Everything’s better when it’s brand new.
It’s the same with learning a foreign language.
It’s thrilling at the beginning when you’re speaking your first sentences and learning simple nouns. But once you’ve been slogging away for a few months, battling end declensions and trying to remember which nouns take der, which take die and which take das, the process of learning a new language suddenly stops seeming so fun.
That’s why so many language learners quit along the way: eventually, they just run out steam.
But don’t despair. With some perspective and patience, the intermediate level of German doesn’t have to be so difficult. With the right lessons and preparations, you can soar through this level, learning more than ever and increasing the breadth and depth of your German knowledge until you emerge on the other side, ready to face advanced levels and fluency.
How to Milk Intermediate German Lessons for All They’re Worth
The Pitfalls of Intermediate German Lessons
1. The novelty of learning the language has worn off.
Once again, remember: your love affair with German during the intermediate levels will not compare to the level of infatuation you felt for the language at the beginning.
2. You’ll be dealing with more complex concepts.
In the beginner levels of German, the most complex grammatical issues you had to deal with were the difference between accusative and dative, plus some tricky word order rules. Once you reach the intermediate level, you’ll realize that your understanding of accusative and dative, which you worked so hard to nail down, is flawed at best. Not to mention you have a whole host of other grammatical rules to learn: prepositions and verbs, praeteritum, the four uses of the verb werden, future tense and on and on.
3. Your expectations will be higher, leading to increased frustration.
“How could I mix up nach and in? I learned that back in A2!” you tell yourself. When you first start out on your language learning journey, making mistakes isn’t so bad: you’re just a beginner. But when you reach the intermediate level, you might be harder on yourself when you mess up, which can lead to frustration.
What to Expect from Intermediate German Lessons
Remember, the intermediate level of German will greatly expand your grammatical knowledge, your vocabulary and the breadth of topics you’re able to read about, write about and speak about. In your intermediate German lessons, you can expect to cover topics including:
1. Complex grammar.
- Verbs and prepositions.
Every verb in German takes a preposition, which then triggers either accusative or dative case for the object. In the intermediate levels of German, your teachers will devote plenty of time to enforcing these rules—and remember, sometimes the same verb takes a different preposition based on the context. For example, you would say Ich freue mich (I’m excited about) AUF something in the future, but Ich freue mich ÜBER something that’s happening now.
- Literary past tense.
Most of the time, Germans use present perfect to describe something that happened in the past. However, have you ever flipped through a German book or newspaper and seen a strange-looking word, like ging or sah? That’s praeteritum, a version of the past tense that’s used mostly in writing and almost never in speaking. You still have to learn it, though, and the intermediate levels are where you will face it.
- Passive voice.
In your intermediate lessons, you’ll also learn passive voice, that tense beloved by politicians everywhere. Using the verb werden, mentioned above, as well as the past participle form of a verb, you’ll learn how to say not “I wrote the letter,” but rather, “The letter was written by me.”
2. Lots of vocabulary.
- Hopes and dreams.
The intermediate level is partially about expanding your vocabulary beyond the 500-1000 words known by a beginner. With that goal in mind, teachers will introduce a variety of new topics, including discussing your life plans. You’ll learn how to express wishes and how to talk about pursuing targets in your life, what you think about marriage and what kind of job you have or hope to have.
You’ll also learn plenty of career-related vocabulary, including words like vollzeit, teilzeit and halbzeit (full-time, part-time and half-time), as well as the names of various professions, such as Anwalt (lawyer).
The intermediate German level will introduce you to vocabulary relating to interviews, for those students who plan to pursue a career in a Deutsch-speaking country. You’ll learn all about Vorstellungsgesprach (interviews), your Lebenslauf (resume) and your Bewerbung (application).
3. Sophisticated conversation topics.
- Political opinions.
All this new vocabulary means that in your intermediate German classes, you’ll learn how to converse on topics beyond the usual (hobbies, families, travel). Expect to talk about political and social issues, ranging from refugees to birth control.
- Cultural differences.
If you’re taking a German class, chances are you’ll be studying with some people who aren’t from your native country. In class, you’ll learn how to talk about differences between your culture, those other cultures and German culture.
