1. Think in German
Sometimes the difficult thing about talking in a new language isn’t the language itself, but how you think about it.
If you think in your native language and then try to speak German, you’ll always have to translate between languages. Translating isn’t an easy thing to do! Even people fluent in two or more languages have trouble switching between languages.
The solution is to think in German.
You can do this anywhere, anytime. Try to use German when you’re thinking about your day, or when you’re trying to decide what food to order. Even try to use an German to German dictionary to look up words. That way you never have to use your native language and translate words. You’ll notice that when you think in German, it’s easier for you to speak in German.
2. Talk to yourself.
Whenever you’re at home (or alone somewhere else) you can practice your German with your favorite person: yourself.
If you’re already thinking in German, try speaking your thoughts out loud. Read out loud, too. Practice is practice, and even if you don’t have anyone to correct your mistakes, just the act of speaking out loud will help you become more comfortable speaking German.
3. Use a mirror.
Whenever you can, take a few minutes out of your day to stand in front of the mirror and speak. Choose a topic, set a timer for 2 or 3 minutes and just talk.
The point of this exercise is to watch your mouth, face and body language as you speak. It also makes you feel like you’re talking to someone, so you can pretend you’re having a discussion with a study buddy.
Talk for the full 2 or 3 minutes. Don’t stop! If you get stuck on a word you don’t know, try expressing your idea in a different way. You can always look up how to say that word after the 2-3 minutes end. This will definitely help you find out what kinds of words or sentences you have trouble with.
4. Focus on fluency, not grammar.
When you speak in German, how often do you stop?
The more you stop, the less confident you sound and the less comfortable you become. Try the mirror exercise above, but challenge yourself to speak without stopping or stammering (taking pauses between your words) the entire time.
This might mean that your sentences won’t be grammatically perfect, and that’s okay! If you focus on speaking fluently instead of correctly, you’ll still be understood and you’ll sound better. You can fill in the correct grammar and word rules as you learn them better.
5. Try some tongue twisters.
Tongue twisters are series of words that are difficult to say quickly. One example is: “The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.” Try saying this a few times! It’s not easy.
Word games like this will help you find the right placement for your mouth and tongue, and can even help your pronunciation.
6. Listen and repeat.
Do you watch TV shows or YouTube videos in German? Use them to improve your fluency. Choose a short part of a show and repeat it line by line. Try to match the tone, speed and even the accent (if you can). It doesn’t matter if you miss a few words, the important thing is to keep talking. Try to sound just like the native speakers on the show.
7. Sing along to German songs.
Singing along to your favorite German songs will help you become more fluent.
Sometimes you can test your skills with something a bit more difficult: rap!
Rap is a great way to practice German because often the words are spoken like regular sentences. However, the rapper uses a stronger rhythm and faster speed. Some of the words might not make sense, but if you can keep up with the rapper then you’re on your way to becoming fluent!
8. Learn word forms with new words.
Some practice comes before you even open your mouth. Make speaking easier by learning the different forms of any words you learn. You should do this when you’re learning new vocabulary. For example, if you just learned the word write, you should also learn some other forms like wrote and written.
Knowing the correct way to use a word in any kind of sentence is important. This knowledge will help you while speaking. You won’t have to stop and think of different words—you’ll know exactly when you need to use that word while speaking.
9. Learn phrases, not words.
An even better idea is to learn word phrases, not just words.
You might be using correct grammar and vocabulary, but it’s still not how a native speaker would say it.
10. Learn your most common sayings.
Take some time to really notice how you speak in your native language.
What words and phrases do you use the most often?
Learn how to say your most commonly used phrases and words in German. Knowing them in German will help you speak as well in German as you do in your native language.
You can be your best helper or your worst enemy when learning to speak fluently! We know it’s hard, but you should try not to worry about how you sound when you speak. Just relax!
If you get stuck or confused, just take a big breath and start over. Speak slower if you have to. Take time to pause and think about your next sentence.
Do whatever it takes to become more comfortable with speaking German.
12. Tell a story from your language in German.
Here’s a fun way to test how well your spoken German has developed: choose a story that you know really well and tell it in German.
Remember to think in German as you’re telling your story. Focus on speaking fluently instead of correctly. Say every sentence out loud to yourself.
Even if you have nobody to talk to in German, you can still build confidence and master fluency on your own time.
In some ways, practicing speaking is even easier by yourself!