Do you want to know the secret to learning German fast?
The one-stop approach that has helped millions of people speak fluently and accent free?
That has produced more German speakers than any of the language-teaching methods out there?
I’m about to give it away. For free. No three easy monthly payments, no set of steak knifes if you call in now. Everything up for grabs, right here, right now. All you need to do is keep reading.
Are you ready? Ok, here it goes.
To learn German quickly and perfectly all you need to do is … drum roll … move to Germany.
I’m sorry, what?!
A bit anticlimactic, huh? Maybe even a little disappointing.
However, there is no denying that the best way to learn any language is to live in the place where it is actually spoken. And that is because of something called immersion.
What it means is that you completely surround yourself with (or immerse yourself in) your target language in such a way that your everyday life happens exclusively in that language. Everything you see, hear or say will no longer be in your mother tongue but in the language you are trying to acquire, in this case German.
So, problem solved, right? Booked your ticket yet? See you in Frankfurt airport!
At this point you are more likely thinking “Wow, what a great tip! That wasn’t obvious at all. However, just a small thought: Do you think everyone can just up and leave for another country!? What kind of impractical tip is that?!”.
Ok ok, calm down. I’m not done yet. Of course I’m not suggesting that everyone can easily do that. However, what if I told you that you can have almost all the language-learning benefits of living in Germany without actually leaving the place where you live?
How? More on that below.
For now, however, let’s pretend that you were in the position to pack your things and move to the country of poets and thinkers. To completely immerse yourself in the German language. How would that impact your German studies?
Why Complete Immersion Is the Best Way to Learn German
It’s a natural way of learning
Nobody is born with fluency. Remember how you learned your first language as a child? By observing your environment, listening to the other people speak and imitating what they said.
We learn naturally from what is happening around us. There is no way around it. Therefore, if you are surrounded by German 24/7, you will naturally pick up on a lot of things, many of which you would never find in a textbook.
Learning opportunities are everywhere
Imagine your everyday activities all had to happen in German. Whether it’s going to the bakery, shopping in a supermarket, conversing with your coworkers, watching movies on TV or in the cinema, or ordering a beer after work. If each of these instances required you to speak German, how much do you think that would accelerate your learning?
You learn real-life German
Being completely surrounded by native speakers will teach you German as it is actually spoken, not just as it is taught within textbooks. This includes slang, dialects, loan words and everything else that makes languages more alive, interesting and awesome. For example, do you think any textbook would ever teach you these weird German words?
There are no excuses
When you learn German as a hobby, there are always excuses not to speak it. Especially lack of opportunity. I mean if you go out in your non-German-speaking home country, you can hardly expect to talk to your friends in your new language over dinner, right?
Not so much when you are surrounded by natives. Granted, it is perfectly possible to sit at your desk at home all day and browse Facebook even if you do move to Germany, but at some you will have to go out. And once you do – boom – there are Germans everywhere. Lack of opportunity ceases to be a valid argument.
It helps overcome fears of speaking
No matter how eloquent you are in your own tongue, when learning German as a new language you will have to go through the “caveman phase” (“Me hungry. Pizza?”). Not wanting to make a fool of oneself has kept many people from talking to strangers in an unfamiliar tongue.
However, the only way to get over any fear is to confront it. Talking German to natives on a regular basis will take care of your inhibitions quicker than learning long lists of vocabulary ever could. It will also make you progress faster.
There is direct practical value to your skill
One of the main reasons why people fail at learning German or any other language is because they don’t use their new skill. Acquiring a new language should not be a purely academic endeavor. It’s great if you can recite an encyclopedia from cover to cover, but if you never put that knowledge to any use, it will kill your motivation quickly.
Learning German is about communicating with other people. And guess what? When you are in a German-speaking country, you can communicate with everyone. You can have a friendly chat with your neighbor, make friends with the bartender in your favorite dive bar or randomly talk to strangers. The possibilities are endless.
So, are we agreed that immersing yourself in an environment where German is spoken on a daily basis is a good idea? Nice. I knew you would come around.
