German flag in front of building

Is German Hard to Learn?

Is German easy to learn if you’re a native English speaker? What about if you hail from a country that speaks primarily Spanish, Italian or French?

This is the big question that everyone asks before setting out on the journey of learning German.

In this post, we’ll discuss the challenges you should expect when learning German, study strategies to overcome them, and easy areas that will make you a German pro in no time.


Is German Hard to Learn?

The short answer is no: German is not as hard to learn as you might think.

In fact, German is one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.

But the ease and how long it takes to learn depend on your commitment and a few other factors—which we’re about to find out!

What Makes German Easy to Learn

Person in orange shirt writing in a notebook

As I pointed out earlier, if you speak English, many parts of German will come easily to you.

Some aspects are definitely easier than others, so we’ll start with those.

So, why is German easy to learn?

1. Only six tenses 

Unlike English’s seemingly never-ending stream of tenses: when something happened, has happened, or was happening, or would have been about to happen, German is relatively sparse on this front, with only six tenses! 

In German, there is no present-continuous form whatsoever. To form this in English, you conjugate “to be” by adding “-ing” on to the end of the verb: “I speak” → “I am speaking.” 

In German, there’s no difference between “I play” or “I am playing,” both are simply the normal present tense: ich spiele. Easy!

If you want to emphasize the on-going nature of an action, you can just use an adverb like jetzt (now) or gerade (currently). 

You’ll also often see the simple present used instead of English’s many future tenses too, just with a future adverb: Morgen spiele ich Fußball. (Tomorrow I am going to play football.)  

There’s also no present perfect tense either, so no “I have played,” just “I play” or “I played,” depending on the context. 

2. Consistent verb conjugation patterns

Conjugations can be confusing at first, but the pattern for regular verbs is consistent, so it’s generally easy to learn.

For example, once you learn how to conjugate regular verbs, you’ll know how all regular verbs are formed in tenses like the present, past, future, etc. Then, all that’s left is to memorize the irregulars!

And even though irregular verbs don’t follow the usual conjugation patterns, they still follow their own set of rules that you can learn and apply to most all irregulars.

For example, irregular verbs only have vowel changes in the du (you, familiar) and er/sie/es (he/she/it) forms, giving you a nice pattern to remember: ich sehe (I see), du siehst (you see). 

And the past participle of irregular verbs end with -en: essen — gegessen (to eat ate), rather than regular verbs that end with -tmachen gemacht (to make made).

3. Easily identify different words

Unlike English, many words can be identified in German simply by looking at them. All nouns, for example, are always written with a capital letter, making them way easier to pick out when reading a text. (Apfel, Mann, Frau, Deutsch…) 

Verbs are also far more identifiable in German, with almost all verbs ending on -en in their infinitive form (singen, tanzen, machen) and starting with ge- in the past tense (gesungen, getanzt, gemacht). 

This, in turn, makes it easier to figure out what a word is doing in those longer, trickier sentences. 

4. Consistent pronunciation

Quite the opposite of English’s many silent beginnings, middles and endings, no letter goes unspoken in German! 

Once you’ve learnt the alphabet and a handful of specific letter combos, you’re pretty much good to go on pronunciation. 

Of course it will take some time to wrap your mouth around these new sounds, but once you have, you’ll be able to have any word sitting in front of you, and be able to pronounce it no problem. No constant anxiety about pronouncing a word wrong here! 

5. Compound nouns are actually easy

You’ve probably read articles about German’s insanely long words, and maybe even been turned off from learning it all together! Just how on earth are you meant to wrap your head around a monster like: Lebensversicherungsgesellschaften (life insurance companies)?! 

Well, you can come out from behind the sofa, as it turns out these nouns aren’t all that scary. 

Whereas English has a space between its compound nouns, German basically just loves to squish words together to form one word. So the terrifying substantive above is really just three put together: Lebens (life) + Versicherungs (insurance) + Gesellschaften (companies).

This actually in turn makes it easier to immediately understand words you’ve never seen before, as German often just pieces together smaller nouns instead of making up a whole new word for something. For example, words like Hand (hand) and Schuh (shoe) come together to make Handschuh (glove).

6. Familiar vocabulary

English is actually a Germanic language, and the two still share an enormous number of cognates—words that look, sound and mean almost identical.

