a foreign language is a lengthy process. Most would agree that German is more difficult to learn than English or Spanish, but probably on a par with French. Anyone who has grappled with the complicated grammar, unusual sentence construction and compound words will agree. As adults who learn German are often confronted with psychological stumbling blocks, here is a list of tips to help you progress more quickly in your studies.

1. Find a Language Partner with whom you can practice. In return, your German partner (Sprachen-Tandem) can practice his/her language skills in your native tongue. Agree to speak 50% German and 50% in your native language and make it a pleasant learning experience: go to the cinema, meet in a café, or cook your favorite meal.

2. Don’t Panic: be aware that you will encounter frustration during your language studies. This is particularly true if German is your first foreign language. Don’t be discouraged. You will have to concentrate on learning the language and accept that you will not be able to express yourself with ease in the early phases. Talk about your feelings with your German teacher or other language students.

3. Ask Questions: adults who learn a foreign language are often fearful of making mistakes. Don’t be shy about asking questions if you don’t understand something that was said or written in German. It sounds so simple, but it is often so hard to ask questions such as: “What does this word mean? Can you please repeat the last sentence? Did you understand what I just said?”

4. Correct My German: encourage your German friends to correct you. There is no need to be embarrassed, because you will only learn through your mistakes. But the trick is to make a mental note of the corrections without losing your train of thought.

5. Missed Opportunities: too many language students are hesitant to actively use their new skills. Set a goal for yourself that will force you to use your German: go to the baker, make a phone call, buy a train ticket, etc.

6. German All Around: simply leave the radio tuned to a local station, watch TV news, go to the German cinema, etc. Take advantage of the German media around you and immerse yourself in the language.

7. Take the Initiative and invite some of your German friends over for dinner. Show off your local cuisine and customs, invite them to join in your celebrations.

8. Get Out and About: when adjusting to life in a new country, it is important to take advantage of local activities and understand the local culture. Shop at the local weekly food market or watch the newspaper for upcoming city festivals.

9. Join a Sports Club: joining a sports club (Verein) is an excellent way to make contact with people from all walks of life and to participate in a fun atmosphere. Indeed, one of the best parts of being a sports club member is retreating to the pub after a good workout with other club members.

10. Know before you Go: nothing could be more helpful than understanding the basics of the language – before setting foot in Germany.

11. Total immersion: you should make the effort to “blend in” to improve your German skills and fully embrace the local culture. While Germans will often want to practice their English skills with you, avoid this trap if you are serious about learning German.