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How to Speak German: The Complete Guide

What, specifically, makes German such a special language to learn?

The answer? Pretty much everything about it!

It’s never too late or too early to learn how to speak German (known as Deutsch in its motherland) and the benefits of doing so are well worth your time.

Let’s break down the major aspects of the German language and explore ways on how you can maximize your studies.

Contents

1. German Language

With nearly 100 million speakers worldwide, the German language is an incredibly prolific one. It’s the second-most spoken language in Europe and the most-spoken native language in the European Union.

From the homeland of Germany to the South African country of Namibia, German speakers populate all parts of the world.

Historically, German has been strongly associated with the fields of literature and philosophy, and it’s also the second-most used language in the scientific industry. In terms of online presence, the German language is within the top 10 most used languages on the web.

What this all means is that, by learning how to speak German, you can gain access to all kinds of content and opportunities. It’s an incredibly useful language that can take you far, whether online or in real life.

2. How to Learn German

It’s not just what you’re studying. How you study is actually a big component of your German learning success. From the start, it’s best to use a method that suits you best so that you won’t feel pressured or uncomfortable.

Maybe you prefer an in-person class, or maybe you like studying alone in your home. Perhaps you’re a staunch follower of the textbook-notebook method, or perhaps you’re more keen to use modern, digital learning tools.

You may feel adventurous enough to try more unexpected techniques. For example, the next time you tune into a music station or scroll through Netflix, why not check out some German songs or movies to get your studies going?

You can experiment with a variety of strategies to craft a custom, immersive learning environment. By making the German language more a part of your everyday routine, you can improve your skills much more quickly.

At some point, the German language will become so commonplace to you that you’ll be actively studying without even knowing it!

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3. Speaking German

German gets a bad rap for sounding angry, harsh and guttural. But as you start learning it, you’ll realize there’s plenty of beauty to be found in spoken German. This elegance is particularly appreciated when you learn to speak it!

With its hard consonants, stressed vowels and unique “ch” sound, the German language is full of fun articulation and vocalization challenges. However, unlike those of some other languages, the rules of German pronunciation tend to be relatively steady and consistent across words.

Once you learn the basics, you shouldn’t have much trouble actually sounding out any German word, no matter how short or long it is. But while the pronunciation is pretty straightforward, the actual process of speaking German requires a lot, if not all, of your German knowledge database.

That’s why it’s so critical that you get as much speaking practice as possible.

4. Listening to German

Listening comprehension is often the hardest skill to build in language studies. The problem often starts to manifest when you first encounter the standard speech of a typical native speaker.

I still remember when I had to listen to a minute-long radio show snippet in German class—I was reeling at the 10-second mark and lost everything else said after that point.

You can expect native German speech to be quick and unforgiving, so before you reach that point, it’s best that you start with more learner-friendly audio that has a slower cadence and simpler vocabulary. As you gain more confidence, branch out from solely learner-tailored audio resources to native German ones.

Listening skills will be something that you’ll constantly work on, but your progress will be quite noticeable! As you become used to parsing apart German speech, you can also expect your own German-speaking skills to improve.

5. Reading and Writing in German

If you can read this post, then you’re already in a good position to read and write in German. Written German uses the Latin alphabet (like English), but it has a few extra additions: ä, ö, ü and ß. That makes 30 letters in total.

What’s great about practicing German reading and writing skills is that the process is typically much more easygoing compared to practicing listening or speaking skills. You can take your time to parse through a piece of text, quickly backtrack when you need to and make edits on the go.

You may wonder if learning written German is as important as learning and understanding spoken German. The answer is a resounding yes!

Whether it’s a German current events article, lyrics to Rammstein’s Du Hast, or the original edition of Die Verwandlung (“The Metamorphosis”) by Franz Kafka, you don’t want to miss out on German texts.

Indeed, if you’re not in a German-speaking locale, written German may be your primary exposure to the language.

6. German Grammar

The word “grammar” often sends a chill down the language learner’s spine. Grammar is often considered technical, “un-fun” and finicky. Luckily for you, a German language learner, it’s likely you won’t encounter as many issues learning German grammar!

That’s because modern German grammar shares a lot of commonalities with English grammar. The two languages share a historical linguistic bond—English itself is considered a Germanic language.

Basic German and English sentences follow similar structures (subject, verb then object), and verbs are conjugated based on tense.

Spend enough time understanding these foundational principles, and you can more thoroughly learn and utilize the unique features of German grammar. These include noun genders, case-specific adjective conjugation, inverted word order and more.

You’ll find that these concepts aren’t terribly difficult to grasp—I’ll wager that it won’t take you too long at all to actually learn their rules. It’s through frequent exposure and usage of these concepts that will take you to mastery.

7. German Vocabulary

My personal favorite aspect of the German language is its fantastic, matter-of-fact word-crafting. Can you think of a word for a turtle as fitting as Schildkröte (“shield toad”)? And how can I not mention the beautiful logic behind the word Kummerspeck (“grief bacon”), to describe the weight gained from emotional overeating?

One of the most distinctive features of German vocabulary is its method of compounding words. The method is very matter-of-fact: you more or less just stick words together like train tracks. The words involved are also very direct in their meaning.

There are words such as Handschuhe (gloves, Hand meaning “hand” and Schuhe meaning “shoes”) to creations such as Frauenfussballeuropameisterschaftsschiedsrichterin (European women’s football championship referee).

There are no real rules to the process of learning vocabulary. Once you know the most basic words and phrases, all other words are fair game.

You can jump ahead to learn vocabulary related to your interests, or you can start learning slang and idioms to understand the authentic German used by native folks nowadays.

Again, it helps to be an English speaker, as you may be able to garner the meaning of many German words just by looking at them!

8. Resources for Learning German

There really is no better time than now to learn German! As the world continues to become more interconnected, language learning as a whole has become an incredibly accessible activity.

Besides going the traditional route and reading German textbooks, you can also join the growing crowd of savvy language learners who are studying with digital tools. These include software apps, website forums, YouTube videos and even online classes taught by real native speakers.

Not only are they available at the click of a button, but many come with no cost at all. That’s right: you can achieve a decent level of German fluency, without ever opening your wallet.

Don’t be too picky, either! Rather than just sticking to one tool, it’s best to diversify your resource pool so that you can learn German using all kinds of mediums. This way, you can make your education more interesting and comprehensive.

 

Whether you’re still debating on picking up German, or you’re already making headway into your studies, know that the opportunity to learn German is easier now than ever.

And moreover, it’s not just a matter of memorizing a bunch of strange sounding words and phrases.

You’ll be learning a new way of communication that lets you interact with thousands of more people, a massive pool of interactive content, and a rich, fascinating culture.

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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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