From biting into a crunchy Apfel, brushing your Haarto asking your Freund if they want to go tanzen. There’s so many words with similarities, meaning you won’t always have to perform a feat of memory in order to learn new vocabulary. 

Plus, there’s a whole stock of newer loanwords that came directly from English. Particularly in the world of tech, you can understand many things without even knowing a lick of German: Laptop, streamen, downloaden, Homeoffice, liken…

These many overlaps will give you a serious head start on your German learning journey, and make texts or videos that might at first seem daunting, far more manageable on a closer look. 

7. Endless learning resources

German is a major world language, so there are a ton of resources to learn it. This amount of accessibility will make it easy for you to make a study plan you can stick to, which will lead to seeing faster progress.

From the state-funded Deutsche Welle , the many prestigious Goethe Institutes worldwide, to the hundreds of blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to learning German, you’ll never be at a loss for content to supercharge your learning. 

What Makes German Hard to Learn

Woman reading book next to dog

Whether you pick up a textbook, go to a class or learn German naturally through videos, you’ll see similar guides, exercises and chapters to touch on.

Some will give you a headache, others will be a breeze. So, what parts of German do many people struggle with?

1. Noun genders can seem a bit random

Every noun is either masculine, feminine or neuter. This means they have their own word for “the,” either der (masculine), die (feminine) or das (neuter). 

Whilst it might seem arbitrary, it’s essential to learn these alongside the noun, as saying the wrong gender just sounds wrong, and can even lead to miscommunications: Die Band is not the same as das Band. The genders also play a critical role in German’s grammar (more on that later), so you unfortunately cannot opt out of them. 

Luckily, there are an awful lot of patterns, like certain common noun endings always have a specific gender. Nouns ending in -ung, -heit or -keit are always feminine. Most nouns describing technology are also masculine. This means you often won’t even have to look up a gender when learning a new noun! 

2. Sentence structure

English tends to have a simple structure of subject + verb + object. German, on the other hand, can be quite bossy about where its verbs need to go, and has a penchant for sending them all the way to the end of the sentence, something quite difficult for us Anglo-speakers to keep track of. 

For example, the word weil always sends the verb to the end. So the sentence “She cannot come because she is currently very ill.” will read: 

Sie kann nicht kommen, weil sie gerade sehr krank ist. (Literally: She cannot come because she currently very ill is.)

So keep on reading, that verb you’re looking for is probably right at the end! 

3. The four grammatical cases

There are four cases in German: Nominativ, Genitiv, Dativ and Akkusativ. This is definitely one of the biggest challenges for English speakers since we don’t have cases in our language anymore. 

Just what are the German cases? Medical cases? Criminal cases? Suitcases? No, here it’s all about grammatical cases, and they are essential to solving the mysterious case of the German language.

In a nutshell, words can change in German depending on what they are functionally doing in the sentence. In grammatical terms we call this what “case” the noun is in. Think about how in English, pronouns change depending on what the word does in the sentence. We use “he” if he is doing the action, but then “him” if the action is being done to him. Compare “he sees” with “I see him.”

In German, it affects most every word, from nouns, to pronouns to adjectives. 

Let’s look at the sentence: Ich sehe den Hund. (I see the dog)

  • Ich is the subject, as it is doing the action, seeing. The subject always goes in the nominative case. 
  • Den Hund is the direct object, as it is receiving the action. The direct object always goes in the accusative case. 

But you might be thinking, isn’t it der Hund? Correct! But the masculine noun der Hund turns to den Hund in the accusative case. 

This is almost certainly the trickiest hurdle to get over when learning German. But, over time, what once seemed like an insurmountable obstacle will soon become second nature! 

4. Spoken particles can radically change meaning

In English, we tend to use either emphasis on certain words or long-winded phrases to reflect the attitude and mood of the speaker.

In German, however, there are these little words called In grammatical terms we call this what “case” the noun is in.. These basically add extra flavor to your sentence, giving you an idea of how the speaker feels about the topic in question. 

The word ja, literally meaning “yes,” can be used to deliver a sense of strong emphasis, with the implication that “this is something we all know already”: Ich bin ja kein Arzt! (I’m not a doctor, of course!) 

