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Wie man Deutsch lernt!? – How to learn German!? (Part III) Posted by on Oct 28, 2011 in Language

Here is, for now, the third and last part on language learning tips. In two of my previous posts I already talked about the importance of learning vocabulary, the positive influence of ignoring your native language when learning a second language, the ambiguity of linguistic entries, the lengthy acquisition process, and the importance of instructed language learning.

 

6. You – the learner – are the most important key to successful language acquisition

Research in second language acquisition has shown that the contextual learning situation plays a minor role in language acquisition. That is, it doesn’t matter if you learn German in classroom or in a naturalistic environment. The learner him-/herself determines which level of proficiency will be achieved. Two decisive factors for successful second language acquisition are the degree of motivation and timidity. That is, learners who are highly motivated seem to have better chances to acquire German (or any other second language) than learners who are rather demotivated. Further, you do not do yourself a favor when you remain mute and do not embed extant vocabulary in your speech. For example, one of my students, a native speaker of German learning English, is highly motivated to learn German but is very afraid to speak English because he is worried to make grammatical errors and to use the wrong words.

My advice: Making errors is an effective way to revise your knowledge. It is just impossible to apply all rules correctly from the very start. So, don’t be afraid to speak because this is the only method to test if you’ve understood a particular grammar rule correctly or if you use the right word in a particular situation. Your interlocutor will disclose if s/he understood what you intended to convey.

 

 

7. Don’t focus on grammar too much

Of course, grammar is important but it is not always essential to make yourself understood, which should be your ultimate ambition, and not the reproduction of grammatical rules. My point of view is that word order is one of the most important grammatical rules of a language that learners should focus on. For example, when I arrange some words randomly it doesn’t make a meaningful sentence: „Am the balcony shining is and sun the on sitting I“ This sentence makes only sense when I arrange the words in a correct order: „I am sitting on the balcony and the sun is shining.“

My advice: Don’t put yourself under pressure to make use of all aspects of grammar when you speak. Even little knowledge about grammar enables you to speak German. It is even not necessary to form a complete sentence to convey a meaning. For example, “there supermarket” can be perfectly understood as “there is a supermarket” as well as: “dress nice” (= That’s a nice dress. / The dress is nice.), “my bag” (= That is my bag), “you coffee?” (= Would you like a coffee?), etc.

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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


Comments:

  1. Hazel:

    I am a beginner in learning Getman. Attended school where I learnt grammar the traditional way and lost interest and also couldn’t form a sentence. Now I speak in phrases but achieve more communication with friends, family and neighbours…. I’m slowly weaving in the grammar I’ve learnt into my daily conversations.. The outcome is unbelievably positive!

    • Sandra Rösner:

      @Hazel I agree, learning a language is much more fun in interaction than in classroom, as you are only taught rules without having the opportunity to practice them a lot. I find face-to-face communication most fruitful 🙂

  2. Wingman:

    I am a bilingual translator from China. I am learning German for two reasons:For career advancement and just because I like the beauty of German.Some may say German is such a damn language with so many “case”forms and dazzling word order.What I see is a totally different picture:While I am translating technical documents from English into Chinese, I find so many incorrect technical jargons because of some people’s careless attitude towards lauguage use. That is when I come into contact with German. German is good at expressing in a very clear and unambigous way notions in the technical field.So I developed a passion for German. I agree with you on the need for focusing on interaction in language study.However,I disagrss with you a little bit on the role of grammar. Without proper grammar knowledge, it is extremely difficult to understand even a short paragraph of technical German. For example, for people with absoulte no knowledge of German, they will take “eines” as the plural form of “eine” while in fact it is not.

  3. Jim:

    When I was 19 years old I went to Germany for the first time. I took a 2 month Goethe Institute course in Donaueschingen. My assigned roommate was older and from Japan and VERY serious since he was going to work for the Tokyo Bank in Dusseldorf. I was out in the evenings visiting with my new friends (the owners of the Weinstub) and others communicating, making up words, making mistakes, having fun with language. The roommate stayed home and studied grammar. He was very frustrated that I was learning so fast and he still couldn’t say much at all. (He was probably afraid to get it “wrong”!) The moral of the story: when learning German or any language “No Fear!” Try it– if it’s wrong it’s wrong! Have a sense of humor! You HAVE to make mistakes to learn. I had the same experience later with Spanish. I would try anything– and learned quickly. My friend from class was frustrated. He was a leading OBGYN fertility specialist who only knew how to say “Push!” “Is there blood.” and “Is there pain?” It was slow going for him since his scientific mind said “Don’t say it until you know it is perfectly correct.” But the truth is– sometimes you just have to “Push!”

  4. EP:

    Real interaction is the only way to go. Being allowed, if not encouraged, to make mistakes is absolutely necessary. It’s a psychological thing too, I believe. Once one has bumbled around enough and leaned not really to mind, the lack of inhibition only makes the learning move along faster.