man refreshing himself after running

Need a German Refresher? 13 Ways to Brush Up on German

Looking to brush up on German but don’t have a lot of time?

You don’t have to start from scratch. The modern era can be kind to you, my friend.

Check out these creative ways to brush up on German while living everyday life.

Contents

1. Watch Freaky Flicks

Easiest way to put in a solid 90 minutes of German language refresher?

brush up on german

Grab a bowl of popcorn, find someone to put your arm around and dim the switch. It’s movie time.

Let’s face it: if you’re going to watch a movie in another language, why not make it a bizarre one? Or one that offers you some cool, unexpected insight into German culture?

New German Cinema, from the sixties to the eighties, produced a wave of artistic indie movies—and some of them are rather strange.

“Die Blechtrommel” (The Tin Drum) is the first German film to win an Academy brush up on germanAward. It features a small boy in Nazi Germany who physically prevented himself from growing up (while eventually committing elicit adult acts in his adolescent form). Even the voice he speaks in is downright strange.

 

Looking for something classic? Check out “Metropolis,” a pioneering film in science fiction directed by the incomparable Fritz Lang.

Still not convinced? Check out some more favorites here.

2. Talk It Out with a German Speaker

If you don’t live in a German-speaking country, you can still find the opportunity to speak German:

  • German restaurants and delis often hire staff from the homeland to keep the place more authentic. German-themed bars are a good place to try, especially when there’s a big Fußball (soccer) or handball match for the national team airing on the television.
  • Some communities have organizations made by and for German expats, allowing you the perfect opportunity to go James Bond and infiltrate.
  • Language exchange apps can also allow you to converse with native German speakers from anywhere.

Since Germans are heavily committed to soccer, it’s often a safe bet to comment on the last match of the local Bundesliga (German federal football league) team. A compliment on an article of clothing is a classic way to get someone’s attention: Wo hast du die Schuhe her? (Where did you get your shoes?).

If you’re looking to test whether or not the German language can indeed be a tool of love, you can tell someone attractive that you’ve been searching for them forever: Ich habe dich ewig lang gesucht. 

3. Stay Updated with German News

Not only can you sharpen your language skills by reading the news in German, but you can have things to talk about as well. Keep up-to-date on not only Germany, Austria and Europe, but see the rest of the world through a German perspective.

There are many options out there, and probably half the fun is finding your new go-to source for daily events. Many of Germany’s traditional and long-standing print papers now have online editions.

der spiegel logo Der Spiegel is always a popular choice, boasting one of the highest print circulations. It also has an English version in case you’re not quite getting the grasp on a piece, as well as video news stories on Spiegel TV.

 

Die Welt and Die Zeit are also reputable and well-known publications highly respected in Germany.

4. Stream German Podcasts or Radio

Our eyes may be busy driving, avoiding baby strollers while out jogging or spotting dirt when sweeping the kitchen floor, but our ears are always ready for German.

Earphones allow for multitasking glory and the ability to slip some language practice into common, mundane activities.

The possibilities are great, from phrase practice and vocabulary building to sharpening your aural skills with podcasts or a good old fashion Hörspiel (radio drama). Thanks to the modern convenience of the internet, you can also stream German radio stations.

Finding most listening material too difficult or too fast to follow? There are a variety of sites geared towards the German learner, such as Slow German, which offers podcasts specially made for beginners. Die Sendung mit der Maus Video Podcast is a kid’s show with lots of simple explanations useful for non-native speakers.

5. Use Your Apps in German

Most types of apps have a language selection. Since you’re probably already familiar with how they function anyway, it’s a quick and easy way to get exposed to more German. Why create a playlist for your music when you can Playlist erstellen (create a playlist) for your Musik (music).

From Spotify to Google Chrome, switching the default language to German only takes a few clicks.

Looking to go whole hog? Windows 11 users can change the language of their entire operating system (OS) by typing in “language” in the search bar and then selecting “settings.” All Mac users have to do is change the language of their OS in System Preferences.

6. Get into German Humor

It’s often noted that German humor doesn’t translate well into other languages. 

Browse the hundreds of online joke databases to keep a handful in your pocket the next time you’re talking to a German speaker. Not only is a joke a fun way to remember vocabulary, but it’s also a means to impress the people you’re talking to.

If satire is your thing, visit Titanic or any of the other online spoof sites in German. Also, check out all the native content on YouTube.de—we particularly recommend the comedy web show Walulis sieht fern. 

7. Test Yourself Daily

You celebrated the last time you left a classroom and removed yourself from the danger of having to take another quiz. Well, not so fast—you still need to test yourself every day on specific words, phrases or grammar points that you’ve set out to learn!

For example:

Can you list the conjugations of werden (to become) before bedtime?

Can you remember how to form the conjunctive of sein (to be) with perfect accuracy before the sun goes down?

