An ode to German.
I am sorry for the long post. I just wanted to share about my experience learning German, my love for the language, and some of the ressources I use. Please feel free to share with me what you think. I believe this website is also about sharing so yes, why not trying?
I am a native French speaker, and in France, at age 13, most children have to choose between learning Spanish or German. I really wanted to learn German, but my mother (who is fluent in Spanish) forced me to learn Spanish because she could help me and because "it is a lot more useful than German". So I took Spanish. Don't get me wrong, I loved learning Spanish, it was interesting and I've learnt many things about Spain and South America that I am glad to know, and still want to explore. With time, I didn't pay much attention to Germany nor German. A few years ago, I was still certain that I would never, ever, be able to speak German. And I was not sad about it, just indifferent.
Why learning German?
I often get that question, and I have seen people discussing it on this forum. But I am always very surprised, I mean, why not learning German? It would be so sad to only learn a language because it is useful... My will to learn German really started when I discovered philosophy. I guess you all know that, but German philosophy is really rich. I studied philosophy and ALL the teachers emphasized a lot on the fact that "a translation is always a bad translation". We used many German words, simply because it could not be translated in French, the etymology was often even more important than the meaning of the word. That's how I discovered the beauty of the German language, how rich it is, how meaningful. Yes, the grammar is hard, but its beauty lies in it as well. I became frustrated not being able to read in German, German philosophy is rich but so is German literature. There are so many books I want to read, but not the translations. Goethe, Kafka, Hölderlin, Musil, von Kleist, Rilke, Mann... I took one year of German at university, and got to learn the very basics. The same year I went to Germany for the first time, and visited Berlin. I had never been in a city where I felt so surrounded by History before. Because yes, the History of Germany is rich as well and interesting. The more I learn about it, the more I am interested in the country and its culture. German music as well, Bach, Beethoven... And I happen to be a great Krautrock fan haha, so yes. I do not watch many German films though, but I like Haneke (who is Austrian). But I know there many interesting German films, especially from the beginning of the XXe century (Murnau for instance).
I discovered Duolingo.
Then, I had to stop learning German at university. I thought I could keep learning by myself, also because I was regularly going to Germany. But the sad reality is that I was not. I did, at the beginning, sit down and open a German book. I didn't feel like I was doing any progress and quickly I forgot to take the time, and slowly I would spend several weeks, and then several months without doing any German. That's when someone introduced me to Duolingo about 3 months ago. I immediatly loved it. Even though I would never use only Duo to learn German, it is the best companion for my journey. It is great to keep me motivated and to remind me to work everyday, even a little bit. I use many grammar books and teaching books as well, and I got a lot more confident in my learning, and in my German. I can clearly see that my German has improved.
I go extremely slowly through the tree, and do and redo each lesson many times before going to the next one. I don't want to rush, and I want to make sure I really know the vocabulary or the new skills before going to the next ones. But this is just how I like it!
As I said earlier I often go to Germany, but sadly, always in an English speaking environment. I was always extremely shy speaking German, but recently I started saying a few stuffs to the people in shops and to Germans. My level is still very low, but now I am more confident, and more willing than ever to learn.
Now that I am on holiday, I will spend several hours a day learning German. Also, I will go to Germany next week and stay there for about a month. Still in an English speaking environment, but I will try to get out of it as often as possible to interact with people! I don't know yet if I would have an easy internet access, but I will definitely try to use Duo as often as possible!
I hope to get to the B1 level by the beginning of September, and take German at university again. It is a short term goal. Sometimes I get a little discouraged but I know I have to try and it isn't impossible! Also I hope to finish the tree by then.
Radio First of all I try to listen to German as much as possible, oral being my weakness. Therefore I listen to German radio, even though I don't get most of it, it helps me getting familiar with the language. http://www.deutschlandradio.de/ I try to listen to topics I know about, so it is easier to understand what is said.
YouTube I also watch a lot of YouTube videos, especially vlogs from German youtubers. Yes, it might not be the most interesting content, but I think that is "real" German, the one young people talk, and how most German people I am likely to meet would talk to me. That is the main interest to it. For instance, when I started to learn the food vocabulary, I watched a lot of recipes in German on YouTube or other "Was esse ich" videos to practice my oral comprehension. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-nWcD_Uulo In this video you can find many female youtubers, I would recommand you to check who might be interesting for you to watch. I know it might be pretty boring for many people since some of them are "beauty" youtubers, but you might still be able to find decent content to improve your German in a different way.
Also, I recently came across this: https://www.youtube.com/user/germanness So little disclaimer, it is an alternative guide to Germany, and some of you might be offended by the content. But others might find this interesting. Also, the videos have subtitles in many languages including German and English. I personally watch the videos first with the German subtitles, then with French subtitles, and again in German with German subtitles.
