How to enjoy learning German in 5 simple steps
How to enjoy learning German in 5 simple steps
No matter whether you are learning German on your own or with the help of a teacher of some sort, it can sometimes be a struggle to enjoy it. Michael Schmitz, creator of smarterGerman, shares five solid tips from his 20 years of professional tutoring experience to make your German learning a joyride.
Living in a German-speaking country doesn’t necessarily require you to understand or speak any German. But, as you probably already know, it would make a hell of a difference if you were actually capable of communicating with the authorities and locals. Follow these five simple steps to make learning German a joy.
Step 1: The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master
Learning German can be very intimidating at first as there is an abundance of information to deal with. A learner’s mind very often fears not knowing what is about to come and worries about not understanding things or looking stupid. It so wants to know every single detail of a text or grammatical phenomenon that it misses the forest for the trees.
Let go of the desire to understand 100% of what you're dealing with
Wanting to fill every gap of knowledge when learning German is a massive distraction and simply slows down the learning process. Let go of the desire to understand 100 percent of what you are dealing with. Focusing on what is being taught at the moment keeps the mind at bay. The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master, so you better tame it in order to benefit from it as much as possible.
Step 2: Be kind to yourself
Many of us out there think we have to suffer in order to earn something - and we apply the same principle when learning German. But it is absolutely unnecessary to work hard in order to master German. The German language is so close to English that it's pretty easy to grasp it with a bit of constant effort.
When you notice that you're working hard when learning German, stop right there and take a step back. Look at what you are doing and how you are doing it. Maybe hire a tutor for one lesson, just to look at your approach and help you optimise it. If you are already working with a tutor and still feel it is pretty hard to get by, consider working with another tutor for a couple of lessons or participate in another group as a guest.
You'll be learning German for about two years, on average, but experimenting with your approach for a couple of weeks will pay off in just a short amount of time. If your tutor only speaks German to you, you have chosen the hardest approach to learning German. It works if your tutor is very good or if you are a proficient language learner, but it is highly inefficient and unnecessarily hard.
Step 3: Reclaim your free time
Set the right priorities. Our minds are designed to let us operate in a constant "doing" mode which can lead to a kind of unnecessary activism (or let's call it "achievism" - see Step 4!). Our days easily fill up with tiny tasks here and there, especially if we have children and / or a full-time job. To-do and bucket lists can sometimes be several pages long.
All you've got to do is get your priorities sorted
If you feel you don't have time to study German, ask yourself what you'd have to "give up" in order to reclaim the time needed. Are all the things you do, day in, day out, really that important? If so, then don't even bother learning German. Simply enjoy your life. All you've got to do is get your priorities sorted.
Step 4: There is nothing to achieve
Take all the time you want. Getting better at something or even becoming the best in one’s field are very common goals. What if you didn’t have to become better at German? What if it was simply so enjoyable that you actually looked forward to learning German every day?
Wanting to achieve something as big as mastering the German language - which, by the way, a large part of the German native population still hasn't managed - is bound to frustrate you and put your motivation to the test. Many that set out to learn proper German fail pretty soon.
There is nothing to achieve when learning German. A language is always connected to finding another piece of the puzzle of who you truly are. And for that, you can take all the time you want.
Step 5: Let go of shame and guilt
For many learners, it is extremely uncomfortable not being able to communicate in the way they are used to. They feel stupid, ashamed and at times even guilty for wasting other people’s precious time when they try to speak German. Social pressure is one of the hardest things to withstand in life.
Here's something that might help keep those feelings at bay: how would you feel if a woman came to you and spoke very broken English? Would you judge her as stupid or, rather, would you be compassionate with her? How would you react to someone trying to engage you in a conversation when you are short of time?
Guilt and shame always have roots in our past and are unnecessary when it comes to learning and speaking German. Maybe take a look at your habitual patterns and see which ones of those serve you and which ones are good to let go of.
Would you like to learn German with more joy and kindness towards yourself? Visit smarterGerman.com to find out how beautifully simple and enjoyable learning German can be. Michael offers self-learning courses that follow the principles mentioned above.