Want to know how to learn German fast? Different sources say it could take anywhere from 400-1200 hours to learn the language.
A number of factors will affect the amount of time it takes you to reach fluency in German. Your native tongue, your availability to practice, and your method of learning are just a few.
Do you plan on taking German lessons with a private tutor? Are you trying to learn with simply an app to help you? Or, are you immersing yourself in the German culture? Whatever your learning style, there are a few tips and tricks that will undoubtedly speed up the process of mastering German.
Here, we’ll share 10 learning hacks that will show you how to learn German fast. Follow these tried and true shortcuts and you’ll be fluent before you know it.
How to Learn German Fast – 10 Learning Hacks
1. Play Charades
If you were dropped by parachute without any resources or local knowledge into a random city in Germany, you would quickly find that the most important skill for your survival would be the game of Charades.
You can learn any language simply by using gestures to get a native speaker to say the words you’re looking for.
Stephen Krashen, leading expert in the study of language acquisition, argues that perceiving meaning is the most important and effective way to acquire any language. When you use gestures in association with words, you are doing this in its purest form.
Next time you’re practicing your language skills with a German speaker and you don’t know the right word or phrase to say, use body language. Point to things or do descriptive motions to get them to say the words you want to learn, and you’ll find yourself naturally learning much quicker.
2. Get Real Immersion
The best way to get complete immersion in the German language is to move to a German-speaking country, but making friends who speak German near you can also create very real immersion situations.
Don’t be shy about asking people in your social circles to help you have German-only conversations. Find Facebook groups for German speakers or use sites like Meetup to participate in language exchange experiences near you.
There are also dozens of places to find a language exchange partner online, such as italki. Any of these sites would be a valuable resource for learning German quickly.
Working with a German tutor will not only help you learn faster, but it’ll ensure you’re learning German correctly. Your language tutor should be someone you feel comfortable speaking in front of. Here are some more of the key characteristics to look for in a tutor. Your German tutor should…
- Be invested and excited to help you learn.
- Encourage you to speak more in your target language.
- Be available to meet up on a regular basis.
- Hold you accountable to reaching your goals.
4. Go on a Language Adventure
There are a few everyday activities that lend themselves extremely well to learning a new language. Some examples are cooking, coffee runs, grocery shopping, and watching sports. The vocabulary required to do any of these activities “in German” is fairly elementary.
Choose one of these language adventures to do with a friend and make a commitment to only speak in German. If you’re not at that level yet, keep 90% of the talking to “charades.” This will help you acquire fundamental language skills in an easy and fun way.
5. Make a Plan
Having a plan, although it takes some time and mental energy to create, will greatly increase your chances of success at speeding up the process of learning German.
Ask your language tutor to help you make a plan for how you’ll master the German language. Understanding the learning process is what tutors do for a living, and the right tutor will be able to help you focus your goals into a realistic plan of attack.
Keep in mind that fluency will take 400-1200 hours of practice depending on your learning methods and how much effort you’re able to put in.
Sit down with your instructor and make a plan that you can accomplish in 6 to 12 months. Aim for a plan you’re excited about and one that you believe in!
6. Use Mnemonics
Studying mnemonics accelerates the learning process immensely. Here are a few of our favorites for learning German.
- “Est Ten Ten” helps you remember the endings when conjugating regular verbs. Ask your German instructor to explain how it works! Trust us… it’s magic.
- Word visualizations. Come up with quirky explanations for why German words sound the way they do. For example, the word for “deer” is “der Hirsch.” You could say that “deer” are very quiet, so if you want to “hear” (or “Hir-” them) you have to say “shh” (for the “-sh” ending). This may take a little longer in the beginning, but will increase your recall dramatically in the long run.
- Gender symbols. When you learn German nouns, you must learn the genders that go with them. Pick an image or symbol to associate with each gender and picture it in your mind. For example, the masculine pronoun “der” is pronounced much like the English word “deer,” so you can picture all masculine nouns with deer antlers on them. This little trick is an excellent memory aid.
7. Play Some More Games
To learn more vocabulary in a fun way, find a game that you like and play it with some other German speaking friends. Here are a few ideas.
- Apples to Apples. This fun game will help you learn essential nouns and adjectives. You can buy the German version known as “Äpfel zu Äpfel” or you can make your own cards for any set of words you want to study!
- 20 Questions. The word order of German questions can be a little confusing since it differs from English and there are several different types of questions. Have your language tutor explain how to phrase a certain type of question, then write 20 questions using that sentence structure for some extra practice.
- The Wikipedia Game. Play this intermediate-advanced game alone or with a friend. Go to Wikipedia and choose the German language option, then use the Random Page tool (called “Zufälliger Artikel”) twice and try to go from one article to the other only by clicking links within the articles. No translation tools allowed!
In language study, it helps when you know what you need to know in order to accomplish your goals. Your language goals will differ from other students depending on why you’re learning German.
Whether you’re learning the language for business or pleasure, try to focus on one topic at a time. Here’s one way you can prioritize the skills you’ll need to learn.
- Gesticulation – being comfortable talking with your hands
- Nouns and verbs relating to topics you care about
- Glue words – prepositions and conjunctions
- Essential grammar – tenses and word order of special phrases like questions
- Grammar details – word order, declension, special tenses, etc.
Some would argue that accent is actually the most important since it affects how you hear the whole language. But if you’re in “emergency mode” and you need to learn functional German ASAP, start with #1 on this list and work your way to the end.
9. Digitally Immerse Yourself
In the digital world, it’s easy to immerse yourself by changing the language settings on your computer’s operating system, your phone, your email account, and all your social media pages.
One key recommendation: only convert platforms that you are very familiar with and don’t have to perform important functions on a regular basis. Making the switch can really slow some processes down, so if you’re already trying to tackle a new project and you have to deal with a language barrier as well, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.
If, however, you’re pretty familiar with a program and you want to learn all its vocab in German, switch it over and keep a dictionary app open so you can look up the words you don’t know.
10. Hit the Books
Books are the best way to learn new vocabulary and grammar. They’re inexpensive and extremely valuable for increasing your understanding of German.
Get advice from your language tutor on an appropriate book for your level. It can also be fun as an adult to pick up a German picture book for kids. It’s amazing how much you can learn from them, even after you’ve reached basic fluency.
The “Kleiner Bär” is a really good series to start with. Another great novel for students is “Monsieur Ibrahim und der Blumen des Koran.” It’s a really interesting story with a lot of good reading challenges.
Now you know how to learn German fast with these 10 shortcuts. Mastering any new language can be a challenge, but if you’re not afraid to jump into the deep end and ask for help when you need it, you’ll learn much more quickly.