Learning German: Tips for beginners

Learning German: Tips for beginners

Learning German: Tips for beginners

If you are an expat living in Germany, learning the language can have a huge impact on your life, both professionally and socially. But what does learning German actually look like and require? SkypeLanguageSchool share their tips for beginners – and explain how Skype can be a great alternative to classroom-based learning.

Expats face many challenges when getting accustomed to their newly adopted home countries. Cultural nuances, navigating through the world of work, and the social scene can all be overwhelming and take time to figure out.

Learning the local language opens many doors for expats, not only at their jobs or when faced with promotions and career growth, but also in their everyday lives. The benefits of learning German are certainly plentiful, but the question remains – how does one go about acquiring this sometimes daunting language?

The keys to learning German

Manuela Vaccaro, an Italian national who moved to Switzerland in 2014 and currently lives and works in Basel, says the key to learning German is making sure you carve out enough time to dedicate yourself to it every week.

This includes having a teacher guide you (especially in the beginning), taking the time to do your homework and completing self-study activities – with the help of the vast amount of resources available to you.

If you’re just starting out, bear these tips in mind.

Cognates are your friends

Learning any language can be overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to begin, but luckily, German is one of the easier languages to learn. And if you already speak English, things will be a lot easier!

Many words sound and look the same in both English and German, for example “Haus” (house), “Buch” (book) and “Hand” (hand). When you spot a word you think you know, nine times out of 10, you’ll be correct – you know more words in German than you think!

Understand common difficulties

There are plenty of aspects that all German learners struggle with at the beginning. But don’t let yourself be discouraged! Knowing that these aspects cause everyone trouble will give you the resolve to power on through.

Probably the most frightening aspect of language learning for anyone, is the dreaded grammar. As a native Italian speaker, Manuela wasn’t too worried about pronunciation, but what really took time to understand was “the dative, accusative and genitive cases, amongst other more complex grammatical structures!”

Pronunciation is yet another area in which some learners struggle, as making the umlaut (ä, ö, ü) sounds is quite alien to many speakers of other languages.

False friends can also pose a stumbling block, as similar sounding words in German and English take on different meanings, and can be easily confused – consider “sympatisch”, which means likeable rather than sympathetic.

Have a teacher to guide you

The crucial means of overcoming these common challenges is having a teacher by your side, working at your pace, with clear explanations and plenty of repetition.

Every course - whether a face-to-face class in a school, or via Skype with a private teacher, or even through an online tool - begins with the basics. This means starting with introductions, greetings, and asking and answering basic questions. Starting from this point helps to build confidence immediately and focuses on practical phrases that the learner can start using right away.

This will lay the foundations of your German language learning, which you can then build on in other areas of your life, like work and social setting. It’s very difficult to start learning German from zero! As Manuela says: “Once I started taking classes, my confidence grew, as well as my ability to express myself, and things got better! People became friendlier and were happy to speak German with me.”

Resources for learning German

With all the technology available at our fingertips nowadays, the options for learning German are seemingly endless. With YouTube, various mobile apps and even video courses, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and have difficulties in choosing the best learning tool for yourself.

Language schools versus online learning

Arguably, the best choices are either in-person courses at a language school or via Skype. While many people prefer the face-to-face approach, with our hectic schedules and limited leisure hours, it can be difficult to find the time to attend the same German class, at the same time every week.

The advantages of Skype for learning German

For this reason, Skype learning is becoming increasingly popular. Learning German online presents many advantages, including how flexible you can be with your lesson times, and the personalisation that a one-to-one teacher can provide you with.

Skype allows the teacher to share the endless resources of the internet with you, using visuals, flashcards, and live-editing documents, to present the language to you in exciting ways.

One-to-one lessons can also be completely personalised, meaning your teacher ensures that all the topics and contexts covered in your lessons align with your personality, interests, work situation and social needs.

Crucially, using Skype means that you are mobile and flexible. Do you have a chunk of time between work meetings or on your lunch break? Have you just dropped the kids at school? Great! You can make productive use of your time, as all that is needed is a good internet connection and headphones (or a quiet space)!

Looking ahead

Whatever path you choose to take, be sure to carve out the time in your life to pursue it seriously – and make sure you take the time to choose the right way to learn.  Learning German can be incredibly rewarding and will certainly improve your life as an expat exponentially.

And as her final tip, as a C1 level speaker after 5 years of learning, Manuela says, “Speak as much as possible! That’s the fastest way to learn and the best way. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and listen to native speakers as much as possible.”

Are you interested in trying a one-to-one language course that fits around you? Contact SkypeLanguageSchool to arrange a free consultation.

Karen Shidlo


Karen Shidlo

Karen received her BFA from Pratt Institute in New York. She has experience in art, design and journalism. She is also passionate about writing and teaching, and balances her time...

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