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Still trying to learn German with little success. need help...

Good day everyone!

I am living in Germany for a while now. I have done German B1. I still don"t feel comfortable with the language.

I work in a place surrounded by 100% Germans. I hear a lot everyday. I can understand German well, I think, as I can follow most of the discussions. I keep a note of the words which I don't understand and later I find the meaning.

Here are my issues: 1. Whenever I speak, I have to literally think in English and try translate which sometimes sounds stupid. 2. My German vocabulary is very limited. I feel this because I am unable to use them at right time. 3. Same goes with grammar. 4. I repeat the same topics and I still feel I don"t master it or don't even remember it.

I have a lot of resources (pdf, youtube,..) but somehow I am unable to find a thread which I can follow to learn.

How do you guys learn and master German?

Do you mind sharing your methods adapted for learning German? Any links to vocab, grammar tips are appreciated.

my Goal is to have good conversation in German without hesitation and write emails. B2 would be good.

Thank you.

March 17, 2018



As I understand it, you already seem to have a lot of input, which is totally fine, but you lack in getting the words out at the right time.

So I would suggest not adding more input at the moment, but instead focus on practicing speaking, even if you feel insecure and have to search for the right words (which is normal).

Among your German acquaintances, is there someone with whom you could go to a pub or something similar, and just talk to them? It would be good if that was a person you feel comfortable with, who is able to wait until you have found your words, and who just talks with you. I think this should stabilize the skills that you already have (and I would bet that in the background, you have acquired much more skills and knowledge than you think!), and this should help you get out of your current deadlock situation.


I am somehow in the same boat with you, I'm about B1 level, surrounded by Germans but words do not come out, which makes the communication quite difficult. I'd say vocabulary is my biggest issue. I know the words when I see them written somewhere, but while conservation they are all gone in my brain.

I've recently been applying the following method:

Every day I write down (by hand in the small notebook) 10 new words which I find useful in my everyday life and then create 10 example sentences with them (which I could also actually use in real life). These words I usually pick from Duolingo exercises or news sites.

Then of course I'll try to memorize the sentences, repeat them in the bus etc...

Just for example: verbessern = improve (example sentence: Ich möchte mein Deutsch verbessern.)

Can be of course anything else or even more difficult, maybe something that you'd need in your school/work.

I found creating those sentences quite efficient, I hope it will work for you :)


And of course, like others already mentioned, actually speaking yourself and communication with natives will get you quite far very soon!


counter intuitive but it's because you don't speak it enough. You have to just go through that 'pain period' of talking really stilted and slowly till it starts coming a lot more natural and faster with time. Its a bit like learning how to play the guitar, how to hold it, learning chords etc but until you pick it up and practise you have acvhieved nothing.

My biggest tip though, is to learn key phrases and sentences that can be used very frequently and build up on your learnt sentences. For example if you're living in german you'll get asked why you're learning it alot, so have a stock answers ready to go.

  • 2055

In my own experience B1 is really not high enough level to be comfortable around natives. B2 and expecially C1 is where it gets more cozy and of course C2 is what your aim should be if you want to be as comfortable as natives in everything you do.

Your problem seems to be that you don't have enough active skills in German. Active skills (speaking and writing = when you have to produce sentences in the language) come with better speed in translating into your target language and that speed comes with a lot of absorbing the language in any possible way and of course in practising the writing and speaking itself. When I was learning English I did a lot of reading and a lot of watching TV shows. I was also writing a lot in English and eventually had a chance to be in an English speaking environment and even though I was around C1 level at the time, it still wasn't easy and I had a lot of problems to adjust my accent and generally to be understood when I wanted to say something (even though I felt comfortable speaking). It eventually sank in though and was all good.

The moral is that it can all be done. I would suggest a lot of reading for you, find something that you are interested in (I used to read English books about computers for example). Also expanding your vocabulary is a good idea (maybe a flip card app on your phone could work) - when you know more synonyms you will have a better chance to remember one of them when you need it. And of course speaking with natives is great too, if you help it in other ways (like reading and vocabulary expanding), you will be fluent in no time.

