English speakers have a distinct advantage when it comes to learning German. Along with Dutch, the German and English languages find their roots in the same branch of the language tree. They’re all classed as Western Germanic languages. This means that, technically, learning German should be easier for native English speakers than learning an Italic Romance language such as Spanish or French.
So, learning German might not be as daunting and difficult as you first thought. Here’s how to do it:
See also: Using Babbel to Learn Foreign Languages
1. Take the educational route
I studied German at school and went on to take a degree in it. I can tell you that it was one of the best choices I ever made. Even if I don’t get the opportunity to speak German much anymore, I learnt so much more than how to order a sausage perfectly. It spawned my creativity, my love of language in general, and helped me to develop a greater level of cultural and historical understanding. Let’s just say I’d recommend it.
You don’t have to dedicate a whole degree to the subject; most universities will let you take a language as an elective module or a ’minor’. And if you’ve completed your studies already, then consider taking a night class at a local language school or college.
2. Teach yourself
I personally believe that a group environment is most conducive to learning a language, because it’s all about communication obviously. But if you don’t have the time or money, then you could make use of the many online resources out there to learn German from home.
The BBC has some brilliant free online lessons to try. And there are, of course, paid courses you can take, the most well-known being Rosetta Stone’s language courses. According to them, it’s even possible to learn a language in just 180 days.
3. Move to Germany (or Austria or Switzerland)
There’s no better way to learn a language than to spend some time in a country where they speak the language. You can immerse yourself fully in the local culture. You’ll see German everywhere on signs and billboards, et cetera. You’ll hear German everywhere – it’s really great when you get to the level where you can eavesdrop on people’s conversations on the train.
And most importantly, you’ll be able to speak German. Just make sure you get to know some locals while you’re out there, rather than sticking with your comfortable group of English-speaking expats.
4. Learn from pop culture
When you first start conversing with Germans, they’ll probably find how you speak a bit funny. It’s not because they’re being harsh or anything, it’s just that when you learn German in a classroom you learn ’Hochdeutsch’ or ’high German’. This isn’t necessarily how people talk on a daily basis, especially among their friends.
The best way to pick up the little nuances of the day-to-day language or some slang is by paying attention to how people actually talk. You can do this by following German pop culture. Listen to their music – they have a pretty good rap scene. Watch German TV and movies, which is a great experience in itself seeing as Germans have been some of the best filmmakers throughout history.
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If you want to get really good at German, you’ll probably pursue a mixture of all of the above. Consistency is key if you hope to keep on improving your language skills. And just make sure you have fun while you’re doing it; that’s the best way to learn.