Friday, 27 September 2013

16 tips on how to become fluent in German

The challenges of German were the only reason why learning the language was such a fun process for me.
Malay is my ethnic language and English is the language I grew up with. I started learning German in 2007 and I've been living in Germany for at least 3 years now speaking German fluently. 

If you are learning German whether for business, studies or for fun and you are looking for some practical tips on how to become fluent in German, then you are at the right place.
This is some of the advice which is based on what I personally did to get to where I am now.

The first thing you need to succeed is to eat, sleep, breathe, think and be the german language.
With a lot of dedication and discipline, I'm sure that you can do it too.

  1. Take serious and intensive german classes if you can afford to
    Deutsch als Fremdsprache - VHS Göttingen - That's me (second from left) and my classmates.

    I took a basic 3-month course in German in my homecountry (Singapore) and saved up just enough to take an intensive German course in Germany. I was allowed to stay for 3 months on a normal tourist visa so I stayed at a friend's place and signed up for the Deutsch als Fremdsprache (German as Foreign Language) class at the Volkshochschule in Göttingen.

    Another alternative for a lot of young people is to apply for an Au-Pair Programme where you stay with a german host family for 1 year doing simple chores, babysitting and helping the kids with their homework. With this you would have more than enough time for an intensive language course and a whole load of practice in German.

  2. Invest on a good book with an audio CD

    Image courtesy of

    This book and the CD that came with it accompanied me on all my bus and train trips. So I recommend getting this one or something better. Follow up the lessons on the disk and do every practise in the book. And then listen to the CD like it's full of the latest hits.
    Don't underestimate the power of listening. Your brain will pick up every pronunciation over time so that you are able to get it right.

  3. Spend at least 2 hours everyday on German

    I was obsessed.
    Learn German everyday. Choose one thing that you want to do, for example: Today I would like to watch something in German.... which leads to my next point...

  4. Watch german movies or films with and without subtitles

    Some of the german films I recommended to a friend. 
    Search for any German films on the internet and go to your local stores to grab them before you miss the chance. If they don't have any then you could always purchase them online. Most of the widely available German films are based on the second world war but whatever, they will teach you some good stuff.

  5. Listen to german radio (for example, on the internet)
    Courtesy of Radio FFN

    I used to listen to FFN Radio a lot when I was surfing. Click here to go direct to the live streaming web player. You could be doing this while you're surfing too. The best thing is, you don't have to understand everything. Just enjoy the music.
    What? You're not tuned in? Oh then stop wasting time now and get started! :)

  6. Listen to german music
    My little iRiver T5.
    Image courtesy of
    Now that you have a german radio to listen to, start picking out some of your favourite german songs for your media player. You could then either purchase them online or watch them on YouTube.

  7. Practice, perfect and master any flawed pronunciations

    Courtesy of Jonathan V via Flickr
    This is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome, but you can do it. I'm a perfectionist so I wanted my pronunciation to be good. I recorded my voice while reading a german text and listened to myself. If something isn't quite right yet, I will focus on that pronunciation and practice it and listen to how it is pronounced for as long as it takes until I get it right.
    It's a little psychotic, I know, but I'm proof that it works.

  8. Label everything in your house in German

    My good friend Kammy knitted Jack Skellington for me and  I used him to label common body parts in German.
    Paste little labels on every object in your house so that when you see something you will know what it's called in German. It's a natural learning process that saves you time. And please don't forget the articles (der, die, das)!

  9. Make your own flash cards and categorize them

    Image courtesy of
    Flashcards help you to go through a single word at a time. I made mine with pictures on one side and the german word for it on the back. If you don't feel like doing anything with books, you just learn even on the couch.

  10. Read german children's books, magazines and newspapers

    My German's a lot advanced now so I improve by reading the papers,
    political magazines and Reader's Digest.
    There are actually people on eBay Germany (or eBay for that matter) who practically give away old children's books, magazines and newspapers. If you can't get them in your local bookstores, consider getting some online from those who are selling them off real cheap. If you're lucky just ask and you could get some for free.

  11. Use pronunciation helpers like

    Image courtesy of Thank you, Forvo!! is a great website which I discovered a few years ago when I desperately needed help pronouncing a certain word. It's practically an underused, underestimated website which deserves SO much more recognition. So if you don't know how to pronounce words like Streichholzschächtelchen then Forvo could help!

  12. Use a German-English-English-German minidictionary

    My worn out German-English Minidictionary.
    It has served me well. It badly needs an update.
    Now I use the online dictionary at

    You should be able to get one in your local bookstore and if not then, as usual, purchase one online. I used an Oxford German-English Minidictionary and made the habit to search for a word I don't understand. You could even read the dictionary as if it was a huge list of vocabulary (which it is). You will be surprised to know that your brain might just remember certain words for you with little effort.

  13. Practice your writing in German

    "Es ist Freitag Morgen, noch 2 Tage in Göttingen und dann fahren wir zurück. Gestern war schönes Wetter, heute sieht's aber ein bisschen traurig aus. Wir waren auf dem Tierfriedhof, um Mohrles Grab zu verschönern. Einen Glasrahmen mit einem Foto von ihr habe ich darauf gestellt. Auch eine Solar-Lampe steht jetzt da als Deko. Ich dachte, vielleicht wären Kerzen genug gewesen. Aber wer soll diese jeden Tag anzünden? Keine gute Idee." 
     - taken from my blog entry "Ich habe Hunger". Words in green have been corrected. 

    A good way to practice German is to write. Start off on paper with simple words and then simple sentences. Write about yourself. Then write about your day. And when you get better, write about your thoughts and feelings. It's a way for you to practice and make mistakes without having to worry about them.... which leads to my next point:

  14. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - the more you make, the faster and better you learn

    That's me telling you to JUST DO IT!

    Fear of making mistakes is one of the biggest reasons we fail. When it comes to learning German, or any language for that matter, the right thing to do is to allow room for mistakes. You are just starting out so don't be so hard on yourself. Take it with a bit of humour 'coz with every mistake you make, you make one less... until you're (almost) perfect!

  15. Practice simple conversations

    Image by Tim Schoon via

    If you could find someone who could practice speaking German with you then be sure to make the best of it. Speak to each other in German as much as you can, correct each other's mistakes and ask each other questions.

  16. Build your German vocabulary in a game and make it fun

    Image via

    If you like playing video games, for example, then I recommend "Mein Wortschatz Coach" for the Nintendo Wii. It's an amazing game to build up on your German vocabulary step-by-step on a daily basis. It was a game I found at MediaMarkt and it was lying in one of those boxes for cheap 'rejected' stuff, haha. I still play this game until today. The virtual teachers are encouraging and the lessons are simple to follow.
    There are many similar games out there for PCs and other game consoles so don't hesistate to try at least one out.

Good luck on your journey to being fluent in german. I hope this had helped. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment! Viel Spaß!


  1. Good review of things to do to improve; I just answered almost the identical things in Yahoo!Answers