Got lots of errands to run today?
Calendar packed back-to-back?
There’s still time to learn German.
Look, we get it.
Finding space in your schedule for German lessons and practice is one of the hardest parts of getting started.
But many beginner German learners don’t realize that it’s not necessary to sit at a quiet desk with a textbook all the time.
In fact, studies confirm that you can learn on the move and retain new language skills.
And there are tons of beginner German learning tools that are easy to adapt to your hectic lifestyle.
In this article, we’ll show you five super convenient German learning tools for beginners, and how you can easily find time to use them in your everyday life.
The Easiest Way to Learn German for Beginners: 5 Resources That Fit into Everyday Life
1. Start Practicing on Your Commute
Best resource: Slow German
Let’s start with getting to school or work. How long does it take you? 15 minutes? Half an hour? Almost an hour?
That’s all valuable learning time no matter whether you walk, bike, take public transportation or drive. You can listen to fun podcasts on just about any topic that interests you.
Slow German offers the perfect starting point with their Absolute Beginners podcast. The podcasts episodes are under five minutes and the instruction is in English. You’ll be taught essential German vocabulary and phrases for a variety of topics, such as family roles, getting dressed or going to the doctor. You can also get a copy of the transcript to follow along.
Plus, they have a good selection of other free podcasts for even more listening opportunities on your commute.
Slow German is also great for your commute because it’s convenient to access on any device. You can download the episodes as MP3s or stream on podcast apps such as PlayerFM.
Work from home? Too many bus transfers to concentrate on German? You can still find time for German practice even if it’s not strictly during your commute to work.
How about starting with a Slow German podcast while you shave, brush your teeth, make breakfast or put on makeup? Learning even a few new vocabulary words each day adds up. Five new words per day, Monday to Friday, equals 25 words a week or 100 words each month!
2. Discover German Culture While You Do Chores
Best resource: “Mein Weg nach Deutschland” (“My Way to Germany”) from the Goethe Institut
Do you know how much time you spend cleaning up around the house each day?
The average person spends an hour per day cleaning up after meals, straightening up around the house and doing laundry.
Your mind probably wanders aimlessly through all that time. Why not take it on a trip to Germany instead?
This video series follows a young woman as she navigates life in Germany practicing her beginner German vocabulary. You’ll see her in real-life situations, such as going to the grocery store, and you’ll hear authentic German as she interacts with locals.
But perhaps best of all, you’ll get a great glimpse at everyday German life and culture. You’ll see how young people hang out, what daily work life is like and how to handle everything from doctor’s appointments or apartment hunting.
The wonderful thing about this video series is that all the videos are under 10 minutes. Even better for busy people (or super-fast laundry folders!).
It’s an engaging but manageable introduction to German culture, and since it’s available for free on YouTube, you can simply pull it up on your phone or tablet to watch beside the sink, washing machine or anywhere else in your home while you clean up.
3. Turn TV Time into German Time
Best resource: FluentU
It may seem crazy, but statistics show that the average American household has the TV on for seven hours a day.
That’s plenty of time to harness for German learning. Plus, TV can be a great way to start learning a language. It has the wonderful advantage of being both visual and auditory, plus you’ll learn a ton about current German culture.
But for beginner learners, the fast speech and level of vocabulary can make TV overwhelming and unproductive.
That’s what FluentU was designed to address.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Every video on FluentU comes with built-in language tools so you actively learn while you watch. For example, there are interactive subtitles. Click any word in the subtitles and you’ll get an instant definition, grammar info and example sentences. FluentU will also point you to other videos that have the same unfamiliar word, so you’ll learn how to use it correctly in any context.
There are also vocabulary lists, full transcripts, flashcards and fun quizzes to make sure you remember what you’ve learned. FluentU will keep track of your progress, so you can watch and learn on your browser, iOS or Android device without missing a beat.
So, the next time you’re surfing aimlessly through Netflix, why not tune into German instead?
Sign up for the free trial today, and see how easy it is to start squeezing in some immersive German learning with FluentU.
4. Flip Flashcards While Standing in Line
Best resource: DIY flashcards
Think of the time you spend waiting to order your morning coffee.
Or waiting at the checkout counter in the grocery store. What about the time you spend waiting to see the doctor or dentist? Or, heaven help you, a specialist?
Put all that waiting time to good use for your German skills. Particularly as a beginner, the more you review and practice your new German vocabulary the faster you’ll make progress towards the intermediate stage.
While you’re standing in line, you could be looking at your German flashcards. You can use the time to learn new words or review previous ones. Your flashcards can either be the hard-copy version or there are some excellent flashcard apps you can use.
Try to build a flashcard set that works best for you. Focus on the vocabulary you need most for daily life or have most trouble remembering.
You can personalize them with images, sample sentences, etc. You can create or use them any way that works best for you. (I loved this part. Forget about the teacher breathing down your neck. These are yours and only yours.)
Set a goal, of say, maybe looking at five German words every time you find yourself standing in line. It’ll even make the wait seem to go faster. Still in line? Go for another five words!
If you choose to go the hard-copy route, color code your flashcards so that masculine words are on blue, feminine words are on pink and neuter words are on green or yellow. (Sounds sexist, I know, but it’s the easiest way to do it.) Speaking from lots of personal experience, believe me when I say the color coding will really help. Especially when you continue on a bit and learn about German cases.
I can’t tell you the number of times I would get stuck for a noun’s gender, almost always during tests or exams! I’d think back to my flashcards and say, “okay, now what color paper was that on?” It was a huge help to be able to visualize the word and the color at the same time!
5. Fill Your Phone with German Contacts
Best resource: online German language exchanges
You probably almost never leave home without your phone, right?
So use it to your advantage by connecting with native German speakers.
Yes, even as a beginner German learner, language exchanges are possible—even vital. They’ll prevent bad language habits and shake off those first-conversation jitters early.
Use one of these German language exchange sites to find online (as well as in-person) speaking partners. Typically you’ll match up with someone who’s learning your native language, so you can both help each other. Simply go to the site and choose German as your target language.
You’ll likely find someone who would like a conversation partner and be happy to spend some time each week using their native language. Find a mutually agreeable time to talk and aim to talk to each other at least once a week for a minimum of 20 minutes. This is especially important in the beginning, to establish a new routine. (Just watch out for the time difference if your speaking partner lives on a different continent!)
You’ll not only begin using your new German vocabulary in a real-life context, but you’ll also learn so much about German culture. You may even start a lifelong friendship that’s based on speaking German together.
You can also look for language exchange partners in your existing social circle. Got an email address, a Facebook or Instagram account? Send out an email or post to your friends and followers to see if anyone knows someone whose first language is German.
If you’re still stuck and none of your contacts knows a native German speaker, you can always try contacting a local German organization, club or restaurant. Chances are, it won’t take long for someone to respond and let you know how to contact a German-speaking person.
Are you ready to start learning German today? Don’t let a busy lifestyle stop you from beginning to learn German. You can find time in your schedule. Use these German learning tools for beginners to help you and look for periods of downtime to maximize your learning.
Ramona Brown Monsour, M.A., is an ESL teacher and professional writer. She is the creator of the digital newsletter, “About Canada: Culture, Immigration & Lifestyle.”