1. Write Daily Lists and Calendar Items
If writing in German is still scary for you, an easy way to start is with short lists.
Start by making to-do lists in German of the things you need to do each day. This can be on scrap pieces of paper, or even on an app like Todoist or Wunderlist.
Then, begin writing your grocery lists in German. This is great practice for food items, and also to get you thinking in German when you normally are not. You will probably buy many of the same foods week after week, so the repetition will be really helpful. Beginners might like using this complete list of foods from grocerylist.org when starting out.
To help you switch over to German, and if you want to spend a little money on this project, you could buy a new pad of paper for grocery lists, like this one. When the list title is in German on every page, you should remember to write your list in German every time.
If you keep a daily or monthly calendar, write your appointments and events in German. Like with the grocery list, you will probably use some of the same words over and over. And if you prefer apps, use your phone’s calendar app in German or download a free one.
2. Keep a One-sentence Journal
Another easy way to start writing more is by keeping a one-sentence journal. The idea is simple: You write one sentence in a journal every day. You do not need anything special—just a notebook and a pen or pencil.
Put your one-sentence journal somewhere you will see it, and try to write at the same time every day. For example, you could keep your journal next to your bed and write before you go to sleep each night. Or you could keep your journal on your desk at work and write a sentence during your lunch break.
Writing one sentence does not take a lot of time, so this is a great habit for beginners. If you are more advanced or simply want to write more, you can definitely write more than one sentence each day. But you must try not to miss more than one day in a row, when you forget to write your sentence. It is better to write just one sentence every day than to write two pages once, and stop writing for weeks. You have to be consistent to make improvement!
If you would like, you can buy the five-year one-sentence journal, created by author Gretchen Rubin.
3. Comment on Online Content
You watch YouTube videos, don’t you? Of course you do! The next time you watch a video on YouTube, write a short comment below. You could write a new comment, or reply to another user’s comment. (Hint: If you watch videos in German, the comments will likely be in German too!)
Start doing the same for other content online. Did you read a cool blog post? Leave a comment in German. Did you see something awesome on Facebook or G+? Comment on it!
Tweets (on Twitter) can only be 140 characters long. Writing tweets (or tweeting) is therefore another nice step to get you comfortable writing in German in small amounts.
You can definitely keep your account private if you want, but it might be more fun to make it public. That way, other people can see your tweets and reply to them. Remember, you do not have to use your real name when you create a username!
Twitter is meant to capture what is happening now. Here are some ideas of what you could tweet:
Your current thoughts
That haiku you just wrote
What you are doing today
Your opinion on the latest news story
How you are feeling
A picture of where you are, with a description
A sentence using your newest German vocab word
Here are 42 more ideas of things you could tweet about!
If you have a native German speaking friend, ask them to follow you. If you want to improve faster, ask him or her to please correct your tweets if they see any mistakes.
5. Decorate with Inspirational Quotes
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
That quote by Mahatma Gandhi is perhaps one of the most well-known inspirational quotes to date. Inspirational is used to describe something that gets you excited and gives you hope. Gandhi’s quote above inspires people to make positive changes in their actions.
Find some inspirational quotes that you really like, and then write them down. Here are some sites where you can find great quotes:
Goodreads Quotes: This link takes you directly to the “inspirational” category. Use the tags on the right-hand side to search other categories.
Curated Quotes: This page has 201 inspirational quotes; 25 have pictures.
Brainy Quote: Scroll to the bottom for more categories, such as “Motivational Quotes,” “Life Quotes” and “Positive Quotes.”
Keep Inspiring: Each quote on this page is written in plain text, and then as a graphic with a picture.
If you have a Pinterest account, that is another great place to look for these quotes. If you prefer quotes about happiness, friendship, love or another topic—that is okay. The point is for you to find quotes that you like. You can also look for interesting quotes (not just inspirational) as you read in German.
Look up any unknown words and make sure you understand the quote’s meaning.
Then, the next step is to rewrite the quote by hand. If you want to get out the markers and crayons, feel free. If you prefer to write in black pen on a white notecard, go ahead. Do whatever you prefer.
