Are you your own worst enemy?
Does it tick you off that language learning comes easy to you?
Does it get on your nerves when you sit down to study German and you have a good grasp on everything?
Do you feel like if you’re not banging your head on the table repeatedly, you’re not doing it right? And that if you are not struggling to make sense out of your learning material, studying just isn’t worth it?
It’s okay, you are not alone. We have all been there. But fear not, there is a solution.
In this article you will learn how to make all of that go away. The following tips are guaranteed to take the fun out of learning German quickly and efficiently. They will make the language feel like an unsolvable mystery again and its study like pure drudgery. You will never again have to have a fluent conversation with a native speaker.
And who knows (fingers crossed), maybe it will even get you to give up on German altogether. I know that sounds impossible, but believe me, it’s not. If you pay attention and apply yourself, failure is just around the corner.
8 Tips on How to Fail Miserably at Learning German
1. Ignore pronunciation
The German language is not always easy for the unpracticed tongue. But is it your fault it has such impossible sounds? Last time you checked, no. So learning on how to pronounce correctly is really not a burden that should be put on you. In fact, it should be placed on those who invented the language.
By all means, avoid seeing a new sound inventory as a challenge or an exciting opportunity to go beyond what is familiar to you. If you are struggling or frustrated, stay with that feeling. Complain a little. It will make you feel better. Under no circumstances are you to seek help on how to pronounce the more difficult sounds in German.
Heck, if you insist enough on butchering German pronunciations and can convince others to do the same, at some point all native speakers will see the error of their ways and accommodate your way of speaking.
2. Forget about sentence structure
The same goes for learning word order in German. Insist on using the sentence structure of your native language. As long as you jumble words together, people should be able to understand you. If not, it’s their fault, not yours. They should be grateful you are using their abomination of a language at all.
Please refrain from starting with simple sentences and working your way up slowly. Learning how ways to say “hi” or basic phrases first? Please. Gradually adding complexities like time and place? What are you, a Neanderthal?
3. Don’t learn common words first
When it comes to studying vocabulary, don’t think about which words you are going to use most often. Instead take a dictionary and memorize it from front to end. It will definitely be worthwhile to know words such as Senkfußeinlage (shoe inlay for arch support) and Kundentrennstab (grocery divider bar) as a beginner.
It doesn’t matter that about 80% of spoken German is made up of the 1000 most common words. Who is to say which words are most useful and which aren’t! Stick to principles, not common sense. Ignore other advice that will help you learn German faster as well.
4. Disregard noun gender
German nouns can be female, male or neuter? That seems like superfluous information which should be ignored. Never mind that huge parts of the language’s grammar hinges on the correct usage of noun gender. It’s not you who is responsible for the fact that they don’t have a a universal article like the, is it?
Of course not! Therefore you should definitely not make learning the gender of nouns part of your normal language learning routine. Leave it entirely up to guess work. Der, die, das, dem, den, des, ein and eine are such small words, it really shouldn’t matter which one you decide to use.
5. Attempt to learn everything at once
Language learning is clearly a sprint, not a marathon. Moderation is overrated. Cramming a wide range of new information into your head all at the same time has never led to confusion or frustration. Therefore, screw the bottom-up approach.
Starting off with simple sentences is clearly for people less intelligent than you. You know what they say in Germany: If it doesn’t have at least two relative clauses and doesn’t use subjunctive II, you might as well grunt.
And how many tenses are there in the German language anyway? Six? That sounds like something you could learn in a day. No need to familiarize yourself with one after the other. In fact, being able to use the German present tense is much less important than the ability to tell people that you would have been fluent in German had you not gotten overwhelmed.
6. Refrain from enjoying yourself
In the same mind, under no circumstances are you allowed to have fun. Approach learning the German language like a stereotypical German government worker: keep a serious face and only think “work, work, work.” Language learning, especially German, should be drudgery not enjoyment. Every minute spent without thinking “what the hell am I doing?” is a wasted one.
Look for the driest books and texts possible. Read the finance section of the newspaper even if you don’t do it in your own language. For the love of god, stay away from things that you are interested in and might actually care to learn how to talk about. That would defeat the purpose of making you miserable while studying.
Also do not ever branch out to learning German through meeting friends, watching movies and German TV shows, reading blogs, listening to German music or watching helpful YouTube videos. Instead, stay with what you started with, even if it’s not working.
And no matter what you do, DO NOT use a service for learning German with real-world videos like FluentU. FluentU takes music movies, movie trailers, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into language learning experiences.
7. Aim for perfection, not progress
Your German skills are purely there to make yourself feel superior. Communicating with other human beings? Opening up a different perspective on the world? Finding joy in learning something new? That’s hippie talk. You want to impress, therefore anything less than perfect is unacceptable.
Relentlessly push yourself. When you take a break from studying, make a mental list of all the things you don’t understand yet. Don’t forget to get upset and angry when you make mistakes. It does indeed reflect badly on you and maybe if it makes you question your abilities, you are on the right track. Never ever appreciate any little progress you make and if someone compliments you on your new skill, play it down, they probably don’t know what they are talking about.
8. Don’t speak!
Last but not least, you should approach learning German as a purely academic endeavor. Languages are there to muse about in the privacy of your chamber and not meant as a communication tool. If humans were meant to talk to one another, we would not all be speaking different languages.
So don’t go out and find a German conversation partner, I implore you! That could make the experience fun and give you a sense of progress! Hell, it might even result in some new friends and social contacts with whom you can converse in your target language on a regular basis. And who wants that?
And that’s it. Heeding the advice above should be sufficient in turning your learning efforts into utter and complete failure. Well done. Here’s one more person who won’t be speaking German anytime soon.
Of course if you are one of the rare human beings who are actually trying to be successful in acquiring another language, you might go ahead and do the opposite of what I advise above. The choice is up to you.
And One More Thing…
To be absolutely clear about the point made above, do not use FluentU if your ambition is to spectacularly fail at learning German.
You’ll only end up loving it and becoming fluent.
I mean, just look at the wonderful diversity of content you’d find there:
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the German language and culture over time. You’ll learn German as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU brings native videos within reach using interactive transcripts.
Just tap on any subtitled word to see an in-context definition, usage examples and a helpful illustration.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Simply 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 it recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.