Good luck :-)

EDIT: I read your post again, sorry I didn't include before the links and resources I used for German : https://www.duolingo.com/comment/24437249


My son had an experience like yours. After studying German at school and following an individual course (three times a week of conversation with a mother-tongue teacher), he went to work in Germany at a rather high level. The first weeks were very hard, and he met people who didn't help him with his obvious problems: Germany is difficult to master in conversations! But after a while (say 2/3 months) he overcame it all and became perfectly at ease. Now (many years later) occasionally his German wife finds an error in his sentences, but...who doesn't make errors? The advices you have already received seem very wise and useful. Be confident !


I think you need some conversation lessons, or a mutual support arrangement with someone who wants to improve their English. Where are you? Maybe someone here knows a good teacher in your area?

Do you read in German? Sometimes reading aloud helps.


Thank you all for taking time in answering and helping me out.

I did start with writing down the vocabs everyday.

I believe my problem is being hesitant to speak wrongly. I know I have to make mistakes and learn from them. it is like a Catch 22. :( My mind just blocks it..

I think compared to last months, I am using more German but that isn"t sufficient as I can see it for myself.

I will try to follow all of your feedback and see which one fits well.

Once again, thank you.


I wish you luck and courage, Skywalker. I'm perhaps not even B1, specially speaking (presumably reading and writing). But I've learnt a valuable lesson here, and at an early point: I firmly believed I couldn't be understood if I was not totally on point. When I dared to communicate anyway, because I knew a dearly wanted answer that I had to give in German, perfect or not I was understood and thanked. Mistakes I made a plenty, and still do, but the essential part is communication, and that works, the more the better.

If I can offer one last advice: speak to yourself. A lot. This way you won't be corrected, but you won't be intimidated either. Get familiar with rolling the words out your tongue, with using these sentence structures. Then when there's somebody to hear you, it will be much more natural to you, and the mistakes will be your only problem, easier to deal with than one thinks, and no more the blanking of the mind.

Have a wonderful time!


I went to Germany last year for a month to visit a friend. when I first arrived in Germany I was overwhelmed by their language but I plucked up the confidence and spoke whatever German I knew. The people who could mostly all speak English anyway said that I don't have to speak German if I don't want to but I did because I wanted to practice my accents. Anyhow when I got back home in Glasgow airport I bumped into a man and I found myself apologizing in German. Don't be afraid to sound silly it's how you learn and if babies can learn so can you. if you are looking for tea bags don't be afraid to go into a shop and say excuse my do you have any fischkessel oder schweineschue all you'll get is a confused look perhaps a giggle. Confidence is all it takes

  • 2055

Cool story :-) Thanks for sharing.


One thing to remember, which might help your confidence, is that you don’t need to speak correctly to be understood. If someone said to you “yesterday, I travel London”, you’d know what they meant and probably ask them about it. The communication has been successful.... And communication is after all why we talk to people. A conversation isn’t a language class and so you need a different mindset. If you manage to exchange some information or ideas with someone you ‘got it right’ even if you made loads of mistakes!

You also mention google translate. I’d recommend using it (or a dictionary app such as Leo) to look up any key words you need, but it’s going to be hard to remember whole phrases. With B1 level you should have enough basic grammar to be able to slot in any new nouns or verbs into basic sentences.

As others have said, getting out there and speaking is the next step. Like training for a marathon you need to go out for lots of training runs before you’ll be able to do the whole distance/speak fluently and effortlessly. Good luck and don’t be too hard on yourself.


This is a great answer. I had the same problem with learning languages (I am German, and I am talking about English and Spanish). When I was in School I avoided talking because the other children would make fun of me, and by doing so I never progressed because even though I learned all the vocabulary and was good in listening comprehension I just could not talk fluently. This only changed after I left school.

For learning Spanish I actively went to Spain to live there for half a year. Therefore I was forced to speak it every day, and if I needed something I had to communicate in any way possible. Of course Spanish people are so helpful and try to understand whatever you say.

Unfortunately, in general I feel we Germans are not as friendly and open-minded :(

But don't let that bother you. With every sentence you speak, you will get more fluent, and in the end, that is the only thing that counts!


Do not underestimate Germans! I've been here for 4 months, will start B1 on Monday and, while my passive knowledge of German is fairly good, my speaking skills are... not that good :( I am a perfectionist, so speaking with the awareness of not doing so correctly used to terrorise me... until I realised that this way I was wasting my money and time, and I started talking to people. I was surprised that they actually understood me, they obviously made an effort and a couple of times, when I apologised for my bad German, friendly people told me not to worry as they did understand what I meant, so all good :)

My advice to Skywalker, just speak! I know you feel stupid, but people don't really care and they are not going to remember you and the mistakes you made! Every time you speak and notice a mistake you have made, you will remember it and won't make it again. It is just a matter of time, and practice makes perfect!

Good luck! :)


Oh, another tip, look for a tandem partner, someone German who wants to learn your native language. This way you won't feel the pressure of speaking perfect German as you are both at the same level and words will soon flow!


Good luck, Skywalker. When babies begin to talk they use two word sentances and manage to get the message across. Try talking to yourself in German as you go about your daily routine. You're still thinking in English. Try thinking in German.


i think you can't remember couse it is to much information. your brain is probably overwhelmed. for the time being stop everything you are doing onthe internet in order to learnd german und just make friends with the people. U will get more comfortable with the language just from that.



I work in Germany and there are usually a lot of opportunities to talk!

You can look for a Tandem : you offer a language, say english, and you meet with an other person, that is a german speaker: he talks to you in english and you correct him, and you answer in german and the other person corrects you (all for free (: ).

You can find these kind of activities in universities (for sure) or in libraries. In my city there is also german people in pension that meet in libraries to talk with strangers in german and help them!

Good luck!


Versatile Learning Methods = Very Important

1) Watching TV shows/movies with subtitles: Türkisch für Anfänger (show on youtube), Das Leben der Anderen (movie), Good Bye, Lenin! (movie), Nirgendwo in Afrika (movie)

2) Listening to music with accompanying lyrics: Nummer Eins - Stereoact, Egal - Mike Singer, 80 Millionen - Max Giesinger

3) Reading song lyric translations: find an artist you love (cause practice means hitting that repeat button until your finger is numb) and learn 5–7 songs of theirs very well; listen to these songs as you read the side-by-side translations on here: http://lyricstranslate.com/en; my artist is Tokio Hotel

4) Reading short stories: here is a direct link to beginner German texts; these span a large variety of topics and overall focuses, so you can easily read through all of them without much repetition or risk of boredom

5) Speaking with friends/natives: finding a small group to practice with can be the difference between 6-month or 6-year fluency (honestly, this is everything); find a German practice group either through Meetup, Tandem, My Language Exchange (voice chat with German natives and learners), or InterPals Penpals(voice chat); ignore all the above if you have German relatives or close friends (you’re the lucky ones :D)

6) Writing everything you recently learned on a running log, including vocab lists broken down by category (keep adding words to different categories as you learn them); even better if you write out a practice sentence using each new vocab word you add to the list - this greatly increases retention

Some Cool Apps + Websites

Lingolia: (grammar exercises) Dartmouth - German Grammar: (grammar topical review) Deutsch Drang: (audio activities, reading comprehension) Deutsch Akademie: (free audio course) Tandem: (speak with natives) WeSpeke: (speak with natives) My Language Exchange: (voice chat with German natives and learners) InterPals Penpals: (voice chat)

P.S. Follow my journey as I create a newsletter teaching the German language. Click "Join Email List" at the top of this link to join: http://conta.cc/2EVkQxG


I'm just gonna reply here so I can remember where this post is at hahah thank you :-) this is extremely helpful.


So I am a German, however I have been in the same situation when it came to learning foreign languages. Some of the answers already pointed out that the problem is not the German input you get, but the output you produce. To become fluent in a language you have to use it as much and as often as possible. That is something I learned the hard way (in school I often nearly failed English, because I was too shy to talk in English and pupils would make fun of me, for my errors and my pronunciation).

I gained most of my language skills after realizing that at my job I was better in English than all of my co-workers which gave me confidence to try to talk as much as possible in English - I mean, non of them could do it any better, so non of them could criticize me. This really boosted my English skills. I started looking for people that spoke English and I realized that most of them are friendly and are happy to talk to someone in their language - and most of them also really admired it that you take the effort to learn about their language and their culture.

One thing that I did, and where I would say it helped me a lot is blogging. I started blogging in English for exactly that reason. I thought about what I could be telling any interested reader and after finding my topic (self-management/self-improvement) I started blogging about it in English. 2-3 times a week a short article (no more than 1000 words); it took a lot of time in the beginning, I had to proof-read a lot, I had to have a dictionary with me, and I was angry about myself that so many words that I knew, did not come to mind when I needed them. But with every new blog entry, writing became easier and more fluent. Nowadays I don't need to think about anything at all, I just start writing and the sentences will form themselfe. I even think in English when writing English.

