Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.
So, I’ve been learning German in school for just about 6 years now. In that time I think I’ve gotten a fairly good grasp of the language by now, and feel fairly confident with it.
In Ireland, we have a test called the ‘Junior Certificate’ examinations, which you take in your 3rd year of high school. You take a junior cert exam in each of the subjects you do, and they all last for around 90 minutes or so.
The test results are, quite honestly, completely insignificant and worthless in the long run. No employer will ever reject you for having bad results in your junior cert exams. They really are just a mini test run for the truly important exams which you take in your 6th and final year of high school (the leaving cert).
Anyway, my point is some schools actually gave out rewards for students who scored the highest in these exams, which was quite cool. We all got €50 book vouchers which we used to buy certain books, then we’d have to give them to the school, and then they’d present them to us in a prize ceremony night.
And yeah, I won the one for German🙃
Funny enough, I not only received a book voucher as a prize, but I also received an additional package that contained other Germany related goods (which I wasn’t even aware that I was supposed to get). I got a German fact book, music notebook, CDs, and even a little ribbon!
To this day, I’m still not sure if this was actually sent by the German government or if it was all bought by the school, but it’s still cool nonetheless. I still remember my friends looking shocked when I walked back to my seat with a much bigger prize package than them (hence why German is the best language 😛🙃).
That being said, I’d like to share some tips with any language learning beginners, as to what I did during my first 3 years of learning German that I credit to helping me obtain this prize. Of course, the language you’re learning doesn’t have to be German, since I believe this advice applies to learning most, if not all, languages.
These are the things I did routinely and religiously almost everyday , that I believe helped improve my German in those first 3 years of high school.
Let’s get into it!
📖1. Vocab, Vocab, Vocab📖
I think it is especially important, in the beginner stages of learning a language, that you place an extremely heavy emphasis on learning vocabulary, more than any other aspect.
I don’t know if this counts as common sense or controversial, but it’s absolutely the advice my parents gave me as well.
Every day or second day, I’d look in my textbook and online for any German words that were unfamiliar to me, and then write them inside a notebook (with the translations of course), which I then reviewed often.
With hindsight 20/20 at my disposal now, I would recommend using a software like Anki to deal with vocabulary instead. It’s a flashcard programme with a built in spaced repetition system, that helps decide when you review your cards.
Basically, just make a flashcard for any and every German word you encounter that you don’t know the meaning of, and then devote yourself to doing the reviews everyday.
I learnt this in a particularly funny way, when I missed out on an A grade in a German test because I didn’t know the meaning of a word in a German comprehension-‘Handtuch’. The thing was, if I had stayed strong and revised my vocabulary notebook that day, I would’ve seen that I had actually already written it down and that it meant ‘towel’. 🤦🏻♂️
Still kicking myself over it, but it taught me that consistency was truly one of the ultimate ways to improve in a language.
I can practically assure you that if you follow this advice, you can go up by a grade or two. It’s by far one of the biggest game changers that helped me improve in German, and I’m confident it can do the same for anyone else too.
📺 2. Consume more Content🎧
The second thing I would recommend people to do is to immerse themselves in the target language more, and to consume more content in the language.
This includes watching videos, reading books, and listening to podcasts in the language you’re trying to learn.
For me personally, I found the ‘Easy German’ YouTube channel particularly helpful in this regard. They simply go up to random people on the streets, and ask them casual, conversational topic questions, like ‘What makes you happy?’, ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ etc.
It’s a really good channel that definitely helped improve my listening abilities, which is important when learning a language.
I also sometimes listen to the occasional podcast episode, or read an article as well, but the point is that you should definitely consume more media in your target language, if you want to improve fast in the beginner stage.
❓3. Find a Genuine Reason to Like The Language❓
Alright listen, if you can take away any one of the 3 insights from this post, please let it be this one.
I know that I said learning vocabulary is one of the most important aspects of learning a language in the early stage, but overall you need to find a reason to like the language in general.
This is the truly deal breaker on whether or not you’ll become good at the language.
Find some reason to become fascinated with the language, and don’t ever let it go. Passion beats every obstacle. Remind yourself of this reason whenever you’re in a learning slump.
In my first year of learning German, I actually loathed the language. No, I hated it. Everyone I knew was learning French, and being the sheep I was, I wanted to as well. But my parents practically forced me to choose German instead, because it’ll be ‘more useful in the future’. As a result of this immense hate for the language, it was hardly surprising when I almost failed my first big German test and got a 52.
That was definitely a wake up call for me though, as I then genuinely tried to make an effort to find something to like about German and Germany.
As a result, I became passionate about the country. Specifically, I found its history and geography surprisingly interesting🙃. I wanted to visit the country and speak with its people and become immersed.
Luckily, it was also around this time that I wanted to become a polyglot (for vanity reasons🤦🏻♂️), and so I put a much heavier emphasis on learning German.
All of these efforts I credit towards helping me achieve the prize, and so I have absolutely no regrets.
To summarise, make the journey fun. Find something, anything, to help you enjoy learning the language, and I can assure you it’ll be smooth sailing from there.
Cool, that’ll probably wrap it up for this post. Hopefully some of this was helpful to any fellow language learners out there, and that you learned a thing or two from my experience.
Grand, stay safe and I’ll hopefully see you in another post👋🏼