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.
- 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.
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.
- Invest on a good book with an audio CD
Image courtesy of www.pons.de
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.
- Spend at least 2 hours everyday on German
I was obsessed.
- Watch german movies or films with and without subtitles
Some of the german films I recommended to a friend.
- 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! :)
- Listen to german music
My little iRiver T5.
Image courtesy of Akihabaranews.com
- Practice, perfect and master any flawed pronunciations
Courtesy of Jonathan V via Flickr
It's a little psychotic, I know, but I'm proof that it works.
- 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.
- Make your own flash cards and categorize them
Image courtesy of abcteach.com
- 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.
- Use pronunciation helpers like Forvo.com
Image courtesy of Forvo.com. Thank you, Forvo!!
Forvo.com 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!
- 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 Dict.leo.org.
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.
- 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:
- 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!
- Practice simple conversations
Image by Tim Schoon via uiowa.edu
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.
- Build your German vocabulary in a game and make it fun
Image via amazon.de
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!