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German for Beginners: Study Tips

Lerntipps - Learning Tips: How to be a better German-learner

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Here are some study tips and practical advice to help make your learning of German more effective:

Use your first language to learn the second!
German and English are both Germanic languages with a lot of Latin and Greek thrown in. There are many cognates, words that are similar in both languages. Examples include: der Garten (garden), das Haus (house), schwimmen (swim), singen (sing), braun (brown) and ist (is). But also watch out for "false friends" — words that appear to be something they're not. The German word bald (soon) has nothing to do with hair!

Avoid language interference
Learning a second language is similar in some ways to learning your first, but... there is one big difference! When learning a second language (German), you have interference from the first (English or whatever). Your brain wants to fall back on the English way of doing things, so you have to fight that tendency.

Learn nouns with their genders
German, like most languages other than English, is a language of gender. As you learn each new German noun, learn its gender at the same time. Not knowing whether a word is der (masc.), die (fem.) or das (neut.) can confuse listeners and makes you sound ignorant and illiterate in German. That can be avoided by learning das Haus rather than just Haus for "house/building," for example. More: The Top 10 German Mistakes Made by Beginners

Stop translating!
Translation should only be a temporary crutch! Stop thinking in English and trying to do things the “English” way! As your vocabulary grows, get away from translating and start thinking in German and German phrases. Remember: German-speakers don't have to translate when they speak. Neither should you!

Learning a new language is learning to think in a new way!
Das Erlernen einer neuen Sprache ist das Erlernen einer neuen Denkweise. - Hyde Flippo

Get a good German-English dictionary
You need an adequate (minimum 40,000 entries) dictionary and you need to learn how to use it! A dictionary can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Try not to think too literally and don't just accept the first translation you see. Just as in English, most words can mean more than one thing. Consider the word “fix” in English as one good example: “fix a sandwich” is a different meaning than “fix the car” or “he's in a fine fix.”

Learning a new language takes time.
Learning German — or any other language — requires a long period of sustained exposure to German. You didn't learn your first language in a few months, so don't think a second one will come any faster. Even a baby does a lot of listening before talking. Don't get discouraged if the going seems slow. And use all the resources at your disposal for READING, LISTENING, WRITING and SPEAKING. This site can lead you to those resources.

The United States is the only country where people believe you
can learn a foreign language in two school years.
- Hyde Flippo

See more learning tips for German on the next page!

NEXT > Part 2: More Learning Tips

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