And of course this also helps your spoken fluency. It is not a substitution for talking though. You also need to find people who you can talk to in German as much as possible. Your colleagues, German friends, etc. If you don't know anyone, try to visit the next University or Library and look up their black boards. I know that a lot of students are on the lookout for tandem partners, i.e. people you meet up with every week and have a coffee or tea just to talk with them, half of the session in their language, half of them in yours. At my university I had a free period every week and spent it in the cafeteria, and during that time there where two tandem groups in the cafeteria that met every week the same time, had coffee and talked half time in German half time in another language (one was French, the other I did not recognize).


    As others have said, you've got to push through the barrier with more speaking - there's no quick tip or hack that will unlock this for you!

    Finding the right environment in which to do this undoubtedly helps, however. "Just start talking to people!" is not a solution to your discomfort in talking with people. In-person language classes, especially ones with frequent contact (one month of classes every weekday morning, for example) will give you exactly what you need - an environment where everyone is learning, and exercises designed to strengthen the skill of hearing and responding in German without the internal back-and-forth translation.

    Use the times you are by yourself to practice this skill too. You can force yourself to think in German, where possible. Naming items, saying to yourself what you're about to do or just did. With a little practice, the first thing that will pop into your head will be German.

    Whichever approach you go with, it will take time. But avoiding it will take longer ;)


    Thank you everyone for taking time in sharing your thoughts and experiences. It is really helpful.

    I hope to comeback someday with my success story. Success in terms of my ability to converse fluently.



    We are waiting for your successful comeback!


    We are waiting eagerly ;)


    Try translating things into German. You will pick up words and after awhile it will seem natural to look at something and know what it is in German. I don't have a high level in another language so this is just an idea, it may be below your level of expertise.


    I think this is where I am failing..I mostly rely on Google translate before talking and after that I fail to remember those words..:-(


    Sounds like you need to practice those words again and again until you don't just know them, but they come easily to you. Obviously being afraid to speak seems the harder part of the two.


    Obviously :) I wan to overcome that which is what I am trying to do nowadays but hard.


    You will, it will happen in time. Just like you didn't learn German overnight, you will find it will happen like learning German bit by bit. Just my thought on the topic.


    Sounds like the crown system could be of great benefit to him...like this is exactly the kind of situation that system caters to, people who need that repetition to get the words out.


    google translate is good for translating text not the best for conversations don't mean to push the product but do you have duoling app on your phone you can have basic conversations with the bots on the app it helps a little.


    true. I do have the Duolingo app. Been practicing but looks like certainly not enough :/


    It is a difficult language but the hardest part is the basics once you learn the basics it's plain sailing. Your at an advantage living in Germany I have friends in Hamburg and talk to them online that helps me so I can only suggest what everyone else is saying speak to the natives ask a shopkeeper a question you already know the answer to get directions off a police officer or a traffic warden ask and in time you'll even have dreams in German


    practice at your own pace don't worry about skill levels or streaks sometimes I get bored don't use duolingo for months watch German Language films on Netflix instead more fun


    Problem is I live in germany and the need for the language is getting more and more important to me :)


    I'm currently reading "language hacking german" by benny lewis it's specifically for learning the language quickly and being able to speak it well from the beginning. The whole idea behind the book is that saying the words a lot and learning (or maybe even memorizing in the beginning) the way sentences are formed and where verbs + nouns, etc. go is the most important thing to learn and that this is the best method for learning a new language.


    Thanks for the info. Will try to get that book. Perhaps it has some tips which could help me crack this code.


    I totally second that book. I got th ebook. I visited Germany recently and found 2 big things from that book helpful. One is the 30 second challenge, Benny suggests making a script and literally trying to speak with someone for 30 seconds. I am rubbish so I made it my 10 second challenge till I got better. I remember getting off the plane in Berlin and saying to myself ‚‘ come on TEN seconds‘ the first 10 second got me through passport control, the next got me directions to the car hire, and they next a chat at th cat hire desk. I lapsed into English most times, but each time I managed more German.

    His other one, and a pp has mentioned it, Tarzan speak. Don’t be perfect, don’t try to be perfect. ‚Hi, i John. I come London,go Berlin.‘ we KNOW what you mean.

    Tarzan and the 10 second rule got me through so many interactions till I got more confidence.

    So jealous of you living there.

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