Imagine living in Bavaria and enjoying the smell of fresh cut grass at an FC Bayern Munich match.
How about finding an apartment with a stunning view of the majestic St. Michael’s Church?
Now, imagine how easy it would be to finally learn German to fluency and immerse yourself in the German culture by living anywhere in Germany.
If only it were that easy, right?
You have kids, a house or maybe a great job. What about the emotional turmoil that may come with leaving the town you grew up in, or the fact that you may not have the funds to completely uproot like that?
It’s a dilemma that many language learners face, and although living in Germany would be wonderful, sometimes it’s just not an option—or a desirable option.
Is there still hope for you to achieve German fluency? Can you learn through German immersion when you can’t move to Germany?
It’s not an easy task, but with the ultimate guide we outline below, you’ll be well on your way to German fluency and immersion.
Can Learning German in Your Hometown Work as Well as Living in Germany?
Let’s not kid ourselves. The benefits of living in a place like Germany are immeasurable.
Is it possible to gain the same advantages that you would find by living in a place like, say, Munich?
The answer is yes, because thousands of people manage to gain fluency in a language, such as German, without packing up and going to a place where everyone speaks the language.
The goal is to surround yourself with the four main components of immersing yourself in a language:
It’s still tough since, by definition, true immersion is placing yourself in an area that forces you to speak, read, listen and write the language. However for some, the idea of moving to a new country is just not possible.
Therefore, I would argue that you can get very close to replicating German immersion in your own town.
There are even some advantages to living in a non-German speaking area:
- You’re not guaranteed to stumble upon German speakers even in Germany, depending on how often you go out and mingle (and lots of people speak English in Germany, so they may just feel more comfortable with that and not give you a chance to learn.)
- In a non-German speaking area, you can surround yourself with others who actively want to learn, watch German movies and find establishments that speak only in German.
- Chances are you already have friends and family in your hometown, meaning that you don’t have to spend time locating new people to learn with. You can find one of your good friends or family members willing to join in on the journey with you.
- Living in Germany forces you to learn various other tasks and lessons, potentially cluttering the language learning process. Everything from bus routes and grocery store locations to job prospects and safe living areas all come into play when moving to another country.
5 Everyday Opportunities for Learning German Through Immersion
1. German Immersion at Home
You spend a significant amount of time at home, and it’s one of the best places to transform your surroundings to reflect German culture. Take advantage of your time at home, and understand that all of your possessions, pieces of technology and even your food can be used for immersing yourself.
The one challenge that comes up is if you live with someone else, such as a roommate or your family, but we’ll talk about addressing that below.
What German immersion techniques work well at home?
- Talk to your pets in German. This works because pets don’t have human schedules. They provide a friendly face, so you don’t feel like you’re talking to yourself at all times. Not to mention, you don’t have to schedule a coffee date to chat with your pet.
- Post German words on every item in your home using sticky notes. Or use Vocabulary Stickers, durable and removable labels that teach you the names of the most important items around your home and office, for hassle-free language learning. Once you start mastering the names for everything, take the labels off and speak the words out loud whenever you use these items.
- Use an app that immerses you in real-world, native-speaker German media. A perfect way to do this is with FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
With interactive captions that give instant definitions, pronunciations and additional usage examples, plus fun quizzes and multimedia flashcards, FluentU is a complete learning package. Check it out with the free trial!
- Make a pact to turn your home into a German-only zone. This is for when you live with someone. You can start with one room and graduate to the whole house, but the idea is to have a friend with you at the place where you spend a significant amount of your time.
- Set all of your devices up with a VPN service. This ensures that all of your searches come up in German, and lets you easily bypass online country restrictions to watch German-language content as if you were living in Germany. With a safe and reliable service like HideMyAss! VPN you can use the internet like a German native on any of your devices—this one in particular works on your computer, smartphone and internet-enabled TVs and game systems.