- Philosophical issues.
In your intermediate lessons, you can expect to discuss higher-concept philosophical questions, such as the meaning of happiness and whether money can truly make a person happy.
The Best Intermediate German Lesson Opportunities
So now you know what to expect: grammar, vocabulary, philosophical conversation topics. The question is, where should you go to learn all of this?
There are a number of different options, depending on your schedule, your budget and your location within the world.
1. Online lessons
Online lessons are always an economical option, perfect for people with busy schedules. If you choose the online route, check out one of the options below. Just make sure to stay disciplined and to ignore your innerer Schweinehund (that voice inside your head that whispers that you can study, work out or clean your house another day).
FluentU offers a whole host of resources for language learners at every skill level, starting with authentic German videos that have interactive subtitles in English and German (which you can toggle on and off at will). From there, you’ll have access to in-context vocabulary definitions, audio pronunciations, real-world language usage examples and learn mode features like multimedia flashcards, vocabulary lists and practice quizzes.
Deutsche Welle offers interactive German courses for every level (plus a placement test to help you figure out where you really belong). The courses include exercises, tests, audio and video.
Rosetta Stone is an immersive software program that keeps language learning in its natural form. In other words, it approaches second language learning as if the learner were a baby learning his or her first language, because kids are great language learners.
It’s more expensive than the other options, but it’s a comprehensive method of learning any foreign language. But with Rosetta Stone holding the number one rank for most hype, one must consider if it’s the right product to use. Test it out with a free trial here!
2. Lessons in your own country
If you don’t want to learn online and instead want the support and structure of a classroom, take a look at one of these programs.
The Goethe Institute is in many ways the gold standard of German language instruction. It’s a government-funded program that produces curricula and materials as well, and offers courses all over the world. The only downside is that it can be expensive.
The German Language School Conference is an organization representing private language schools in the United States, which usually operate on Saturdays and serve students of all ages. They publish a list of private German language schools across the United States, which can help you find a program if Goethe is too expensive, too time-consuming or not conveniently located to your home.
- Local universities
Many local universities allow students to sign up for one-off classes. If your local school offers evening classes in intermediate German, this could be a good way to bump up your level.
2. Lessons in Germany
Maybe you’re learning German because you’ve made the leap and moved to Deutschland, or maybe you’re just doing a short program in the country. Either way, if you’re living in Germany, one of these schools can help you power through the intermediate levels.
- Goethe Institute
The Goethe Institute is indeed still an option within Deutschland itself, with locations all over the country and options available for intensive classes in the morning, crash courses in the afternoon and more intensive classes in the evening.
German Language School is a language instruction school located in Berlin which also runs summer camps elsewhere in Germany. GLS runs on the same model as Goethe—intensive classes offered in the mornings or evenings—but it’s significantly cheaper.
- Other, local schools
Every city in Germany will also offer other schools besides GLS and Goethe. Check out the subway ads or do a quick Google search to find the cheaper, less time-consuming options in your city of residence.
3 Tips for Intermediate German Learners to Succeed in Lessons
Remember, it’s not all about class. As an intermediate learner, you should take steps to practice German outside of school: in your spare time, in your social life and in your relaxation time. Here are a few ways to do so:
1. Connect with native speakers.
Making friends with German speakers can be a great way to improve your language learning skills, especially since they can often teach you slang phrases and colloquialisms that you won’t learn from your Hochdeutsch lessons. Just make sure to avoid language poachers!
2. Consume simple but entertaining German media.
Now that you’ve reached a more advanced level, you can start consuming media that’s a bit more interesting than the simple sentences and scenarios you studied at the beginning. Check out an abridged classic German book, or get hooked on a German TV show.
3. Make flashcards and study your new vocabulary every day.
Remember, you’re digesting a lot of new information right now. It’s important to review what you’ve learned—in class or on your own—so the new information doesn’t dispel the old. Make flashcards or invest in a verb wheel, and study a little bit every day until all that new information seems like nothing.
The intermediate levels can be tricky, but with the right classes and the right amount of patience, you’ll be off to the advanced levels in no time!
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