It is no shock to many that listening to German can help you to pick up much of the language, but what is it that helps you to hone your spelling, grammar and vocabulary skills? Reading German can go a long way in improving your written skills, which are equally as important as the ability to speak the language well.
Understanding the unique spellings and various grammatical rules adopted by a foreign language help you to better understand its core, i.e. the way that words and phrases are made up.
This is especially important in German, as the European language makes use of many compound words which adjoin one another to create new, sometimes very long, ones. The way in which these words marry together in harmony can be liked to a domino effect.
By only grasping spoken elements of language, you may begin to struggle when it comes to testing your writing ability, or even just when out and about in Germany. This is because some of the unfamiliar letters and lengthy words might seem, shall we say, completely foreign to you.
Mastering the German alphabet and its unique sounds, for example, will help language acquisition to come more naturally than if you otherwise ignored this vital step.
Learning German through reading is of course but one method of learning the language, and should be approached in combination with other learning techniques like listening, speaking and writing.
Keeping up to date on news affairs in German can not only help you to find out about current affairs and culture within the country, it can also help you to learn very practical vocabulary, including words that are used in the most basic of conversations as well as on most signs in and around German towns and cities.
That said, throwing yourself in at the deep end can be a bit daunting so you may not wish to start with the Germans’ equivalent of the Daily Telegraph or the Independent, for instance. Instead, skip the grown up broadsheets and look out for resources that are designed with learners or young people in mind. The content will be simple enough for you to gain some confidence with the language and encourage you to read more.
Some examples of foreigner-friendly news sites are Nachrichtenleicht, which is geared towards beginners and is therefore known for its simplicity; Logo, a children’s website that consequently uses very simplistic terminology and features lots of images, charts and videos as visual aids; and The Huffington Post (in German, of course!), which is slightly more complex but usually covers some interesting ground and therefore might grab your attention.
Not necessarily aimed at German newcomers, The Huffington Post is adapted for B2-level learners. You can find out more about the different levels of comprehension by looking in the CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Like watching movies in German, reading a novel can be an entertaining way to grasp the language.
What’s more, with a book, you can take it very much at your own pace and re-read paragraphs or even whole chapters if necessary. Unless you are quite an advanced reader, stick to simple content, perhaps even selecting stories aimed at children or at teenagers.
In some ways, reading an entirely German book can be more effective than looking in a textbook as you have no answers, guidance or explanations in English, so it is completely up to you to find the true meaning. This means, therefore, that you probably put more effort into it rather than being led by the content. And, as we all know, the more you put in, the more you get out.
Meanwhile, textbooks aren’t written by just anyone, they are carefully put together and edited by language teaching professionals, native speakers and linguistic experts, which must carry some weight in terms of their appropriateness for learners.
Textbooks are researched, written, edited and published by experts. Photo via Visualhunt
With textbooks, you are guided along a proven path which is set up to help you to learn in the best possible way. They not only inform you through the written word, they include exercises and other techniques to get you using all of your senses, incorporate writing, speaking, and, at times, listening, as well as reading.
By using these expertly-designed curriculums either by yourself or as part of a course, you are sure to learn much from the experience.
As with the selection of audiobooks, it really is up to you to find a novel, novella or short story that catches your interest and encourages you to keep reading. However, if someone recommends a book to you, don’t be afraid to give it a go. It may not be your cup of tea but there could be certain aspects that you like or find helpful, like the style in which it is written.
In reference to fiction books, websites and apps like Good Reads and DuoLingo as well as blogs FluentU and Welcome To Germerica can offer you some initial suggestions to get you on your way. They often include recommendations by people who have been through the process themselves of learning German.
If it is German textbooks you are after, however, then first of all consider what level you are working at. It is pointless looking at content designed for absolute beginners if you have already mastered the basics, meanwhile you don’t want to be trying to get your head around content that is way too advanced for you.
Blogs are typically run by individuals and, in the case of language learning blogs, these people have usually been through the process themselves and want to share their experiences or advice with others.
Not everyone works in the same way; some are practical whereas others are more academic. Blogs are great for just this reason; those updating them have something to offer to every type of learner.
Not only are there numerous styles of blogs and various types of bloggers out there to appeal to different personalities and tastes, the biggest benefit on offer is the motivation to succeed like these people have. If they can do it, then so can you!
Fluent in three months is a blog created by a travelling polyglot (someone who can speak several languages) who is passionate about learning languages.
As suggested in the title, this linguist is of the belief that a new language can be learnt to a level of fluency in the space of just three months if you put in hard work and dedication. As discussed in another post, our polyglot friend swears by changing your mentality and immersing yourself in the language you wish to speak.
If you cannot throw yourself into a German town just like that though, they claim that you can benefit from turning your existing surroundings into a mini-Germany.
You can follow their blog for additional tips for language learning as well as to find out what the traveller is up to. Somebody as motivational as this should be listened to (or read about, in the case of the blog!).
Another blog with more of an educational approach is Daily German, specifically adapted as a form of German course to help learners acquire the language through helpful daily updates. The blog features a new word a day, which is a great way to add to your vocabulary and get you intrigued to find out what the next word will be.
In addition, the blog provides tutorials and lessons, explaining jargon and breaking it down to make it easier to retain. The benefit of this style of blog is that you can make use of the generous lessons on offer as well as finding something new and educational to learn from each day.
Finally, social media can be very influential in language learning, due to it being like a guilty pleasure.
Teenagers and adults alike will often check their social media profiles at intervals throughout the day, so why not use this time to brush up on some German skills? The great thing about this is that it doesn’t require any effort nor any motivation- if you follow the right accounts then you could be learning something new before you even realise it!
Learn without even realising it thanks to social media. Photo via Visualhunt
@LearnXDGerman is a Twitter account set up for German beginners which tweets in German and then repeats said tweet in English five minutes later. This unique method of teaching is quite powerful as it encourages learners to decipher the meaning of the phrase before putting them out of their misery just instants later. The day that you take the correct meaning away from that first tweet in German will be a huge milestone in your language learning journey!
Similarly, @dw_learngerman is an account for German students which effectively teaches its followers regular language lessons in less than 140 characters. While digits may be in short supply on Twitter, the amount you can gain is endless.
Not all German classes have to be given in the classroom. Learn how to learn German by playing games.
If your learning German, be sure to validate your German level with a certification in the German language.