Learning German is, unfortunately, more than just taking a language course. Here is my experience on how to learn German.
I started learning German about 12 years ago in school. The many rules of the language didn’t trouble me, in fact, the opposite. I have always been a proper grammar nerd. That doesn’t mean that it was easy, but I enjoyed puzzling verbs, nouns, and adjectives into sentences. I took my time. And that was my problem. I was a perfectionist, and I wanted every single word to be correctly conjugated before I released the sentence into the world.
That’s why it took me ages to actually start speaking. When you speak, there’s no time to look up if it’s ich heiße Karen or ich heißen Karen (it’s the first one). So I would just shut up and wait for someone else to talk. Or I would stick to Danish. My teacher tried her best, but no. If it wasn’t going to be perfect, it wasn’t going to be.
Forget the rules
It might sound counterproductive, but it has worked for me. When I first started speaking German with real German people, I would tell myself: “Okay, for the next five minutes don’t think about grammar.” It wasn’t easy for me, I didn’t like making mistakes – all of this is written in past tense, but it still applies to this day. I still have to convince myself not to care about speaking perfectly.
The more mistakes I made, though, the more I realised that no one really cared if I made mistakes. People are mostly just impressed that you are speaking a foreign language.
Make mistakes and learn
You learn from your mistakes. Just the other day I told my colleague that the weather was gay (schwul). That is obviously not what I meant to say. She then asked me if I meant schwül (muggy), we laughed a bit about it, and I now know to watch out for those two words – And also, I survived!
What I’m trying to say is that making mistakes when speaking a foreign language, is not dangerous. No one will think it’s embarrassing for you (except yourself maybe). But it does take time to come to that conclusion – I know. It took me about ten years.
So, how to learn German? Well first of all take a deep breath and take your time! We all learn at different paces. That said, push your boundaries a bit. If you’re a perfectionist like me, tell yourself to forget the grammar and just speak. Remember that everyone will think that you’re brave for trying. Just think about what you think when someone is speaking your language with a different accent – it’s impressive, right?!
And finally: practice! Practice speaking, practice making mistakes, practice the German rules, and practice forgetting them again.
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Karen from the Speakeasy Team
Your language school in Frankfurt