The word mal, literally meaning “time,” can also be used to make an instruction sound friendlier and less bossy: Komm mal rein! (Come on in!) 

There are dozens of these, and they can all have multiple nuanced, sometimes contradictory, meanings, making what seemed like a simple sentence suddenly a lot more tricky to decipher. 

Luckily, they are mainly reserved for conversation. And within a conversation, you will already often have many other contextual clues to get the gist. So whilst they can be intimidating and difficult to master, they’re usually not going to ruin your understanding! 

How Difficult Will German Be for You?

What factors are going to affect your progress? Answer these questions to get an idea:

  • Have you learned a language in the past? If so, you know that training to become fluent is no cakewalk. However, you’ve already trained your brain to absorb language-related information, understand new grammar and memorize bunches of new vocabulary.
  • Did you successfully gain fluency in that language? If you gained fluency, German shouldn’t be that tough for you. If not, consider making a list of the elements that caused you trouble with the last language.
  • Have you learned through classes or on your own? Depending on your past learning tactics, decide how you learn quickest. For example, some people just can’t retain information unless they go to classes. Others get bored with classes and need the freedom to explore independently.
  • Are you a native English speaker? If so, beginner and intermediate German will look more like English as you practice. The two languages are pretty similar, but the more advanced you get, the farther they move apart.
  • Do you live near or know people who speak German? Can you speak to them regularly? This is the best way to figure out whether or not you’ll have a hard time with German. You should be good if you have someone to speak with every day or every week. If not, your chances of having difficulty increase that much more. That being said, you can always find someone online.

FAQs About Learning German

How long will it take to learn German?

How long it takes to learn German depends on factors such as your language learning aptitude and the intensity of your study routine.

Generally, estimates suggest that reaching proficiency in German can take upwards of 600-750 hours for English speakers. However, this can vary massively depending on the methods you use.

Is German hard for English speakers?

German can present challenges for English speakers due to its grammatical complexities, such as gendered nouns, four grammatical cases, and verb conjugations.

However, English and German share similarities in vocabulary and grammatical structure, which can facilitate learning. English speakers might find pronunciation relatively manageable since German phonetics are more consistent than English.

Again, whether German is hard for you can depend on a range of personal factors.

Is it useful to learn German?

Learning German can be highly beneficial for various reasons. Germany boasts the largest economy in Europe, making German a valuable language for business and career opportunities. Proficiency in German can enhance job prospects, particularly in fields such as engineering, finance, and technology.

German is also spoken in several other countries, including Austria, Switzerland, and parts of Belgium and Italy, expanding the potential for cultural and travel experiences.

You’ll find that there are lots of benefits to learning the German language!

Study Strategies That Make Learning German Easier

If you want to make German easier to learn, you have to work and maybe even invest a little money. Here are some strategies for simplifying your learning.

  • Classes. German classes are best for jumping to a new level, like from beginner to intermediate. Investing in classes—or simply taking them for free online—at the beginning of your German learning process gives you structure that often pays off in the long term. However, if you had to skip one learning area, it would most definitely be in-person classes.
  • Tutoring. You can invest in tutoring to keep you on a consistent schedule. It allows for tons of speaking time, which you otherwise might not get. Plus, your tutor will correct mistakes that you make along the way. You’ll also interact with a native speaker (if you’ve chosen a native tutor, which you should). Several sites connect you with tutors, but I like Verbling best.
  • Self-training. Practice while at work, school, home and while out with friends. Every time you’ve got a spare moment or find your mind wandering, give your brain a little bit of German input or try thinking in German.
  • Speaking with others. You need to have a speaking partner to chat with at least weekly. Try to meet up with a language exchange partner online or in your local area!

On top of these, you can’t overlook German immersion if you want to become fluent. You can take the traditional route and book a plane ticket to Germany, or use immersion programs like FluentU to bring Germany to you.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

FluentU Ad


So, did that answer your question?

In the end, I think a better question is whether or not German is fun to learn, because that’s a guaranteed yes—and if you love the learning process, it will never get too hard for you!

You’re going to encounter challenges and super easy areas in the German language, but that’s what makes it so intriguing. There will be ups and downs, and you’ve got to love them all.

For more reasons to learn German, visit this post: 

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!


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


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.


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.


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.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe