Wer rastet, der rostet is a German proverb that means, “He who rests, rusts.”
Basically, it expresses that those who don’t take action won’t improve their skills, which may then stagnate or fade away.
It’s a simple saying that couldn’t hold truer for the foreign language learner.
As someone learning German, you’ll know that your language skills are always in flux. They need to be polished constantly, but a significant lack of practice can leave a stain that grows with each missed study opportunity.
Soon enough, all that precious knowledge can dwindle to the point where we must tragically say: “My German is rusty.”
So why not just avoid the risk and aim to study German every day?
Why You Should Practice German Every Day
The key to learning German quickly and efficiently is to immerse yourself in it and integrate it into your life as much as you can. This is a deeper and more involved form of study. It’s one that works incredibly well for the self-learner who typically lacks a source guiding their education.
Binge studying for one or two days without further practice might not amount to real improvement. Remember cramming the night before a test? Turns out that cramming, or learning a bunch of things all at once, doesn’t help much with retaining information in the long run.
Instead, you should splice up your learning and make it frequent and consistent. Doing so will guarantee that your brain will always be at the ready for German language action.
Without constant practice, bits and pieces of your German will disappear. Actively reviewing and learning each day means you’re using and improving your German consistently.
Now, how do we make that all less stressful?
How to Stay Cool and Confident for Daily German Practice
Studying German every day sounds daunting, but there are some easy ways to make it both manageable and organized.
First, create a study checklist for the day. Studying without organization can lead to some chaotic results, but a simple to-do list can keep you grounded and improve your learning. Figure out in advance what German study goals you specifically want to accomplish for the upcoming day. Make this list the night before so you’ll wake up in the morning knowing what to do, and tick off each objective once it’s completed.
Even if your checklist isn’t long, it’s a great feeling when you’ve accomplished the goals you set. For extra brownie points, write the checklist in German!
You should also set a limit for how many new things to learn daily. There is such a thing as overloading your brain that could make new (and old) content slip away from your memory. Learning three new German words in a day is more reasonable than memorizing an entire dictionary page. Even if it doesn’t seem like much, if you continue the trend of three words per day, you’ll end up with 21 new words by the end of the week!
Lastly, time yourself. Whenever you’re engaging in German study, particularly if it’s prolonged, pick a dedicated amount of time to do it and don’t procrastinate during that time.
Aim to be consistent with your time so the process becomes predictable and your brain slips into study mode easily.
How long you choose to study is up to you. One popular time management technique, the Pomodoro technique, suggests that you should work in 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between.
Now, let’s jump into some tips on how you can actually maintain and improve your German day by day!
10 Brilliant Ways to Improve Your German
1. Switch All Media to German Versions
Youtube, Netflix, music, news articles—you name it! Change up all your entertainment sources so that they utilize the Deutsch language via captions, subtitles or voice dubbing, or swap to alternatives that are entirely in German.
This is a fun and challenging daily immersion method that lets you experience the unique flavor of German media, all while getting a learning experience out of it.
It’s quite easy to change the language settings on Youtube and Netflix. On your phone, the Youtube app will change the language based on your device’s current set language. Do note that this will change all the formatted text of the device to the language. On Netflix, German can be part of your watching experience via subtitles or audio.
Here’s how you can switch over to German:
On Youtube (computer):
- Go to your Account page
- Click Language and choose Deutsch, or click Location and choose Germany
On an Apple device:
- Go to Settings, then General
- Tap Language & Region and then Device language (on iPhone, it may be iPhone language)
- Switch to Deutsch (German)
On an Android device:
- Go to Settings, then System (or General Management on some devices)
- Tap Language & Input
- Go to Language and tap the current one in use; you will be given the option to Add language
- Add Deutsch to your device, and tap to activate
- While the movie/show is on, hit the Dialog icon
- Options for captions and audio language will be presented; choose German for either or both
Entertainment is a major part of daily life that is often mindless or distracting, but you can easily make it educationally valuable. If there’s one method of German study that you’ll enjoy quickly, it’s this one.
2. Use the FluentU German App
Speaking of German lessons and immersing yourself in German media, you’ll probably want an opportunity to do both on the go. The FluentU German app is an excellent choice for just that.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. With FluentU, you’ll be learning from media that German natives actually watch, accompanied by interactive captions, all at the touch of a finger.
Click on any word during a video to learn its definition and part of speech and see it used in example sentences and other videos.
Practice what you’ve learned with customized vocabulary lists and flashcard sets, and then test your knowledge with fun quizzes.
FluentU is a perfect addition to your everyday study regime and works to teach and reinforce German vocabulary with authentic German content. Be sure to give it a try—if you use the app daily, you’re bound to see progress in your learning!
3. Take Online German Lessons
Structured lessons can be extremely valuable in quickly boosting your language skills. Luckily, there’s an abundance of online German lessons available with a single mouse click. Often, these lessons don’t take much time to review or they’re self-paced and tailored to those with busier schedules.
For the latter, try not to learn too many topics at a time, and perhaps just focus on one for the day. If you’ve got the time, don’t miss out on this valuable resource!
4. Narrate Past, Current and Future Actions in Your Head
Every day, there’s a buzz in our heads that seem to narrate all the things we’ve done or should do. Well, why not give study value to all of that mental monologue?
Fall into the habit of internally narrating your actions, past, current or future, all in German. It’s a great way to practice verb tenses.
If you aren’t yet familiar, German verbs have parallels to the English language in that a change in tense can require either a vowel change in the verb’s stem (“swim” to “swam”), a suffix that doesn’t change the stem (“play” to “played”) or a mix of both (“bring” to “brought”). Respectively, German refers to vowel-change verbs as strong, suffixed ones as weak and the mixed as, well, mixed.
Most German verbs are weak and require you to add a -te to the stems of verbs for the simple past tense, or just a -t for the past participle.
For example, with the verb spielen (to play):
Ich spielte Tennis im Park. (I played tennis in the park.)
Strong verbs with a vowel shift, such as schwimmen (to swim), may conjugate like this:
Ich schwamm in dem Pool. (I swam in the pool.).
Mixed verbs are rarer still, such as bringen (to bring):
Ich brachte einen Kuchen für die Party. (I brought a cake for the party.)
The German future tense is quite easy when you want to say you will do something. All you need is the verb werden and the infinitive of the action verb.
So, you can say something like:
Ich werde um 21 Uhr schlafen. (I will sleep at 9 p.m.)
Modal verbs are another super helpful kind of verb. There are six in total: dürfen (may), wollen (want), können (can), sollen (should), müssen (must) and mögen (to like).
These express the possibility of an action and usually require the infinitive verb of said action. In terms of conjugation, you could say they fall under the mixed type, with stem-changing conjugations depending on the tense.
Here’s an example:
Ich muss in den Supermarkt gehen. (I must go to the supermarket.)
Make your narrative sentences simple so your brain doesn’t overload, though you can move on to longer sentences mixing all kinds of verbs once you feel confident. Soon enough, your inner voice will be as fluent in German as in English!
5. Use a German Dictionary
There are some seriously amusing German words even for the plainest of objects, and you won’t want to miss them.
When you’re going about your day and see something you don’t know the German word for, pull out your dictionary and look it up on the spot so you won’t forget to do it later. This can be an immediate and fun way to get your dose of new German vocabulary, and it’s really no hassle, especially if you use an app, like dict.cc (available on Google Play and the Apple App Store).
6. Keep a German Diary
Keeping a diary is a lovely way to reflect on the day’s events, but when written in German it could also be a great opportunity for reading and writing practice. No day is ever the same as another, so each entry will make you write new sentences. It’s also a good chance to try out any new vocabulary you learned that day.
Also, we recommend going old school and writing with the reliable pen and paper—a computer might do some translation or grammatical work for you that you’d rather do yourself, and it’s also been suggested that handwritten notes are more effective when it comes to remembering information.
So, swap the “Dear Diary” with Liebes Tagebuch and get writing!
7. Listen to German Audio Often
If a foreign language sounds foreign to you, it will remain so, which can be a damper on mastering it. Even if you don’t understand it all, simply hearing a language as it’s naturally spoken can boost your listening skills.
Listen to German audio as much as you can, whether it’s a casual recorded conversation, an audiobook, a scripted monologue or a topic-specific podcast. Even when you’re doing a mindless task, turn on some German audio to have it playing in the background. It’s a pain-free way to get some German exposure in your daily routine and train your ears to the language.
But, be smart about your audio choices. Go for slower-paced audio, like a podcast, instead of an on-air radio show, or opt for a German ballad instead of a rap song. This gives you a chance to easily tune in to the content, even if you weren’t initially focused, so you can achieve even a few seconds of active listening.
You don’t have to comprehend everything you hear—just pick out key nouns and verbs.
Also, German is particularly fond of compound nouns, so if you hear one, jot it down and try to parse out its meaning to the best of your ability. The word combinations tend to be quite literal, so they’re a great opportunity to learn multiple new words at once.
8. Speak German Aloud… and Record Yourself!
While self-learners can do some great silent studying, they might miss out on a whole other chunk of the foreign language—speaking it!
Even if you’re alone, always try to vocalize all the German you know and are learning and record yourself doing so. Reciting a passage, parroting a German native, singing a German song—whatever it is, catch it all on the mic and listen back often to pick out what rolls off your tongue and what makes you stumble.
As your German improves overall, your ears will pick up on the nuances to get that sweet native pronunciation we all want.
9. Find a German Conversation Partner
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a fluent German speaker around who’s willing to speak with you in the language, but if not, there are online conversation partners as well. If you’re not confident enough, then hit up a chat bot to get started on some basic conversation.
It might be bit a intimidating, but part of this daily study regime is to make your study methods into casual habits, so treat these German conversations as you would any other mundane talk.
Keep it natural and relevant to the day’s events to make it seem less like a script. Aim for even a few minutes of chitchat a day, trying out both written and spoken German.
10. Make Your Own German Tests
Craft your own tests and quizzes to take at the start and/or end of the day to test what you’ve learned.
Tests don’t have to be a drag—be creative with them and try out multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, picture-word matches and more! Challenge yourself with some fastball questions and aim to keep the tests cumulative (meaning, test both new and old knowledge).
And, make sure you treat yourself for your good grades!
By making it an everyday thing, German study can become a breeze, and you’ll improve in what seems like no time. Keep your German in frequent use and in polished condition, and your skills will be safe from rusting away!
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