- Stack your bookshelves. Seek out German books. Children’s books assist with beginners, while other more advanced and intermediate books are out there for experienced learners.
- Subscribe to German magazines and newspapers. Many people read these in the morning anyways, so why not read in German?
- If you have children, considering speaking to them only in German. Not only will this make them bilingual, but the whole family gets to enjoy German.
2. German Immersion at Work
This is the toughest area to find German immersion, because chances are good that no one speaks—or wants to speak—German in the office. Not to mention, I doubt your clients or customers would appreciate you speaking to them in a different language.
However, you have a unique opportunity to focus on your writing, reading and translation skills at work.
What German immersion techniques work well at work?
- Speak and listen to everyone in English. When you get an email or instant chat message, act as if you don’t speak English at all. Paste the message into Google Translate and read it in German. Type up the reply in German, paste it into the translator and send it over in English. Of course, some editing will be required on your part before sending anything out.
- Read German books during your lunch hour. Everyone needs breaks at work, so enjoy your lunch a little more with a solid German book.
- Listen to German podcasts while working. Podcasts allow for concentration on your learning, while also getting work done at your job. Heck, you could even spend an entire day typing up spreadsheets without missing a beat on your German learning.
- Put some German music in your earbuds. German music is also usable at many points throughout your day, and it works well for passive learning.
3. German Immersion While Hanging Out with Friends and Family
The ideal situation is where you convince a group of your friends or family to learn German with you, but obviously not everyone is going to be joining you on your journey. With the people who are also speaking German, you shouldn’t have any problems, but how can you immerse yourself with the others?
What German immersion techniques work well while hanging out?
- Do you keep a journal or diary? If not, now’s the time to start. Go home and write in your journal, documenting how the day or night went with the non-German speaking people. Talk about your fears, good times and even gripes with the people. The catch? Write the entire recollection in German.
- Use a Meetup. Make friends who want to speak German, and hang out with them as much as you can.
- Request an audience. Some family members and friends may not want to learn German with you, but that doesn’t make them monsters. Ask them if you could recite a poem or monologue in German. Put on a show and display how well you’ve progressed.
4. German Immersion While Eating Out or Cooking
Cooking and eating ties into the “German immersion at home” part, where you can speak the food items in German. However, this mainly applies to when you’re cooking or eating out with other people. The challenges are people who don’t speak German, but the benefits can lead you into one of the best German immersion options while still living at home.
What German immersion techniques work well while eating or cooking?
- Read German recipes. Even speak out loud in German like you’re running your own cooking show. The German version of AllRecipes is a great place to start.
- The big problem is immersing yourself in German while eating out. Fortunately you have an opportunity here, since many cities and towns have restaurants or delis that are run by German speaking people. Complete a search online to locate these establishments. Yelp is your friend here. Buy your groceries at these places and eat out at German establishments. Ask if you would be able to speak German with the workers and see if they have menus or food signs in German.
- Hold parties with German learners. Whether you met them through a Meetup or you’ve known them forever, make an effort to have weekly or monthly dinner parties and only speak German.
5. German Immersion While on the Move
Whether spent in a plane, train, car, boat or walking around, travel time is some of the best time to immerse yourself in the German language, because you’re often spending time alone with your own thoughts.
What German immersion techniques work well while on the move?
- These online tools work nicely for most of these categories. But I like them for travelling or moving around, since you always have them on your phone or tablet.
- Stock your bag and devices with German media. Try anything like music, podcasts, radio shows, books, TV shows, movies, audio books and newspapers.
- Use the voice recorder on your phone. Speak into the phone and listen back to it later. Practice your pronunciation and consider calling people with whom you’ve agreed to learn German. You may be stuck on a train for quite some time, so why not have a two-hour conversation in German with that person?
Whether at work, home or on the move, German immersion is certainly possible. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t completely rule out traveling to Germany, since even a short vacation works wonders for your language learning.
However, if it’s simply not an option at the moment, you have all the resources above to help you out.