This is the text of a free eBook, the first of four, all designed to help you with your German!
Over the past several months I've been writing out techniques that have helped clients and myself learn (more) German and it's turned into four eBooks, one about each of the four language skills:
These are the four skills that every quality book or German learning material will exercise, and the four skills you need to be able to communicate in German. This is what needs to be exercised in every lesson, every class, and should be the focus of your German practice each week.
I hope you find them helpful, motivating, and encouraging! Es hat viel Spaß gemacht, sie zu schreiben! If you're on the newsletter list already, you received all four these in an email yesterday (Nov. 14).
The ENTIRE text of "5 Top Tips to Help You Speak German More Easily" is here and if you'd like to get the PDF version, plus the other 3 free eBooks, there is a sign-up at the bottom. And there may be a bonus tip for you somewhere in those eBooks, too!
So, meine geehrte Damen und Herren, without further ado:
5 Top Tips to Help You Speak German More Easily
Erfolg hat drei Buchstaben: t u n !
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
 lit. Success has three letters: do!
To be successful at speaking German, you need to speak, and trying to speak without any form or specific goal makes it more difficult. It’s important to give yourself a specific task or framework for speaking, otherwise you might flounder.
After all, can you imagine trying to cook a new meal without knowing what the ingredients are? Surely not!
Would you ever set out on a road trip without looking at a map first? Probably not. (Although that could result in some fun adventures!)
These tips serve as a road map for you. How to get from A – where you are now to B – speaking German more easily. Try each of them out and see how they work for you. And see what you discover along the way!
Tip #1: Read everything in your book aloud.
When you’re learning German with a textbook specifically for learning German as a Foreign Language, you’ll be learning in a step-by-step manner with a core set of vocabulary so you are continually adding to your knowledge in a process that makes sense. Each section or chapter is like a portion of German.
So when you have worked through each section, read everything aloud to yourself. It gives you the opportunity to practice:
- a text which is 100% correct
- what you’ve just learned in your lesson or course
- everything you are working on in your homework
- without having to figure anything out
Not only does this help reinforce what you’ve been learning, it helps you to literally see what’s on the page in front of you. What the grammar concepts are, how the grammar functions, and how it’s used correctly in your textbook.
Tip #2: Use these podcasts.
Die Deutsche Welle ist einfach unschlagbar. The „Deutsche Welle“ (DW) is the German news source that produces the world’s news in 30 different languages and they have free German learning resources.
One of these is the podcast Alltagsdeutsch or “everyday German.” It’s aimed at C1/C2 level learners and includes the mp3/iTunes podcast, a transcript (they call it a “manuscript”) and exercises.
Another podcast for earlier levels of learning is the Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten, the slowly spoken newscast. DW produces these podcasts from Monday to Saturday each week and in addition to the audio, you also get a full transcript of the text so you can read along. This is aimed at B2/C1 learners, and although that may be a big challenge for a lot of folks, since you already know what the events of the day are, it will be easier for you to pick up on the items as you listen.
How to use these podcasts for speaking:
A lot of people make the same mistake when they learn German: they constantly add new podcasts to their listening routine. And they do nothing but listen to them. Once. This isn’t going to help anyone learn German because there’s no work being done with the material.
Here’s how you can use the podcasts for speaking:
- Listen to the podcast to get the general idea of the topic/the day’s events.
- Listen to the podcast again, following along with the transcript.
- Repeat step #2, repeating any sections or words that are unclear. Look up tough words and phrases.
- When you’re comfortable, restart the podcast and read the text aloud with the speaker. Try only the first section and repeat. Try the next section and repeat. Do this, section by section, as you go through the podcast.
- Restart the podcast and read the entire text aloud as you listen to the entire podcast.
When you are done with all of this, your brain will be chock-full of German and you’ll probably be fairly tired. Congratulations! That means you’ve worked hard. Be sure to take a break.
And then…repeat. Repeat this process the next day and the next and see how your understanding of this podcast and its text change. What does it feel like to speak the text like a Nachrichtenmoderator? What grammar constructions have you come across that you recognize?
If you like, give yourself percentages of how much you understand as you repeat this process on five different days. At what point do you notice the biggest change? On day one, when you repeat everything five times? Or perhaps on day four, when you’ve had twenty repetitions? Note that for future podcast listening/speaking work.
Tip #3: Have a conversation…with yourself!
This works really well when you want more speaking practice and you have limited time because you can split the work up into mini-sessions.
First, you need a two-person dialogue you’ve written in class or one from your book. Be sure it has been checked/corrected so you’re practicing correct grammar, etc.
Second, you need a recording device, whether it’s your smart phone, free audio software like Audacity, or a pocket-size voice recorder.
Third, you need to simply sit down and record one of the people in the dialogue, choose person A or person B. Be sure to leave a few seconds in between each line.
Fourth, you play the recording and speak the dialogue as if it were a real conversation. Repeat.
For a lovely twist on this, you can then record the dialogue as the other person and switch it up on a daily basis as you practice through the week. If you’re sick of this dialogue by the end of the week, you’ve learned it well. Gut gemacht!
Tip #4: Learn your favorite movie quotes by heart in German
There is perhaps nothing more fun than learning your favorite movie quotes in German. If it’s your favorite movie quote already, you’re bound to know it well and you can learn something in German which immediately means something to you. The more meaning German has to you, the better you will learn it.
Do you know which movies these are from?
„Der Typ sah irgendwie schräg aus.“
„Beim zweiten Stern rechts und dann gerade aus.“
„Naja, ich will nicht arrogant klingen oder so, aber ich bin der beste Botaniker auf diesem Planeten.“
The first one is from the Coen Brothers’ movie “Fargo,” and is the quote from Mr. Mohra when he says the guy was “kinda funny-lookin’.”
The second quote is from “Peter Pan.” “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.”
The third one is from “The Martian,” from character Mark Watney: “I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the greatest botanist on this planet.”
What’s your favorite movie quote? Google the name of the movie with the German word Zitate (quotes) and voila! You’ve got it.
Once you’ve learned it and sat with it a while, ask yourself if it’s what you expected. Does it feel different in German? Does it give you a new perspective on the same meaning? (This was true for me when I saw Fargo in German; since I’m from the upper Midwest “funny-lookin’” is a totally normal expression for me, I know exactly what they mean. But schräg?! Das ist ja ganz was anderes!
Tip #5: Talk to your cat/dog/dust bunnies in German.
This may sound like the weirdest tip, but it is one of the most helpful techniques if you think you are too shy to speak in German.
Your cat/dog/dust bunnies aren’t going to judge you for making a mistake or sounding like you have a thick accent in German. So start out with a few phrases and repeat them over the course of a week and see how your opinion on your own speaking changes. Here are a few phrases you can say to Muffin (or Rex):
Hast du Hunger? – Are you hungry?
Wir gehen jetzt schlafen. – We’re going to sleep now!
Was machst du? – What are you doing?
If you want to use German command forms for training your dog, you can simply google that. And for a cat, you can easily discover German-engineered cat trees on the internet, too. Here’s my personal favorite.
Really, though, this tip gets at the fact of the matter: all you need to do to speak German more easily is to speak. So whether it’s to the dust bunnies, the dog, or your non-German-speaking spouse or roommate, it all circles back to Goethe:
Erfolg hat drei Buchstaben: t u n !
~Johann Wolfang von Goethe
Sign up below to read the bonus tip and get the three other eBooks in this series:
5 Top Tips for Listening More Effectively to German
5 Top Tips to Help You Write Better in German
5 Top Tips to Help You Read More Effectively in German
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