5 ways to learn German more quickly

“German isn’t the easiest language in the world”

Yes, that’s a proven fact (at least according to the U.S state department). The easy honours go to romance languages including Spanish and French. Difficulty issues aside, if someone moves to Germany, 99.9% will want to learn German. For the English teacher there’s also a certain ‘face-saving’ aspect to this, as it is difficult to lecture students about the importance of English without a grasp of a foreign language oneself.

Here are some ideas to speed up the learning process:

Don’t live in Berlin

By all means, move to Berlin, have fun and enjoy all the city has to offer. But when you want to learn the language, bear in mind that around 1/7 of the registered residents of Berlin are foreigners and the real number of non-Germans calling Berlin home (at least temporarily) is likely far higher. Walk around the central districts like Kreuzberg or Prenzlauer Berg, shut your eyes and you might as well be strolling around London or New York. Most Berliners (especially those in customer facing roles) can speak English, so you can order coffee or go to the bank without needing a word of the native tongue. In fact, the only place you will really need German is when visiting the Bürgeramt.

Necessity is the mother of invention motivation and Berlin provides little need on the language front.

Find German friends and avoid hanging out with English speakers

All language teachers who have lived abroad, and in fact all foreigners who reside outside their home country will recognise how difficult it is to find native friends. Born and bred-Berliners, for example, will hang out with their school chums who they’ve known for a gazillion years and aren’t that interested in welcoming you into their cosy cliques. But don’t fret! Berlin is a city of immigration and finding native Berliners is often a challenge in itself. Many German people migrate from other parts of Germany, so why not make friends with them? Surrounding yourself with German speakers in your free time is a sure-fire way to improve quickly.

Start a tandem

A language exchange or tandem in German is a great way to learn German and have a lot of fun, especially if you don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of teaching or if you can’t commit to regular classes. How does it work? Check out this professionally made info-graphic:


For those who aren’t familiar with bullshit, here’s the text version:

Place an advert on a language exchange website like Conversation Exchange. Wait to get responses, or send messages to prospective partners. Organise a mutually acceptable date/time/location. Meet up, have a beer and speak ½ time in English and ½ time in German.

Do a language course

The blindingly-obvious route for language learning. Berlin has tonnes of language academies of varying quality. Many of these academies also offer English and should you find yourself working at any of these places, it’s certainly worth asking if they give free classes or discounts to their freelance teachers.

Keep an ‘essential’ words list

According to internationally-renowned linguist and all round good egg Brian Kelk, you can communicate fluently in a foreign language with only 1000 essential words. Whilst you can find these standard lists on the internet easily enough, it is better to make your own. Words like ‘would, a, like, I and beer’ are always vital, but you know your specific vocabulary requirements better than anyone.

Finally, don’t give up! Perhaps the most important tip to keep in mind.

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3 Responses

  1. Linda says:

    Great advice! Need to give myself a kick up the arse at this stage! 🙂

  2. Frank Cleveland says:

    I’ve been using Duolingo with some success. Other apps I’ve been less successful with though (Speakeasy being one). Anyone know of any other German-language related apps?

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