Learning a new language can feel overwhelming. The good news is that there are plenty of resources available to learn pretty much any language (and speak it fluently!). If you need to learn how to speak German for business, travel, or studying, it shouldn’t be too difficult to learn some basic phrases and vocabulary.
Find out how to learn German fast with these tricks and tips for hacking pretty much any language.
Is Learning German Difficult?
Learning any new language is tricky — and yes, probably difficult. The good news for native English speakers is that German and English are very similar languages, so learning German may be easier for English speakers than it would be for native Spanish or French speakers.
You may even recognize some of the most common words used in German, as 80 of the 100-most-used English words are actually German words (or are of German origin)! Many German words sound like commonly used English words, and many words are simply the same.
This makes it easier for English speakers to learn German fast.
We often have a tendency to want to jump into the deep end when learning a new skill. Either we feel super intimidated by learning a new language, or we find ourselves overly excited at first — and overwhelmed after a few lessons.
Whenever you’re learning a new skill or language, it’s important to start slow. You’re more likely to become frustrated or burned out if you try to learn too many new vocab words or phrases too soon. You’re also more likely to make mistakes if you move too fast when learning German.
Instead of trying to learn many words at once, chunk your lessons by focusing on one aspect of the vocabulary (words, conjugations, possessives, etc.).
Schedule Study Times
We’re less likely to actually stick with learning a new skill if we don’t make a detailed plan. Learning German isn’t the most difficult language to learn — especially if you already happen to know English. Yet, you may find yourself struggling to find the time to learn German if you don’t schedule study sessions into your schedule.
You may also want to WOOP your study times (wish, outcome, obstacle, plan). Decide what your wish is (I wish to study German for one hour a day). Then, determine what the outcome of that wish looks like (learning German fast). Brainstorm various obstacles that could get in your way (I might not feel like studying, I’ll want to watch TV instead, etc.). Make a plan to study when obstacles arise (I’ll study in the morning in case I’m too tired to study at night).
Learn Pronunciation First
As English speakers, we’re used to sounding words out. Yet, not all letter combinations are pronounced the same in different languages.
When you learn vocabulary words by sight, you’re more likely to mispronounce them. If you’re someone that learns vocab words through memorization and repetition, there’s a good chance you’ll learn the mispronunciation of German words — and not the correct pronunciations.
Unlearning poor pronunciation can add more time to your German language studies. If you want to learn German fast, you’ll want to learn the correct pronunciations the first time around.
The best way to do this is by learning words by sound — not by sight.
Learn Most Common German Vocab Words
There are hundreds of thousands of words in the German language. Why learn words that you’re going to rarely use? Instead, learn the most common German words first. These words include:
Once you have learned the most common German words, you can begin using them in short sentences.
Need to learn new vocab words and pronunciation? We recommend using machine translation software that has an Arabic translation tool and can easily translate text to speech, such as the Vocre app, available on Google Play for Android or the Apple Store for iOS.
The app over voice input and output, so you can say a sentence in English and hear what it sounds like in German in real-time.
Memorize Cognate Words
Cognate words are words that are easier to learn because they sound more like words in other languages. For example, the phrase, good morning, in German is guten morgen. This phrase sounds very similar to the English phrase, so it should be easier for you to remember.
One tried-and-true way to learn vocab is to use flashcards. You can use physical flashcards by writing out vocab words on index cards and their translations on the back. You can download a flashcard app and upload batches of flashcards at once. Some apps even allow you to use voice-activated flashcards, meaning you can speak the word in English and get the German pronunciation at the push of a button.
Study Sentence Structure
You can memorize how to say different sentences in German — or, you can learn basic German sentence structure and start learning German even faster!
The good news for native English speakers is that German sentence structure is pretty much the same as the structure for sentences in English. German follows a subject, verb, other (SVO) sentence structure.
Where German and English sentence structure differs is time, manner, and place. Instead of saying “I’m going to the store today,” you’d say, “I’m going today to the store.”
Take an Online Class
Self-paced learning will only take you so far. Even if you think you’ve crushed all your self-guided vocab quizzes, you may want to enhance your language skills by taking an online class.
Online classes can help you find a German/English language community and practice your language skills with other students. You’ll also see how others are progressing, making it easier to realize that everyone makes mistakes.
Your teacher can also provide valuable feedback for you (something you can’t get if you’re learning solo).
Many online language classes encourage students to share resources, meet after class, and encourage each other throughout the learning process.
