5 Ways You Can Learn German Faster, According to Science

knowledge-og-paysage

The Science of Language Learning

Language learning is a very important field of research for scientists. That is because the ability to learn complex (complicated) language is something that makes humans different from other animals.

Science knows how the human brain works (mostly). Science knows how we learn and speak.

There have been many, many scientific studies that focus on how people learn languages. Some research is used to try and understand how and why we learn languages, and some is done to figure out the benefits of learning new languages. Some studies focus on babies, who are excellent natural language learners, and others just focus on adults.

That is a lot of information! So what can you do with all this research?

By understanding how and why we learn languages the way we do, we can make our language learning journeys faster and easier.

You can start learning German faster right now, thanks to some scientific studies! Here is how.

1. Listen to a lot of German

What the science says:

Scientists who study languages have a special term for one of the ways we learn languages: unconscious or implicit language learning. This kind of learning happens when we are not even trying.

It does not happen by sitting at a desk and studying rules over and over. Instead, it happens when we listen to lots of German and when we are not paying a lot of attention. The sound of German is in the background, and your brain automatically absorbs the sounds, accents, words and grammar, even though you are not listening well, speaking or taking notes.

The crazy thing is that we learn from listening even if we do not understand what the words mean. Study after study shows that it is possible for people to learn any language by listening this way—we can even learn fake languages (ones that scientists invent for their research) just by listening to people speak them.

That is because when we listen to the language we hear the patterns. It is a more natural way to learn—kids do it all the time. Think about it! When babies are very, very young, they cannot speak. They can only listen. They spend tons of time listening before they can fully understand what is being said, and before they can use the language by themselves.

What you can do:

Listen to as much German as you can. Listen constantly! Whenever you can, make sure that you have something in German playing in your room, in your office or in your headphones.

Watch German TV, listen to German music and listen to audiobooks in German. Go to places where you can hear native English speakers talk to each other. Listen to as much spoken German as you can. You do not have to listen closely—while you are listening you can just walk around, enjoy the sights, do the dishes, read a book, work out at the gym, do your homework, write an essay or do your daily job.

No matter what, as long as the sounds of German are entering your ears and your brain, you will learn more German than you realize!

2. Learn new sounds separately

What the science says:

Learning German changes the way your brain works. Amazingly, learning a new language actually makes your brain grow! One study discovered that, as we learn a language, parts of our brain grow bigger. The bigger the growth, the easier the new language will be for you to learn.

An even more interesting part of the experiment in this study, though, showed that our brains react differently to different sounds.

For example, the letters L and R can be difficult for language learners to hear, especially if their native language only has one letter for both sounds (like Japanese). The experiment showed that when German speakers heard the letters L and R, two different parts of their brains reacted to the sounds. Japanese speakers only had one area react.

What you can do:

Before you can speak and understand German like a native, learn German sounds. This is a great post full of information about different German sounds and how to pronounce them.

Find the sounds that are the hardest for you to understand or pronounce and study them extra hard.

Some experiments show that listening to slowed down sounds can help learn them in as little as an hour. Now that is fast!

3. Use word associations

What the science says:

When you use word associations you are connecting words with other words, sounds, movements, ideas or pictures. When you hear the sound “woof,” you associate it—connect it—with a dog. When you see a picture of a sun, you immediately think of the words “sun,” “warm” and “hot.” You do not have to spend any time thinking of this, these words come to your mind automatically.

Learning words through associations is not only fun, it is a very useful way to speed up your German learning. Scientists used this study to look at sign language, a language that deaf people to communicate and which uses the hands and fingers instead of sounds to make words.

An experiment showed that it is much easier to remember signs that look like the word they stand for. This means that it is easier to remember the sign language word for “eat” because it looks like a person eating. It is harder to learn words when the motion of your hands is not connected to the idea as strongly.

What you can do:

When you are learning new words, try to learn them in groups. Combine a word with an image, a movement or another word. When you have this strong connection in your mind, you will have an easier time remembering it.

Try using your hands and body to show the meaning of the words you are learning, at least until you remember it on its own. You could also try to draw some pictures instead of writing the definitions.

For a fun activity, try turning the words into what they mean. You can find some ideas by using Google Images search. Doing this will not only help you remember the meaning, but also the spelling!

4. Learn phrases, not words

What the science says:

Some words have one meaning on their own, but a completely different meaning when they are put together with other words. As we listen to or read a sentence in German, we look for these groups.

In the sentence “Ich rannte herum (I ran around),” you are saying that you ran without a goal. If you add just two words, it turns into “Ich rannte um den Park herum (I ran around the park),” which has a completely different meaning. You learn more and more information about the sentence and the words in it as you listen.

This might not seem so surprising, but until recently linguists (people who study languages) thought that we listen to a whole sentence and then break it down into parts. One study explains that the order of the words might be more important than the whole sentence.

Think about it this way: “Bread and butter” and “butter and bread” have the same meaning, but only one has the right order of words (bread and butter).

What you can do:

Learning words on their own can be difficult since many words have more than one meaning. Just knowing a word does not mean you will be able to actually use it. So when you learn new words, learn how they are used in phrases, sentences and conversation.

The word “retrospect,” for example, means to look back on something. You will probably never hear it used without the word “in” before it: “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have eaten the whole cake.” Learn how words are grouped and you will sound more natural when you speak.

5. Learn with music

What the science says:

Do you remember the cute songs you learned when you were very young? I bet you can still sing the songs your mother or your teachers taught you. But you learned those songs a very long time ago! How can you still remember them so well?

When you are a child, music is very important for language learning. That is why children have songs that help them remember numbers and letters, learn how vowels work and learn new words. Songs repetition and music to help kids remember important parts of language.

Adults learn easier with music, too. Language skills are usually seen as very important and music is not as important. But according to one study, the ways we learn both music and language are very similar, and both are very important! We learn that “ba” and “da” sound different, in the same way that we learn that a trumpet and a piano sound different.

What you can do:

Language is almost a kind of music of its own. Learning language skills by using music makes learning easier and faster. There are many songs for learning German, many of which you can find on YouTube or right here on German Learning Easy. Listen to songs and sing along to them, and you will be speaking like a native soon!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: