Wish you could transport yourself to Germany with a snap of your fingers?
Don’t we all, man.
You can snap those fingers, click your heels and rub “magic” lamps all you want, but you won’t get one inch closer to the German immersion you crave.
Sadly, we can’t all be lucky enough to pick up and move to Germany in order to achieve effortless immersion, and keeping our German brain engaged in the midst of our pesky English-speaking lifestyle can seem like a lot of effort.
Never fear, my grammar-loving friend! Obviously you have Lust auf (desire for) more German learning, and if enrolling in a class isn’t in the cards for you at present, use these strategies to trick yourself into studying when you least expect it!
As it turns out, you never needed to snap your fingers—all you needed was one click! You’ve clicked yourself here, and in a few minutes you’ll be completely prepared to add some instant German immersion into your life.
Here are the 10 laziest, sneakiest and most creative ways to keep learning German every single day.
10 Snappy Ways to Instantly Immerse Yourself in German
1. Become addicted to a terrible/wonderful German soap opera or reality show
“DSDS” (German Idol), anyone? Or how about “Der Bachelor” (The Bachelor)…?
Okay, if that doesn’t sound ideal to you, maybe just watch the news or track down the closest German equivalent of your current television addiction.
Getting addicted to a silly, overblown drama will keep you interested, and you’re sure to increase your knowledge of everyday German and slang at the same time. The German subtitles are key here. Sometimes the speech can be very fast and seem discouraging, but reading along will help keep you engaged and motivated.
If watching a thirty or sixty minute show (even with the subtitles) still seems like too much, start small! Watch the weather report every day, or watch a short news break. Maybe even a dubbed-into-German episode of a show that you already know in English! Of course, you can always watch clips of great German content on FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news, dramas and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. You’re sure to find something that appeals to your interests there!
Oh, and as a German learner, you should remember that you have a huge advantage going for you. Unlike streaming TV from many other countries (I’m looking at you, BBC!) you needn’t worry about breaking any laws or performing any technical tricks to get a hold of the German feed. To get started, try the Mediathek channel or ZDF!
2. Try to translate everyday conversations in your head
…right after they happen.
You might look a little funny, lost in thought and muttering to yourself in German as you’re leaving the grocery store, but if you can reproduce the short conversation you just had with the girl behind the till you’ll be one step closer to achieving practical language skills in German.
Obviously, if you can’t replicate a grammatical construct completely, or if you don’t know the word for something already, the ideal thing to do would be to go home and look it up. However, simply trying to complete these short translations will prevent you from slipping into that oh-so-familiar English complacency, which inevitably leads to forgetfulness.
Keep in mind (or jot down in a notepad) the things that you can’t quite translate. You’ll fill in those gaps one by one. Don’t just stand there stuck though—if you run into trouble with translating a particular word or phrase, dance linguistically around it. Find other ways to explain what you mean in German without using the missing word. This is a fantastic way to become more creative and flexible with your German usage.
3. Put vocabulary post-it notes on everything
To an outsider, it will seem as though you’re either extremely forgetful or just super obsessed with the decorative power of post-it notes, but, I promise, this really does work and it’s all going to be worth it.
Make sure to include the articles of the nouns your post-it-ing so you can memorize the gender as well! It might seem odd, but if you look down at der Tisch every time you sit at your table, or stare up at die Küche every time you enter the kitchen, sooner or later these words and their genders are bound to sink in.
4. Change the language settings of your Facebook and your cell phone
Okay, this definitely might be a step too far for some people, but it’s certainly effective! Actually, scratch that. It’s never a step too far for anyone.
The more you feel like you need to understand your Facebook or cell phone, the better this exercise will work for you. That sense of urgency—I have to understand this important message! I have to be able to navigate to My Contacts quickly!—will translate into faster learning.
If you become frustrated because you can’t figure something out on your phone and you’re forced to do it in German anyway, you WILL remember what to do for the next time.
You can extend this to any gadget or social media profile to keep expanding your learning. Change your TV, iPad, iPod, Twitter, Google Chrome—anything that gives you a language option.
5. If you cook, use German language recipes
Theoretically, there’s a small chance you might poison your friends or family, but with a dictionary at the ready, go on and try to bake that delicious Kuchen in time for tea.
6. If you Instagram or Twitter, use and surf the German hashtags
Honesty time: I stalk the German Instagram community constantly. It’s such a great way to learn everyday German, and it makes me feel connected to the culture no matter where I am!
There’s a danger, of course, that you’ll encounter some less-than-perfect language usage on these super casual forums, but this is also a good opportunity to discover non-academic styles, tones and slang, making you sound like a pro!
Get started with #germanblogger and get lost in the maze of hashtags that follow, or for some truly ridiculous breakfast porn, try simply #frühstück ! (Mmmm…lecker, “tasty.”)
7. Use a German-German dictionary
…instead of an English-German one, that is!
You don’t want to be translating things between German and English all the time. You want to switch your brain over into complete and total German mode.
This might be annoying at first, but it really is a good way to prevent your brain from lazily forgetting the vocabulary word that you JUST looked up. You’ll remember better so you don’t have to struggle with that translation yet again. It takes more work, meaning your making more connections in your brain—all that context is key for true learning.
For instance, if you have to look up 4 or 5 words to get there, you’ve instantly quadrupled your new knowledge, as well as exercised the connections in your brain that already exist. Additionally (from a more specific grammatical point of view) looking up things in a dictionary increases your exposure to, and thus familiarity with, relative clauses, as this is how dictionaries usually operate.
8. Read a book you’ve already read
…and by this I mean, pick a book you’ve read before in English, and grab a German copy!
Even if it’s a children’s book, re-reading a familiar story in a different language can be a much more relaxing and rewarding experience than reading a completely new story. The plot points with which you’re already familiar will help fill in the gaps between all that pesky new vocabulary.
This is particularly desirable if the story you chose was originally written in German! There’s a whole new world of art out there just waiting for you to discover it.
That being said, don’t feel pressured to only read things in their original language. Full disclosure—I re-read “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” a bunch of times for German practice. Pick something you know you’ll definitely enjoy to get started!
9. Play a game
Everybody likes games. Of course, there are about a million language learning apps out there, (Duolingo is a pretty good one, as is FluentU), but you could also play an actual, physical game like memory, charades, etc., provided you find another willing participant! If you complete a short language game every day, that’s easily the equivalent of one hour of study a week.
10. Find a local Stammtisch!
Stammtisch, literally means “root table.” More normally it translates to “table for regular guests.” Either way, it refers to a group of people who get together at an establishment to chat, and there’s nothing like practicing German with other learners (and, if you’re lucky, a few native speakers) after one or two beers.
In fact, I’m willing to bet there must be some sort of science—somewhere—to support the language learning benefits of this combination. At least for this language! To find one, try contacting the German department of universities in your area; most will either help run a Stammtisch, or will have the information of those in your area who do. Also try German Clubs or Meet-Ups online! (Then you can find a German language partner with whom to practice number 9!)
Well, there you are. That’s 10!
10 super easy tips for keeping your German language dream alive while living in a decidedly non-German atmosphere.
Way to go! Give yourself a pat on the back for even mustering up the energy to look up easy ways to learn German.
If all else fails, and your motivation is at an all-time low, just remember the majestic, natural wonderment of the German Biergarten, the unbelievably quaint fairytale landscapes (complete with castles) of places like Heidelberg and the ridiculous dance-until-10-in-the-morning club scene of Berlin. Followed by a freshly baked Frühstück, natürlich (breakfast, of course).
Simply learn German and all of this can be yours!
Viel Spaß! (Have fun!)
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.