Arte So, if you aren't French (nor German) you probably don't know Arte. Arte "is a Franco-German TV network, a European channel, that promotes programming in the areas of culture and the arts". I am able to watch it for free on tv, and change the language to German and have French subtitles. If you are a French speaker: check Arte!! Also they have a lot of interesting shows. One of them is called Karambolage, "it aims to explore the differences, similarities, and overlaps of French and German culture through anecdotes, household objects that are common in one country, yet virtually unknown in the other, as well as brief, tongue-in-cheek lectures by etymologists, historians, and the like". So it is really good if you want to know more about German culture. They also have a YouTube channel apparently, check it out https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTbYYBLKjNF8oGbK5_DiJ7Q even though it might be hard to understand for beginners, maybe more advanced learners or Germans might like to watch it since it is very informative!
Books Most of my books are in French, but I use Passwort Deutsch by Klett editions (the book is in German). I had it when I was learning at university. is to learn German for non native speakers. There are different levels, if you buy it, make sure to buy the "Kurs und Übungsbuch" ones, so you can have exercices with corrections. I have a writing memory, therefore books are essential for me, but maybe not to everyone. As soon as possible I will try to read short stories, or rather simple books in German as well.
That is all I can think about right now, please let me know if you have other ideas.
Also, I didn't talk about it in the post because it isn't my main motivation, but German is very useful in the economical world. Also, as there are so many German tourists everywhere, speaking German might be a very good thing on your resumee when you are looking for a summer job!
I wish you all a pleasant and interesting journey learning the beautiful language that German is, and I am glad to know this website. Thank you to everyone who makes it such a great experience!
The good old question " Why are you learning language XY, it isn't useful ... bla bla bla"
I love that one. Surely there must be a reason why we learn something. I mean the option "for fun" doesn't exist. I can juggle with three balls. Just in case somebody threatens me or offers me money :P jk
Ich wünsche dir viel Erfolg für die Zukunft :)
das war ein sehr interessanter Text! Ich teile deinen Enthusiasmus für die deutsche Sprache!
I love German philosophy! Though I enjoy that (according to my old professor, at least) even German students would rather read Kant in English because the German original is even more of a convoluted mess, haha.
I'm glad you're having more luck learning independently and I hope that university class works out for you. =) Though I wouldn't have expected people in Europe to be asked why they were learning German! I'd kind of assumed it was the biggest option after English!
Considering that German is the language with the most native speakers in Europe (after Russian), it is way down on the list in terms of popular foreign languages to learn. It languishes behind English, French and Spanish, and probably also behind Italian in many countries.
There are many reasons for this, including the perceived difficulty and also that business with German companies is usually conducted in English. As a tourist, you will also be able to get by in English in Germany, unlike in Spain and France, where large parts of the population appear to be either incapable (Spain) or blatantly unwilling (France) to engage with hapless tourists in English.
Periodically, German experiences little boosts in popularity, like it did around 2006 among teenagers (due to the "Tokio Hotel Effect") and it has also become more popular again since 2008, owing to severe economic crisis that is still strangling southern Europe, and which is has sent many of its young people in search for work flocking to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Possibly the World Cup in 2006 had something to do with the boost the language received, as well.
Thanks for sharing your journey with German, it is very interesting. My story is similar to yours, I took German years ago in college and I forgot about it. During my last trip to Germany I decided that I wanted to learn another language and German was my first preference, I like the language and I like the fact that it is not so difficult, but it is different. I also speak Spanish.
Thanks for sharing the resources. When I finished my tree I was level A2, almost B1. The test highlighted my weaknesses including listening comprehension and speaking. I have been working on it, I think I am going to take a paid tutor in the next few months. In adition to DL I use memrise, bliu bliu and Babadum, I listen to music and follow German Fußball, I also "read" the very "enlightening" Bild . None has yet told me that German is useless, but I got that when I when to Italy to study Italian.
You are very lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Germany. Viel Glück
Thanks for this post! :) I am very excited to try out your recommendations. I know of Arte, my German is just getting good enough that I can comfortably watch it. It doesn't have subtitles (which is why I've focused other shows til now) but since the shows are artsy they tend to speak in a slower, more narrative pace than the news for example so they are no longer beyond my reach. :) And yes, they are really interesting! Congratulations on finally having the chance to fulfill your dreams - that sounds just wonderful! :)
Great post! I am German, and I have a vaguely similar story re. learning French, which I have only just started doing, after a thirty-year delay. Uhm... it's never too late ;-)
Have you read Stefan Zweig? Fantastic writer, and if you enjoy philosophy, you'll enjoy him. It's not an easy read, exactly, but very absorbing and gratifying.
I've written several posts about (amusing-to-me) aspects of the German language, for example
There's plenty more, just click on the "Language learning" and "Language Matters" tabs, and/or on "German" in the topics list.
Do tell us about your progress :)
I am glad to know you are learning French, it is really great! I read Verwirrung der Gefühle some years ago, and I liked it, indeed. I didn't read anything else by Zweig because I already had in my mind the project to be able to read in the original language one day. But he will definitely be on my German to-read books! Also, thank you for sharing the posts you wrote, I am looking forward to read them!
For someone French learning German Stereo Total might be interesting. It is a Punk Band with a French singer singing in German. Very funny and anarchic lyrics. The pronunciation might not be perfect, but it is quite correct and easy German.
