The fastest way to learn German from zero
Hopefully you are very excited learning a new language; so, in this blog I’ll give you some powerful tips to jump start the learning process. If you belong to one of the following groups you will highly benefit from this article:
1st you want to start learning German and don’t know where to start.
2nd you’ll start classes soon, but can’t wait to begin learning German.
3rd you are currently taking German classes, but you want to learn faster and more efficiently.
4th You want to start learning by yourself.
If this is you, than you you are in the right place! These tips are the result out of many years of experience in providing German and English classes, which already have helped hundreds of students, consequently these are proven tips that will help you a lot, too! Actually, I have learned speaking 2 foreign languages myself, English and Portuguese. Moreover, this experience is added into this article. They will help you to improve your language learning from the first moment on; here are the tips that you should know to start learning German:
1. Write on a paper notebook
I know we live in the digital age, where we do nearly everything on our electronic devices, including writing down notes. However for language learning it is more efficient to write down new words, explanations, and grammar rules on a paper. The reason is that our brain is more active when we write! Plus, our brain remembers positions very well. Subsequently, when you use a screen for example you’ll loose this information, as it is moving, when you scroll your notes up or down. Writing down on paper the locations stays. → Check out point 4 for remembering words, to learn some efficient techniques on how to write down and remember words. Always write down questions and conclusion you have made, so that you can ask your teacher in the next class.
2. Use Apps/Websites to learn new words and increase your vocabulary
Yes, I know I was just telling you to use paper to write down. And by all means for learning words you should write them down. Nonetheless, we need to use every resource available. And when you start with a language, vocabulary is everything; especially when you start from zero and don’t know anything about the new language you want to learn. In this case the digital way of learning out-ways the paper way of learning vocabulary, Considering we have our phones with us all the time, e.g. on the bus, when you are waiting in a place, or if you are bored, you can just jump right to the App and learn some new words. Another benefit of learning digitally, is that the App normally tracks your improvements and will repeat words that you can’t remember yet. Likewise in the beginning of learning a language, it is quite difficult to remember the words and the pronunciation. That is not because you are not smart, but as a result of how our brains work. As more neural connections a word in your brain has, the more easily you’ll remember it. With a new language these connections are pretty much zero; so this may take some time. For that reason the first classes are generally perceived more difficult as you brain is creating new neural connections. You need to push through this stage and the digital assistants will help you with this.
Here are some Apps you could use for learning English and German, some of them support even more languages. These Apps are important for beginner levels, whereas when you have progressed in the language you might not need them anymore. So choose one that you like to use. One important note is, that these Apps don’t explain much, so grammar and phrases you’ll get intuitively, that’s why they are great using together with the classes:
Every student likes a different style or App, so just find one that works best for you.
DuoLingo (free, with ads)
Is very well known and is available in many languages to use, and many different languages to learn. It is very easy to use and recommended for beginners. However, after a while some people feel it can get a bit repetitive and boring.
“Stadt der Wörter” Goethe Institute (free)
The Goethe Institute is entrusted by the German government to promote the German language. They have created an App to help improve your German vocabulary. Here you can choose the topic you want to learn, and also compete with other students.
“Lern German: Nico’s Weg “ Deutsch Welle (free)
The “Deutsche Welle” is a public German TV channel to present the German language and news. With Nico’s Weg they have created an interactive way to learn German through short videos and with interactive questions about those videos. It covers the levels A1 until B1, nonetheless my recommendation is to use the vocabulary Apps first like Duolingo Babbel, Stadt der Wörter first to have some base vocabulary and then to use Nico’s Weg. It is available as an App, but can also be used directly on their website.
Nowadays there are many language learning Apps/sites available. Some are free and some are paid. Let me know if you find one, that you like to use.
3. Use a good and reliable online dictionary
There are many online dictionaries out there, while most people use Google translate by default, which I am not recommending at all! To be honest with you, I am prohibiting my students to use Google translate! Yes, it is that bad! Better use a proper and reliable online dictionary. Additionally, be careful with ‘reverse translation’ websites, some of them are really bad. A few of my German students, came up with words from these sites, that don’t even exist in the German language! I personally use the following online dictionaries, and can only recommend using them, some also offer an App for downloading (Of course you can use others, just make sure you check with your teacher if they are good ones)
German / Portuguese: dict.leo.org.
English / Portuguese: www.wordreference.com
4. Remembering words
The key to learning a language fast is the ability to remember words quickly and efficiently. The more a new language, in particular German, is similar to your native language or other languages you speak, the easier it is, especially with the European language that share very similar alphabets with English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, etc. You can follow these tips regardless of how you learn the language, in class, by yourself, or with a private teacher!
