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Can You Learn German Fast and Still be Fluent?

By Imogen, published on 24/08/2017 Blog > Languages > German > How Long Does it Take to Learn German?

You’re probably here because you’ve pondered this very question before.

When you are hoping to learn a new language in the future or are already taking lessons, it is normal to wonder about how long it will take before you can engage in fluent conversation with native and non-native speakers.

So, how many hours of lessons do you need before German comes naturally to you?

Of course, it largely depends on your level of motivation and your dedication to learning about German language and culture.

So let’s try to understand all the possible answers to this rather subjective question.

You Won’t Learn to Speak German Overnight

Before you begin learning how to speak German, you should realise that despite the many claims of certain language schools and e-learning companies, it is highly unlikely that an hour of tuition per week over the course of a couple of months will have you speaking fluent German.

In order to achieve this, you need to be building on a solid foundation of knowledge with regular practice of your speaking, writing, and listening skills.

Good things come to those who wait, and the more time you spend perfecting your language skills, the better your level of German will be.

Aside from ordering lunch on your skiing holiday in Austria and giving directions to lost German tourists, it is unlikely that you’ve had an opportunity to use your German in everyday situations on a regular enough basis.

Too often, those learning a foreign language rely too heavily on their written practice, but it’s common sense that it’s impossible to properly master a language by only concentrating on one aspect of communication.

Not having the means to be able to practice their oral skills means learners can lack confidence and therefore become shy when it comes to their German speaking practice.

So, in short, if you want to become fluent in German, you’ll have to put the work in and be patient with yourself.

And remember to reward yourself for your hard work! This will help you stay motivated and keep your goals in sight.

One Month to Become Bilingual: Mission Impossible

Being bilingual means more than just being fluent in two languages. Bilingualism is the ability to understand and use more than one language as a mother tongue.

In other words, having more than one native language.

Bilingualism is difficult to achieve for those learning a second language later in life, however it's ot completely impossible Bilingualism: Living in two languages and one culture ¦ source: Pixabay – Free-Photos

Achieving such a level of German is almost impossible to achieve for those who don’t speak German as a first language, as opposed to those who have been brought up speaking German from day one as their parents are German, for example.

Bilingual people can think and dream in both of their languages, and words and phrases may come to them in one language but not another when they’re trying to explain something.

So, if you’re serious about aiming for bilingualism in German, you’ll need a strong foundation. This means complete mastery of basic German, including verb conjugation, cases, and vocabulary.

Once you have this under your belt, you can start working on the things that contribute to bilingualism such as German pronunciation, comprehension and intonation.

If you really want to be bilingual in German, you’ll undoubtedly have to spend a number of years living in a German-speaking country so that you can live your life in your target language.

Cultural Immersion: The Magic Formula?

Nothing can replace total immersion in German-speaking culture when it comes to improving your fluency and aiming for bilingualism.

However, the benefits you get from learning German and living in your second language depends on you as an individual.

For some, to immerse themselves in a culture means working their way around the bars every evening and sleeping throughout the day – which isn’t a helpful routine to improve your language skills.

For others, being thrown in the deep end is just what they need to succeed in their language learning.

Living in a foreign-speaking culture means having to confront cultural differences as well as overcome any areas of weakness in your German skills.

The best way to integrate into German culture is to actively make an effort to mix with native speakers. You can do this by:

  • Visiting places where the locals hang out, rather than areas full of English-speaking tourists, as this may tempt you to speak English and move away from your goal and you may not get the most out of your time abroad
  • Doing your shopping in real shops rather than online, this will help you improve your listening skills as you hear the language of Goethe being spoken in the streets
  • Taking the time to listen to people speaking in the park, on public transport and in shops
  • Arranging to live with a German-speaker, this will force you to use your German on a daily basis
  • It can do no harm to take German classes in the evening – practice makes perfect! Find German classes London.
  • Forcing yourself to use German news websites rather than English ones – they will have the same information for you to read in German

Learning German Takes Time

It is difficult to define the amount of time needed to become fluent in German, as it depends on the determination and ability of each individual learner.

