German and I are like distant second cousins. We’re in the same room for family functions, have never really talked, but when we do finally bump into each other, we realize after all that we could have gotten along (with some jägermeister shots).
After a two-month stint with my ex in Berlin in 2011, right around when Berlin was just emerging as the cool capital of Europe, I had mastered the many English-German cognates like tausend, Haus, and schwimmen.
My late-night döner kebap visits taught me how to say words like kleine, groß, mit gemüse or vegetarisch. My club visits to everywhere from Warschauer Straße to clubs without names in factories off sketchy U-bahn stops taught me how to order a drink ich nehm’ ein Feigling. Living in a WG, a flatshare, with five nationalities present taught me the most. To wash, wäschen, To eat, essen. To open, öffnen. Being surrounded by any language is, by all means, the best way for it to infiltrate your brain – but I get it, it’s not the easiest thing to fly off to Frankfurt for the weekend. So instead, you’re here. Good start.
Extra auf Deutsch (but with English subtitles)
A FRIENDS-like sitcom designed for language learners. In the German version, Sam arrives in Berlin and moves in with two girls, who quickly develop a love-hate triangle with him. And in addition to the fact that I find some parts actually hilarious, something not too common with language learning resources, it’s impressive that Sam’s role as the American studying abroad and learning the language, remains the same in the French, Spanish, German versions.
LEARN GERMAN WITH ANJA
“Learn German with… anJAAA” will forever be stuck in your head after watching a few of Anja’s German videos. Anja is like that one bubbly, up-for-anything girl you’d bump into at the cash register of a coffee shop, who invites you out to a bar with her just-as-cool friends, and who then turns into a close friend. She has personally made me feel like learning German is not completely impossible and for that, I thank her.
I’m convinced you could actually start from zero German and work your way up to at least advanced-intermediate by making your way through Easy German’s playlist. They even have a playlist with Super Easy German, where they speak at a speed that probably makes most German speakers uncomfortable but that makes us German learners wish they speak at all times. Another great option is their playlist German From The Street. In any case, Carina is that girl, and again, as with most Germans you’ll encounter, she’s the kind of cool, laidback person who makes you want to learn her language.
If you enjoy things like studying in beautiful Viennese buildings with down-to-earth teachers (was it with the German language?), Actilingua Vienna might be the school for you. I’m huge on self-teaching, but there comes a time when your hundreds of questions need answers. Actilingua answered mine. But beware: you will never get a clear-cut answer as to why German needs 17,000 words for “the” – der, die, das, dem, den, des, etc.
ASSIMIL FALSE BEGINNERS
I admit to being a language learner who is all over the place. I learn complex grammar structure like the past tense and future tense before the basics like the alphabet and how to say dog. That way, I can carry on a decent conversation with someone other than a 4-year-old. In other words, I am 100% a false beginner and after learning other languages, the last thing I want to spend time on is a book or teacher explaining what conjugation means. I want the fast-track, and then to touch-up from there, and this book is for learners just like me.
ABENTEUER HIMMELSSCHEIBE (APP/GAME ON MY PHONE)
Does anyone else feel slightly guilty playing video games? I’m always torn like I’m wasting my god damn time on something that literally isn’t offering me anything in return. At the same time, leisure time is what helps rejuvenate you to keep going. In other words, I could probably use a chill pill.
Abenteuer Himmelsscheibe, or any game in a foreign language, is the solution. I used to play The Sims in French (Woohoo! is still Woohoo! by the way), but now I’ve got this on my phone, where I’m trying to solve a murder mystery by guiding my man around a mysterious town and asking people in hotels and restaurants for information… in German. Anyway, it’s free.
The Obvious Hacks
Change the language on your phone, laptop, and social media to German.
Follow a German Language Learning Instagram account to subconsciously weave learning into fun.
Find a German pen pal and video chat (it’s only awkward the first time).
Rotate watching a Netflix original in German with English subtitles and in English with German subtitles.
DUOLINGO LAB STORIES
Instead of flash-carding your way through learning a language, there is a relatively new option in the backend of Duolingo (on desktop only), where you can learn the language through suspenseful stories that actually keep you engaged. Stories range from going on dates with your children’s professor to buying a book and finding a secret letter inside to telling your spouse that you have something to say, now that you’ve turned 40. I told you they were good.
No seriously. You might pay $10 a month for access to a language learning software, but you could pay $9.99 for a Tinder Passport, where you can connect with locals before arriving. If you’re already wifed up, try Bumble. The point is: chatting with a real person is the best way to learn the most recent slang that is catching on.
I’m constantly on the lookout for new, fresh ways to learn German… mainly because I get bored of the same, predictable method. If you know of any tried-and-true methods, please comment below. If you’re a sponsor who would like us to try one of your German language learning resources, please get in contact via the Contact page.
And to finish this post off: if there’s one thing that remains true when it comes to learning any language: find yourself a foreign boo, and you’ll be fluent 2x faster. Trust me. How do you think I speak French so fluently?
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