Next, put up the quotes somewhere you will see them every day. You could decorate your bedroom walls, a notebook, your bathroom mirror—wherever you want. Every time you look at the quote, read it aloud or say it in your head.
It is really great practice to write these quotes out by hand, but you can also easily make beautiful quotes online
Then, you can set these as your computer background, share them on Facebook, pin them on Pinterest, etc. Add five new quotes to your collection every month.
6. Write Love Letters for Your Community
Now that you are in an inspired mood, you can also participate in this letter-writing project: “The World Needs More Love Letters.”
Created by Hannah Brencher, here is the main idea: The world needs more love letters, so write a love letter to a stranger.
Not a romantic love letter for couples, but a nice letter from human to human. Write a letter that will make someone happy. Then, leave the letter in a public space for someone to find. Here is a quick guide with more details about leaving love letters, and here is a short list of dos and don’ts. There are many sample letters on the site, so you can use them for ideas.
But what if no one speaks German where you live? Not to worry—there is another way you can participate in this wonderful project! Every month there is a featured love letter request.
You will see the person’s name, a paragraph about them and a mailing address for their “bundle” of letters. (The recipient does not know they will be receiving love letters; usually a friend requests it for them.) Send a love letter to that address before the mailing deadline. Click the picture under the words “Mail Letters” here to see current love letter requests.
For more information about this project, you can read the story here or watch the creator’s short (4:52) TED Talk here.
7. Participate in a Postcard Exchange
While it is nice to make a stranger happy with a letter, it is also fun to get a response to something you mail. A postcard exchange is a great way to send and receive mail in German!
Post Crossing is a site that organizes international postcard exchanges. Here is how it works: You sign up and receive an address. Send a postcard to that address. Once the recipient receives your postcard, you will be the next person to receive a postcard.
One of the Post Crossing Community guidelines is to use German. So in addition to writing your postcard in German, you will also get to use German when you create your account and when you browse the website.
And there are some pretty interesting parts to the site, such as meetups (events), a forum (where you can have written discussions with other members), postcard statistics and more.
To combine writing and listening practice, you can do a dictation. (If you need to work on your spelling, listen up!) A dictation is when you listen to some audio and write down exactly what you hear.
To do this on your own, you will want to use audio that has a transcript (a written copy of all spoken words from a piece of audio). For example:
TED Talks — These talks can be interesting, educational, funny, insightful (shows deep understanding), entertaining and more. Click the “interactive transcript” button below each video for the transcript.
Audiobooks — You just need a copy of the book for your transcript. (Try free e-books!)
Movies — Check this online database of free movie scripts to see if the script from your favorite movie is there.
Do not try to write out an entire TED Talk or a full book chapter. (That would take forever, even for a native German speaker!) Instead, do just a minute or two from the audio clip. If that is too difficult, try just 10-30 seconds of a recording to start.
When you are finished, compare what you have written with the transcript. Check for spelling errors or completely wrong words.
9. Send a Letter to Your Future Self
This next one is an activity that I like to do at least once a year myself. Using the site futureme.org, you can send an email to the future! You write an email to yourself, and then choose the date that it will be delivered. I recommend sending it six months or one year from the current date.
It is a fun surprise when the email arrives a year later. You can see how you have changed.
10. Start a Blog
When you are ready to write a bit more than a tweet or a short Reddit comment, start your own blog. Blogger is a really easy blogging platform to use, and it is made by Google. WordPress.com is another site where you can make a free blog.
What should your blog be about? Here are a few ideas:
Your hobbies and interests
Your progress learning German
Your daily life
But your blog does not need one central theme—you can write whatever you want any day! I do recommend starting with a schedule, though: Write at least one post per week.
If you are not sure what to write about, there is actually a subreddit called Writing Prompts where you can get ideas!
What could you write about in the letter to yourself? Really, whatever you want. But here are some ideas:
What do you hope to accomplish (do) in the next year?
What are you biggest worries and fears right now?
What is going on in the news?
What makes you happy?
Who are your closest friends?
If you want to get some fun reading practice too, you can read real letters that people have written to themselves on the site.