Here is a the same song in German, French and English.
Ich bin nackt. Je suis nue. I am naked.
Brilliant post. I was always fascinated by the German Language. But was always pushed to learn "something more useful." German is beautiful, and don't get me wrong.... Spanish is beneficial, but no where near as lovely as German!
Great post. Thank you for mentioning Karambolage! It's heartening that this kind of TV (with such aims) is still made. Would you say that the Passwort Deutsch books have a grammar-based approach? Until recently I have been using quite old language-learning books - like the old pre-1990s Teach Yourself series - with newer reference material. Something more recent would be good, but I find a lot of the newer books to be disappointing.
Dankeschön (Frau Weil - sie steht auf Ihrem Bild, nicht wahr?) :)
Thank you for your reply!
About Passwort Deutsch, I had to buy two of the series (1&2) for university because the teacher asked for it. Each book is divided in 6 lessons, and each lesson focuses on a city, with cultural information about it. Different texts and dialogues, with some exercices. Different grammatical points are introduced in each of the lessons. At the end of each lesson there is a page summing up what has been learn in the lesson, with the grammatical rules and tables. The main interest for me lies in the numerous exercices one can find in the workbook included, they are a little repetitive but it is a good way to learn for me. Also there are solutions to them to check.
I think the books are rather expensive though, and depending on your level they might not be extremely useful, I think it goes up to the B1 level. But if grammar is your main interest you might want to choose something else. The book is German, therefore all the explanations are exclusively in German and might not focus on the differences between your native language and German, nor mention the usual mistakes an English speaker would make. Also it is extremely progressive and might not give you all the explanations you need to know about one thing, for instance the use of the accusative case at once.
I have other books about German grammar that I use, all of them are in French though, because I really like grammar and need it when I learn a language (it might be because I studied Latin and Ancient Greek). But Passwort Deutsch books are really good for me since I am still a beginner and gives a structure to my learning method I would say.
I hope my answer could help you!
(And yes, I am glad you recognized her!)
Thank you for taking the time to reply so comprehensively! It's definitely helpful to me.
For some time I have wanted to use a coursebook written explicitly for B1 level (for what it's worth). Passwort Deutsch is another to add to the list. My grammar reference books are in my native language too, so I hope that they would make up for the lack of Anglo-centric grammar explanations.
Actually, all these kind of series seem to employ the same trick of requiring self-learners to buy several books. Time to visit the library...
Hope you'll let us know how your month goes. Viel Erfolg!
That was a very long post but was worth the read... Danke! Ich begon lernen Deutsch too. My story is similar to yours too. Interested in the rich culture but more inclined to the scientific achievements than the philosophy... I have never been to Germany but I am looking forward to that day
Eine wunderbare Geschichte! Danke Schoen und viel spass mit Ihrer Lernerfahrung!
Long ago I spent a year in Germany. I had visited Germany 4 or more times. I learned German in Highschool and graduated college with a minor in German. I had exchange student friends...
But it was NOT until After I really lived there that I said that I could speak German.
I lived in Weimar, former East Germany. This was in 1999/2000, so everyone my age or older remembered changing from learning Russian in elementary school to learning English. So, I went to little Kneipe (bars) with older patrons - places where the people had never learned English. When these older German (shall we say) "Gentlemen" knew that I really wanted to speak German, they were excited to help me.
I was enrolled in the university, but I avoided the International Students Association ENTIRELY for the first six months... They all spoke English with each other. If they were from Japan, Korea, Greece, a country in Africa, or anyplace else, they spoke English together.
So, I encourage you to find places which force you to speak German. Figure out German words you don't know from Germans Explaining what they mean IN GERMAN, not by someone translating the word into English, French or Esperanto.
Viel Spass! und viel Glueck!
I almost forgot!
I also had a "rant", which I practiced in my apartment. I had a monologue about how "America has No Beers! Because they are not brewed to the 'Reinheitsgebot'". This entertained the Germans and 'broke the ice'.
I cannot recommend this exact approach to a woman. It saddens me to think that it would be Much safer in either Germany or France than in the USA :-( .
However, if you have a hobby, you might search for German groups who share that hobby. If there is a special difference in the way the Germans and you (and/or the French in general) perform the hobby, that might be something you and the Germans can discuss in German.
Thank you for your advice! It is very interesting and helpful! :) Weimar is such a nice city, it must have been nice to live there. I am going to spend about a month in Thuringia, starting tomorrow, so your post makes me smile! I will definitely try to speak more!
Enjoyed your post! Thanks for mentioning some additional resources. I know there are other threads on here that list a bunch of great free (or very low-cost) German-learning resources (will post a link here if I can get back to them).
My own story: I studied French for about six years in high school/college, but never got the chance to use it. I had just two semesters of German in college (plus a "reading knowledge" class as a grad student), but my desire to learn German has been reignited in recent years since I have been able to visit some German relatives (cousins) I have. Just getting started on Duo, but hope to supplement that with more resources as time goes by. Had a visit with my relatives last month, and hope to impress them with my greatly improved German next summer!