Rather than scaring yourself by giving yourself bad grades for failure, reward success instead. Have a weekly quiz goal and treat yourself to reaching it. Go out for pizza or buy yourself a pony. Pick up that David Hasselhoff T-shirt you’ve always wanted.

8. Make Flashcards with Consequences

Want to refresh yourself on German phrases and prevent identity theft at the same time?

Use German phrases as passwords for Internet sites you visit regularly. Sports sites, dating sites, language learning sites. It’ll force you to call them up and implant them in your brain.

A few words of caution: It’s a good idea to write the passwords down somewhere, of course. And probably not the best thing to do with accounts that are extremely vital or connected to banking information.

Still, we sign up for so many things during the course of a week, from coupon sites to clothing stores, that we can afford to implement a little German into our online security tactics.

9. Get Immersed in Quick German Videos

When you head to YouTube, TikTok or any other source of quick, snappy videos, make it German time. Find German vloggers to follow, try your hand at German recipes, watch a Let’s Play in German… there are many options out there for you to choose from!

Learning with authentic videos like these has a number of benefits: Not only will you enjoy the content, but you’ll also be learning natural German the way it’s used by native speakers.

FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.

By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:

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Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.

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Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.

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For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.

Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.

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To keep things fresh, FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommends further lessons and videos based on what you've already studied.

This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

10. Review Lesson Summaries

It’s often theorized that what’s learned can never truly be forgotten.

Scientists who posit this often point out that the information is somewhere floating around in the brain, and must only be retrieved.

But we’ve all had that uncomfortable experience of seeing our German study book on the shelf, realizing that we’d pretty much mastered it once, but since have become a bit hazy on some of the things inside it.

Luckily, the grammar and vocabulary presented in textbooks are typically summarized at the back of each chapter. Reviewing the lesson summaries is a time-effective way to retrieve all the hard-won vocabulary and syntax you thought were lost.

11. Create Special Review Recordings

woman recording her voice on her phone

Traditional study materials like textbooks, “learn German” audio clips and other recordings are great for being introduced to the language for the first time in a structured way. But if you try to use only these materials, you’ll probably end up going over a bunch of stuff that you already know just to get to the bits you want to brush up on.

Thanks to modern technology, however, that problem is easily fixed.

Record yourself speaking German vocab words and their definitions, verb conjugations and anything else you specifically want to remember and go over again on your phone or another recording device.

This way, you’ll get practice reviewing while you’re recording and be left with a handy reminder of the information you need to study.

From there, you can send it to your phone to listen to while you work out, walk to class or do housework.

12. Dress Your Loved Ones in German

The friends and family you come into contact with every day are probably important in the development of your language skills. They support you, encourage you, motivate you to study harder…but they can still be doing more.

They can be walking grammar lessons.

Write down in large print whatever German grammar points you need to work on and pin those to the fronts and backs of their shirts. I’m sure your loved ones won’t mind walking around the house with a list of reflexive pronouns on them if you explain that it’s all in the name of language learning.

This might seem ridiculous, but hear me out. Not only will coming in contact with a grammar-ridden person help you remember the points you wanted to refresh on, but this will also probably cause lots of laughs, which will make the information seem more significant and ultimately make the points stick in your brain longer.

If you don’t have a spouse and children, or they’re not ready to be a walking textbook, you can get together to hang out with other willing people learning German. Everyone can wear a vocab word. Even if you don’t talk in or about German, a normal conversation will take on an instructive air.

13. Make Your House German

Another silly way to quickly and efficiently get back to your old form in German is to saturate your house with it.

You may already be familiar with the language learning technique of labeling household items, but there’s no need to be so restrictive about what you put where. Go crazy. Tape the past tense of verbs to the broom, stick slang phrases inside cupboards, fold idioms and place them in glasses.

You can even put an adjective chart on the bathroom wall in front of the toilet. Hence, you have to sit there anyway, so you might as well remind yourself that a masculine noun in the dative takes dem before it.

(It might not be a bad idea to keep a German novel by the porcelain for longer visits, either, or to load up your phone with e-books and keep it with you at all times.)

Make it so you can’t escape the language anywhere. Break the language down into manageable pieces and get exposed to it while doing everyday tasks, without taking any time out of your schedule. Consider this a very parent-friendly form of German learning.

 

With these steps to brush up on German, you polish off that rust and feel confident wielding the language.

And One More Thing...

Want to know the key to learning German effectively?

It's using the right content and tools, like FluentU has to offer! Browse hundreds of videos, take endless quizzes and master the German language faster than you've ever imagine!

learn-german-with-videos

Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.

learn-german-with-interactive-videos

You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don't know, you can add it to a vocabulary list.

learn-conversational-german-with-subtitled-dialogue

And FluentU isn't just for watching videos. It's a complete platform for learning. It's designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're on.

practice-german-with-adaptive-quizzes

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you're learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.

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