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Wie man Deutsch lernt!? – How to learn German!? (Part II) Posted by on Oct 18, 2011 in Language

In my second last post I began to write about language learning tips, which I will now carry on.


4. Be realistic

Learning a second language takes time. So, don’t put yourself under pressure to become a fluent speaker of German within a couple of weeks. Fast second language learning is just not possible. It takes about 1,000 hours of full time instruction or exercise to become a competent speaker (and that is the peak of competence!). In other words, if you can arrange to practice German three hours a day over a whole year, you can make it to become a fluent speaker of German in one year.

My advice: If you are really willing to learn German be, first of all, patient with yourself and, second, try to practice the language daily. Ten minutes a day can already be sufficient. If you can arrange to take thirty minutes time it is even better. In the course of this, it basically does not matter what you revise or practice. You can count numbers, cite the alphabet, learn new words/phrases, practice a rule of grammar, read a passage in a book, listen to German music, or simply converse with yourself and for yourself.  Consistency is the key to successful second language acquisition. The longer you wait to revise your knowledge the harder it will be for you to keep the pace and in the end you will start over again and again. And finally, don’t get discouraged when you face difficulties. Sooner or later they will dissolve.

5. Instructed language learning

As long as you aren’t a genius, don’t try to reach your aim by self-education. It is true that you can learn words, phrases, and idioms on your own, for example, how to greet someone, asking how someone is, introducing yourself, saying goodbye, asking for directions and the like. This is indeed a good way to start off language learning, but sooner or later you will hit the brick wall and being desirous of conveying your own thoughts and not only the canned expressions you can find in textbooks. This requires a particular competence of grammar. Therefore, it is necessary to have a competent instructor for several reasons: a teacher will always be able to teach you the rules of grammar you need to know, your teacher can also set you straight when you make errors, (s)he can also answer your questions that might emerge while your study, and, last but not least, (s)he can tell how to pronounce words correctly.

My advice: If you have already begun to teach yourself German always double-check your ‘new acquired knowledge’ by having conversations with native speakers or fluent foreign speakers. My encounters with self-‘educationers’, who were hardly or not at all in contact with competent speakers, showed me that being the teacher and the learner at the same time is usually disastrous and counterproductive. Typical errors are, for example, ignorance of word order; redundant and/or contradictory grammar elements combined into one phrase/sentence; wrong pronunciation of words that even native speakers cannot guess what you intend to convey; the attempt to translate particular meanings par for par from one’s mother language into German, which also includes the ignorance of the fact that languages are culturally influenced. In other words, German, as well as other languages, too, has particular ways to pack meanings into words, namely idioms and set phrases, which do not leave room for discussions. As a result, 1) competent speakers of German would hardly understand you, and 2) you memorize and apply rules wrongly. This may sound harsh but I only intend to let you know where entirely self-education can lead.


To be continued …

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Mike:


    Thanks for your comments regarding learning a second language. I have been learning German on my own now for over 7 years, primarily through Podcasts and reading. I think that classroom training would have accelerated this process, but I wanted to just learn informally. I now attend German-speaking language groups in the USA and am told that my German is very good. I believe that technology enabled me to do what would have been almost impossible 20 years ago.


    • Sandra Rösner:

      @Mike Mike, I agree. The latest technology and the internet (Web 2.0) can help people a lot to learn foreign languages. Having the chance to check vocabulary and English grammar with some clicks on my keyboard are always a relief! 😉

  2. Jim:

    Good comments about language learning. Technology really allows us all to help along in the process doing certain work on our own. But at some point it is essential to take a class, sit with a teacher, have qualified “ears” etc. For me it was Goethe Institute– a two month immersion course. The importance of a teacher or class situation is to not only learn the “patterns” mentally but physically and to be forced to communicate in the “new” language. And for me, a concentrated intension time period is better than once a week and still saying “Guten Morgen. Wie geht es ihnen.” nine months into the process.

    • Sandra Rösner:

      @Jim Jim, that’s true: the more often and the longer, the better. I teach a native speaker of German English and he understands the most rules in no time at all but it takes him a lot of time to be able to make use of these rules. So, we have to practice one and the same communicative situation for hours over and over again.

  3. Jim:

    that’s a concentrated intensive time period– but one with intension is also important

  4. Dror:

    While scouting after a good place to start learning German I came across few resources that pointed out quality material. By far, the best place to start was doctortamus.net. Doctor Tamus pointed out two key methods – Michel Thomas and Pimsleur. I suggest to take a look.