For a while now, I’ve been mulling over the idea of trying to help people who’re perhaps still fresh on the slow, clunky conveyor belt to German fluency. I’m not sure I can compete with the explanations and insight given by the likes of Katja from Deutsch für Euch or Emanuel who writes fantastical articles on the blog German is Easy, but I can at least give you my experiences, as a speaker and learner of so far almost 7 years, and as someone who is entirely self-taught. There’s a lot I can share with you.
That’s the preamble out of the way, so how about we up the ante?
When I started German, before I actually truly started, I did as most probably do and picked up the odd phrase, such as willkommen, hallo, auf wiedersehen, and ich liebe dich—the usual suspects. I never really put a great deal of thought into anything of a German nature, particularly the grammar, as it was just a casual amusement. After a while, interest picked up and that interest ended up as a passion and somewhat of an obsession.
At first, I tried Japanese romaji and found it incredibly difficult. Admittedly, one of the reasons I got into German is because people were saying it’s one of the easiest languages to learn; that it’s easy. No amount of italics can express the sarcasm intended in that text. There’s a reason the Germans have the saying deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache; German is hard, contrary to the name of Emanuel’s blog. The bright side is that learning some Japanese sort of allowed me to get my size 11 man-feet into the door, so to speak. I was able to appreciate different ways to express things, a different culture and how that affects language, as well as appreciating and using different sounds. There’s a big difference between the sounds of German and the likes of Japanese, however. For me, I’d typically consider Japanese a softer language, and German a much sharper language. Unfortunately, Japanese never stuck with me, so all these years later, all I can really remember is small, barely useful things.
Although German has its many challenges, as I’m sure every language does—I’m looking at you, Japanese, you crazy yet alluring bastard—it’s likely well within your capacity to learn it. There are patterns that begin to form which can make life easier when you come to an unfamiliar word, such as nouns with -heit at the end of them typically use the die gender. A lot of people seem to struggle with the pronounciation, particularly with the German r sound and the ch sound, but these too can be learned. Believe it or not, I learned the German r very quickly by just gargling water.
I should probably add a disclaimer that I don’t yet consider myself as a fluent speaker of German, however, I am definitely conversational, listen to German music, read German articles, have my phone and computer in German, play some games in German, have some sites in German, and so on. My idea of fluency is damn-close to how a native would speak, so I don’t think I’m going to reach that anytime soon. The general opinion I get from Germans seems to be that my German is good, so that’s me telling you that I’m not perfect, can make mistakes, but I’m not entirely atrocious. The beauty of this part of the blog is that while I learn, I can share my mistakes in the hopes that you too can learn from them.
Think of me as a tool, … not in the mean way, rather, I’m just a tool in your toolbox of language learning tools. I have no gameplan here, folks. I am indeed winging it. If you’re interested in my putting this idea into action, let me know in the comments below, or, if you’re the silent, brooding type, perhaps share the article using the buttons below so I can use the numbers as a way to judge the interest, plus shamelessly get the blog around to new people a little. If nobody’s interested, I’ll just, uh, discreetly kick this blog under the bed and we need never talk about it again.
As always, viel Glück beim Lernen.