Join an Exchange Program
Once you have a basic understanding of the German language (including basic vocab words and sentence structure), you might want to test your knowledge in the real world. There are thousands of language exchange groups for people who want to learn both German and English.
These groups meet both in-person and online. Some groups pair you with a partner while others simply encourage group talk. Usually, you’re paired with a partner that has a better understanding of English than you do German.
Language exchanges will help you get real-time feedback and learn how to use German idioms and figures of speech — fast.
Download a Language Translation App
If you need some help learning vocab and pronunciation in between sessions with your language exchange partner, you’ll want to download a language translation app. These apps will help you look up vocab words and translate English sentences into German ones.
Apps like Vocre will allow you to speak a sentence in English and get voice output in German. This will help you understand sentence structure and correct pronunciation. You can also check your translations for accuracy, no real-life partner needed.
Immerse Yourself in the German Language
When you’re ready to level up, you’ll want to immerse yourself in the German language! The best way to learn German is to immerse yourself in it. It will feel a little scary and uncomfortable at first, but the extra effort will be worth the discomfort.
Visit a German Restaurant
One easier way to immerse yourself in German is to visit an authentic German restaurant. If you don’t live in a city or town with a German enclave, you may simply want to find a small slice of Germany.
Order your meal in German, and try to hold a conversation with the waiter, bartender, or owner. Most German restaurants are used to language students trying out their newfound vocab words, so they’re more likely to be a little gentle with any of your mistakes.
Read German Newspapers
If you want to beef up your German vocabulary, you may want to try reading books in German or German newspapers. If you’re worried that you’ll be lost in a sea of vocab words, you might want to start by reading a book you’re familiar with — just in German.
Children’s books like Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Pippi Longstocking all have recognizable plots and are available in German.
Watch Movies in German
One of the most rewarding and fun ways to learn German is to watch German-language movies or TV shows — or, simply watch your favorite TV shows dubbed in German.
Some popular German movies include:
- Good Bye Lenin
- Das Experiment
- Run Lola Run
- The Baader Meinhof Complex
- A Coffee in Berlin
You can usually find these movies on Netflix or to rent on Amazon Prime. German-language movies are the best to watch when learning the language because these actors speak as true Germans speak (while sometimes these nuances can get lost in dubbed movies and TV shows).
Learn About German Culture
When you get excited about culture, it’s easier to conjure excitement about the language associated with the culture.
Take a class on German history, watch travel and culture TV shows about Germany, and try making a few classic German dishes for dinner once a week. If you can find authentic German ingredients, you may find yourself reading condiment bottles and learning random vocab words while you eat!
Go to Germany
Possibly one of the best ways to learn German fast is to simply immerse yourself in the culture by visiting Germany. While this is a sure-fire way to learn the language relatively quickly, it’s also not always possible to up-end your life and move to another continent (especially during a pandemic!).
Yet, if you are able to make a big move right now, you may want to head to the Country of Poets and Thinkers for a few months.
While most Germans (especially the ones living in big cities) know English, you’ll want to avoid speaking English as much as possible. Tell your flatmates and friends to try not to speak to you in English. It’s tempting to want to switch back to your native language, so you’ll want to put yourself in situations where you’re less likely to do this.
Be Kind to Yourself
Learning a language isn’t an easy feat. You’re bound to come up against obstacles or feel embarrassed by mistakes from time to time.
It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself as you’re learning German. Practicing self-kindness will help you become more resilient — and being kind to yourself will make it easier to dust yourself off and keep going.
People that practice self-compassion have more resilience than those that don’t! Self-compassion simply means that you’re able to sit with uncomfortable feelings and accept these feelings.
Simply making statements like, “This is hard,” “I feel silly,” or, “it feels like I never get this stuff right,” can help you acknowledge your negative feelings before letting them go. Studies show that people that do this one act of self-compassion are more likely to succeed on future tests and retain information more accurately.
Make Learning German Fun
If you’re having fun, you’re more likely to keep going! Try to make your studies as fun as possible. Celebrate German holidays, buy a dirndl or lederhosen online, listen to German music, and make friends from Germany.
Don’t Give Up!
It’s easy to want to give up when learning a new language. You’re going to feel awkward, confused, and uncomfortable — a lot!
Yet, you may need to try to learn words, sentence structure, and phrases over and over again. The biggest difference between those that learn a language and those that give up is perseverance (not talent or natural ability).
German might be easier to learn for most English speakers than romance languages, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to learn German fast.
Stick with it, try a few of the above tips, and you’ll be speaking German and communicating with other cultures in no time!