5 Excellent Ways to Teach Yourself German Outside of Class
When German class is over, you’re ready to go live the culture vulture lifestyle.
You know, scanning Twitter, clicking through online magazines, binging on Netflix and recipe pinning.
You’re dying to go home, sink into the couch and get online.
Starting even more language practice probably isn’t on the top of your list.
Well, who says you can’t do all of the above?
It’s key to take breaks—they’ll help refresh your brain for the next burst of grammar lessons—but it’s also possible to incorporate German practice into your everyday life at home. And it can be fun too!
Did you know you can be super productive with your language learning outside the classroom?
Now you’ll learn exactly how to make this happen.
In this article, I’ll be showing you tips and tricks for dedicating spare time to German practice.
Why You Should Teach Yourself German Outside of Class
Learning as part of a class with the support of a teacher is a fantastic way to learn the language. It’ll help you really get to grips with the more difficult aspects of the language.
But, put simply: the more you expose yourself to the language, the better you’ll know it.
If you’re in class 3 times a week, you’ll only be getting around 3 hours of practice in each week.
That’s not much considering there are 168 hours in a whole week—there’s a load more German practice that can be squeezed in!
What’s great about independent learning is your ability to tailor it to your own needs. Are you struggling with Der, Die, and Das? Well, make sure you focus on your definite articles during your practice at home. Are you doing a lot of speaking practice in class but would like to improve your listening? You can do so at home without any distractions or interruptions from classmates!
Plus, you can play all your favorite German artists at home for language practice, rather than just using the songs that the teacher provides.
One of the most immersive ways you can get independent German practice at home—or, indeed, anywhere you happen to be—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, and combine it with some more of these creative German language learning methods!
Teach Yourself German: 5 Excellent Methods for Culture Vultures
1. Use German recipes and cookbooks
If you enjoy being a culinary creative in the kitchen, why not start utilizing German recipes?
There’s many different German cookbooks that have lots of traditional and innovative dishes for you to make. And while cooking up these tasty treats, you’ll be getting your reading up to a sizzling level!
Recipes are made up of instructions, so you’ll get to see how the imperative tense works. Cookbooks are often written in the polite form, so you’ll get lots of practice with this kind of imperative, for example:
Kneten Sie zu einem Teig.
Knead into a dough.
Not only is this great reading practice, but you’ll be learning by doing once you get set up in the kitchen. Here are 5 culinary vocab picks to help you cook up a storm:
braten — to roast / to fry
Die deutsche Küche — German cuisine
vor dem Auftragen — before serving
geschält — peeled
der Herd — stove
It doesn’t take to long to get into this fun activity. Plus, the element of active learning will help reinforce the language, making it stick in your brain even longer!
2. Tune into German radio stations
There are tons of German radio stations out there, so you can’t use the excuse that there isn’t one that suits your tastes! Many of these are available to listen to online. So that’s the not-being-in-Germany excuse out the window!
It’s pretty obvious that German radio stations provide you with excellent listening practice. Radio stations will help to liven up your practice—after all you’ll be choosing your station, so they’ll be playing your kind of bands and DJs. If you’re more into talk radio, you’ll also be able to tune into one that has programs covering your interests. Much more entertaining than listening exercises with stiff, scripted dialogues in class, right?
Not sure which one to pick? Here’s a speedy roundup of the 5 best stations:
- Deutsche Welle has a great selection of music podcasts that suit all levels of language learners.
- hr3 has some fantastic comedy shows. Time to get used to German humor!
- FluxFM always broadcasts top-notch interviews alongside an excellent selection of alternative indie pop.
- Radio SAW is great for those of you who want to stretch your vocal chords along with some true pop divas!
- Sport1.FM has all the latest games and match results.
3. Add German books and magazines to your bookcase and coffee table
Not only will you look über cultured, but you’ll be upping your German reading skill. As I’ve said before, the great thing about independent learning is that you can tailor it to your needs and interests; no more boring books that your teacher makes you read!
You’ll probably already have some favorite books and magazines that are available in German. You may even have some favorite written material originally in German!
If not, or if you’re looking for something new, here are my top 5 written resources to learn German with:
- Often compared to Time, Der Spiegel is a weekly roundup of all the latest political happenings in the German-speaking world.
- “Heidi” is a classic Swiss tale of mountains, goats and an idyllic childhood. Find suggestions for abridged classic German novels books here.
- German Vogue is a great option for all you fashionistas who want to learn who’s who in the German fashion world.
- One for the cool kids, Neon offers a trendy take on lifestyle, culture and travel.
- Kafka should be on all advanced learners’ bookcases. Start out with his most famous book, “Die Verwandlung.”
4. Connect with German social media
This one is easy in this day and age. Everyone’s on social media all the time.
If you follow some German Twitter accounts, then you’ll have bite-sized chunks of German delivered to you around the clock. It’s fab reading practice and, once you start to feel really confident, you could even show off and tweet auf Deutsch!
Here’s a brief summary of 5 of the best Twitter accounts to connect to:
- @NeinQuarterly is one of the most popular German Twitter accounts. His philosophical satire is tweeted both in English and German, but his witticisms in German are often a great critique of the language.
- Another one for lovers of satire, @PolizeiBerlin_E is a mock account of the Berlin police force and provides a comical view of life in Berlin.
- @GrumpyMerkel is another parody account, this one based on Chancellor Angela Merkel. Following this account will also keep you up-to-date with international goings on!
- @DieZeit is one of Germany’s favorite broadsheet newspapers so this account will keep you abreast of all current affairs.
- @dw_deutsch is one for all culture vultures and provides links to loads of German multimedia and cultural pieces.
5. Have a German movie night
Why not switch the settings on your favorite DVD and watch the movie in German for once? The listening practice is unbeatable and, seeing as you’ll already know the story, you’ll be able to keep up easily.
Once you start to get the hang of things you can push your listening to its limits and watch something you’ve never seen before! Invite all your friends over and pass around the popcorn—you’ll soon see how fun teaching yourself German can be!
Spoiled for movie choice? I’ve narrowed it down for you…
- “Goodbye, Lenin!”: This lighthearted comedy follows an East Berlin family during the fall of The Wall. Alex’s mother—a supporter of the East’s Social Unity Party—wakes up from a coma just after the fall of the wall. How long can Alex pretend that her beloved state no longer exists?
- “Das Leben Der Anderen”: Another movie based in East Berlin, this drama shows the life of a Stasi spy.
- “Die Fette Jahren Sind Vorbei”: A group of rebellious twenty somethings take out their anti-capitalist sentiments on their well-heeled neighbors with disastrous consequences.
- “Der Untergang”: A movie for history aficionados, “Der Untergang” portrays the downfall of Adolf Hitler.
- “Lola Rennt”: An exhilarating race through Berlin. Can Lola find the 100,000 German Marks she needs in order to save her boyfriend’s life? Time is running out…
Hopefully this article has persuaded you to get your German on at home! You’ll instantly feel the benefits—it’s amazing how far a couple of hours of practice outside the classroom will take your German!
After studying German and Philosophy at The University of Nottingham, Laura Harker relocated to Berlin in 2012. She now works as a freelance writer and is also assistant editor at Slow Travel Berlin.