This infographic from the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State sorts a range of widely spoken foreign languages into three categories based on how difficult they are for native English speakers to learn.

Languages are sorted depending on the similarities they share with English in their vocabulary, grammar rules and pronunciation,  as well as their level of complexity.

For example, languages which share the same alphabet as English are classed as easier.

Each section is accompanied by an estimation of the amount of time required to reach a good level of proficiency in the languages it contains, although this ultimately depends on the student and the resources available to them.

Even though it does not appear in the infographic, given its similarity to English (which is part of the Germanic language family), German would almost certainly appear alongside the other European languages in the ‘easy’ section.

So according to this source, it should take up to 600 hours of tuition to achieve proficiency in German. Of course, this can be spread over several months and even years depending on your eagerness to learn German.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can get away with minimal study. When learning a language, study should be regular and you should aim to start using skills as you learn them – this will help cement important points in your knowledge.

The Best Way to Learn German to a High Level of Fluency

  • Improving your German demands dedicating your free time

It’s useless to tell yourself that one hour of German learning per week will be enough, especially if you’re aiming for a high level.

  • Learning by heart is a must

No one has been able to find a perfect method to instantly remember everyday vocabulary. This is why it is important to first learn how to learn, and develop your own learning strategies and find what works best for your learning style.

This could be through repeating words or making yourself use them in context.

  • Make your learning fun

If you feel like you’re going backwards in your learning and even the shortest worksheets seem like a chore, you’re not in the right mindset for effective learning.

To make your learning more fun, you should look for things that you enjoy and do them in your target language.

You could find a German film club or take a tour with a German-speaking tour guide, and there are lots of cafés which host foreign language clubs in the evenings.

  • Stay motivated

If you find yourself falling behind or struggling to maintain your motivation, don’t blame your German lessons.

All you need to do is change your approach so you experience things from a new perspective. You can achieve this by opting for entertaining yet effective activities mentioned above, rather than repetitive worksheets.

Our Advice for Learning German in a Short Space of Time

Learning to speak a language fluently under time pressure can be intense, so here are some tips to make your study as effective as possible.

The most effective learning strategies for you may be repetition, listening to German radio or testing your vocab Mimicking your tutor or native German speakers can drastically improve your oral skills ¦ source: Pixabay – splongo

Repetition of the words in a German dictionary will get you nowhere.

Look for a private tutor who is a native speaker who can help you with your conversational skills auf Deutsch!

As an educator, your tutor will also be able to give you learning tips and help you get to grips with important concepts such as conjugation of German verbs, spelling and how to pronounce German words.

Nothing will give you a better chance of overcoming your difficulties and getting the hang of using common expressions and idiomatic phrases than learning from someone who has spoken German from day one.

To improve your listening comprehension skills, why not hang out in places popular with German speakers? This will help you get used to the way German sounds when it is spoken as well as helping you pick out the different German accents.

If you’re aiming for 100% fluency in your German, you should try your best to primarily access your news via German outlets. You can do this by simply visiting German news websites such as Die Welt.

It is advised that when learning German, you should combine reading newspapers with watching news reports online and listening to German audio on the radio so that you receive information through various channels which will help you remember key vocab for the future.

In response to the big question “How long does it take to become fluent in German?”, the truth is there is no real answer.

We can’t even say that it depends on the time the learner is prepared to dedicate to their learning. Some take just 4 months, but for others it can take years.

It all depends on the circumstances surrounding the learner including teaching methods, how far away they live from their place of learning and whether they have a mentor.

It’s important to remember that learning a new language isn’t one single task to be completed. It’s a skill that needs to be practised to be improved. In short: use it or lose it.

If you’re motivated, passionate and believe in yourself, you will do all it takes to learn German online to a high level.


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Thanks so much for this advice