Learning tables / Lerntabellen
Here are some “Lerntabellen” for helping you to organize words that you are learning; write them down, pay attention to the details, like articles and the plural forms of nouns. The main idea is that they help you to remember and structure the words that you are currently reading and learning. Always write an example phrase, for more context based learning. Of course, you can also just create these tables in your paper notebook. Here is a link to some examples for theses tables that you can print out. –> download Lerntabelle nouns in German (PDF)
Word trees (Wörternetze)
A very creative way of learning is to use mind maps, or word trees. Write down the name of the category or topic you want to learn in your notebook. Than start writing down the words you know by heart around that topic, afterwards add new words that you discover in your reading. Afterwards, add new words and look them up in an online dictionary. The more creative you make this, for example by using different colors, which I highly recommend for the definite articles in German. On top of writing down the words, drawing it will help you remember it even better. Of course you can create these word-maps for any language and any topics. Why don’t you start one Wörternetz right now?
More content on remember words:
→ Check out this article about more learning strategies; 10 proven tips on how to remember words in a foreign language
5. Understand the language learning curve
It is also important for you to understand the language learning curve.
A language is a complex construct that needs dedication and time to
learn it. Considering that in the beginning it is not so easy because
you’ll get a lot of new information; more like an information
overload. Your brain needs some time to adjust to that. Than after a
while, you’ll come to the point when you can understand a word
without translating (just out of the context) you reached the flow
level. How close your new language is to your native language plays a
big role. For example, if you speak Spanish and you want to learn
Portuguese, this will be easier, as the two languages are very
similar. Some words are very close (July/ Juli, summer / Sommer).
There is also a big difference between being able to speak fluently
in a class room setting talking with your teacher and having a
conversation with a native speaker on the street.
Having said that, I believe that everyone can learn any language, it just depends on our motivation and dedication.
→ Check out the video or article about the 5 stages of language learning for more aspects.
6. Use online exercises
As with learning anything new, you need to apply it and practice it. With languages it is about exercises, particularly when you learn by yourself, you need to have a feedback, to know if you are writing correctly or not. That’s why you need to look for online exercises that provide that feedback. Some books, or programs provide this feature, while some don’t.
On this website you’ll find some interactive online exercises that are specifically designed to help with the challenges German students are faced with and need to practice more. These are the result of teaching more than 6 years of private classes; hence they are practical and tested by many students. The quizzes were also created with beginners in mind, therefore you’ll get direct feedback for each questions that is answered. Typically you’ll need to answer 10 to 15 questions. They range from beginners to intermediate level. Now it’s quiz time, try it out:
Deutsche Welle Nico’s Weg.
I already suggested it as a vocabulary leaning App; but, Nico’s Weg also provides good content; especially in the form of videos and questions with answers about them.
7. Learn daily
Your level of success and the speed at which you can learn a new language, is proportional to the amount of time you spend with that language! Respectively, it’s my advice for beginners to dedicate 30 minutes to 60 minutes every day to the new language, including doing your homework, using a language learning App (See point 3: Use a good and reliable online dictionary), watching YouTube videos in the language, etc. Also, I should mention that having regular classes is going to help you with your learning continuity. It will help you to do you homework and learn the language. You could have the best teacher in the world, but without you doing your part you won’t make the progress that you could have.
8. Speak the language as much as possible
Out of my own experience, when I learned Portuguese from scratch while living in Brazil, speaking the language as much as possible is one of the best ways to improve. Only at the point, when I really started speaking Portuguese (I should say trying to speak, haha), even pronouncing many words wrongly, and making a lot of mistakes, did the real learning progress kicked in. This is the main reason why now my Portuguese is fluent. I know for some languages, depending on where you are living, it might be difficult to find people who speak that language, or to even to find native speakers. Anyhow, nowadays we can use all the advantages of the internet and technology; there you’ll find people for sure who speak the language you want to learn :-).
One way of doing this is to find a Tandem-partner; what does this mean? Find another person that speaks the language you are learning, and that wants to learn your native language. It is like a language exchange. So you spend half of the time speaking your native language, and the other half the native language of your partner.
Some people are afraid to speak the new language, because in the beginning they don’t get everything 100% correct. Actually it is the opposite: If you don’t speak, you won’t get to the level where you speak nearly perfect. With these tips you don’t have excuses anymore not to practice the language.
9. Have classes with a private teacher
Besides all the tips I have given you, for jump starting your new language, the best and most efficient way to learn is with a good private language teacher, that can guide you and help you through that process, as there are some traps you should avoid, that could hinder your progress in the language. Always make sure that your teacher has some language learning experience himself, to understand the struggles and difficulties of learning.
Now have fun learning German or another language faster and more efficiently!
Do you know other people who are learning a foreign language, or maybe who are struggling in doing so? Than feel free to share this article with them.
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