However, let’s come back to the (quite valid) point that maybe you can not just leave for Germany, Switzerland or Austria. Then what are you to do? Don’t worry, you can still have the immersion experience.
How to Build Yourself an Immersive German Environment (Wherever You Are)
If you won’t come to Germany, Germany will have to come to you. If you find yourself unable to travel to a German-speaking country, with the right tools, a targeted approach and some willpower, you can imitate the experience of immersion.
Make a commitment
The difference between building yourself an immersive German environment and actually being in a German-speaking country is that it takes an extra bit of discipline. It is up to you to construct a learning environment around yourself, whilst if you were in Germany, it would happen automatically.
Therefore in order to pull this off, you really have to make a commitment. If possible, put some accountability in place. Make a bet with someone, make it a game or find some other way that stops you from falling off the German wagon.
The goal is to end up with an environment which imitates the situation of being in the other country, preferably attending language school. Always ask yourself “What would I do to get better at German if I was actually in Germany? How can I simulate the same thing here?”.
Set apart study time
The first thing you should do is to reserve a regular time slot for your studies. It is highly recommended that you practice daily and for a significant amount of time. Commit to however much you can. Mark it in your calendar or create a schedule.
Gather your learning material
Put together material for your own personal curriculum. Start with some a good German textbook as a foundation. Supplement it with German learning apps and research shortcuts to learning German. I also recommend using mnemonics for better retention. Especially for beginners there are also good resources on how to pronounce problematic German sounds.
Find a language partner or tutor
One of the most crucial parts when building yourself an immersive environment is to make sure you actually speak German as early as possible. Remember the point about the importance of practical value for motivation? Don’t underestimate this!
Unless by a freak chance you have a German family living nearby which is willing to host you, your best bet is to find a German tutor or language partner. If you can, have daily sessions. Speak as much as you can, even if you just started out! Direct feedback from native speakers is the quickest way to progress.
Watch German videos
Does your home country have crappy television programming? Don’t worry, you no longer have to endure it. Instead, you can feast your eyes on YouTube channels for German learners that are both entertaining and informative. And if that isn’t enough, there are still German movies and TV shows to further your education.
For a more immersive video learning experience, try FluentU for German.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
FluentU keeps track of the words 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.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or practice anytime, anywhere on the mobile app for iOS and Android.
Practice listening comprehension
No need to walk the streets of a German city to hear native speakers talk. Plenty of resources for German listening practice are available online. And that is not even including German podcasts or music tracks.
Additionally, many German books are available in audio form and can be found on the internet.
Learn to read German
No matter where you live, it is possible to switch your entire reading material to German. You can start off with something easy like German books for children and then branch out as needed.
Take to Twitter, read German blogs, get into the classics of German literature and follow German news. If you encounter words you don’t understand, there is a collection of handy German dictionary apps.
Start writing in German
Writing is a great way to get a better grasp on German. To get into the habit, you can either practice with a language partner or find a German pen pal. Believe it or not, there are plenty of people out there who would love to correct your first German sentences in exchange for whichever language you have to offer.
A quick Google search will turn up many opportunities. Who knows, maybe you will even make some actual German friends.
Experience the culture
The biggest shortcoming of building yourself a German environment instead of actually going to a Germany, Austria or Switzerland is the lack of authentic culture. It would be ridiculous to suggest that you can imitate that in your own four walls. However, it doesn’t mean that, with a bit of creativity, you can’t catch a few glimpses.
For example, a good way of getting a better feel for another country is to experience its culture through food. Read up on German dishes, find some recipes and try to do them at home. Make a Germany-themed night. Find a place that sells imported beer. Yes, loving beer is a bit of stereotype about Germans, however, with over 5000 different brands of beer in Germany alone there is something to it. I would say that’s a lot of culture to experience!
Wrapping It Up
Completely immersing yourself in a language is the best way to get good at it quickly. It is a natural and comprehensive way of learning that allows you to use your new skill in real life immediately.
If you do not have the time or means to get yourself to a German-speaking country, there are ways to imitate the experience in your own environment. Tools for immersing yourself in German are freely available, it is only up to you to put them together.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.