1. Commit to Learning the Language
Learning a language isn’t any easy task, especially if you’re aiming to achieve a lot in just one month! From the beginning, recognize that learning German is going to take a lot of time, work and effort.
Be honest with yourself about how much of those three things you’re willing to put in!
One thing that might help you stay on track is to plan out a basic learning schedule, that way you have a sense of direction and a means of monitoring your progress.
As you continue to learn, don’t worry if you need to stray from your schedule! It’s okay to move away from it as long as you feel like you’re learning.
No matter whatever else you decide, a good rule of thumb is to try to learn at least 10-15 new German words every day. It might not sound like a lot, but pretty soon you’ll have an impressive vocabulary to work with! By the end of one month, you could have a functional vocabulary of nearly 500 words.
2. Enroll in an Intensive German Course
As far as rules and grammar are concerned, German isn’t exactly the easiest language to learn. If you have the available time and resources to dedicate this month, try to find an intensive German course in your area, such as through the Goethe Institut. These are typically expensive, but within a week, you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect from German grammar and vocabulary.
Enrolling in a course has the added benefit of an instructor who will correct you whenever you make a mistake, and you can bounce questions off of them. Learning a new language is always a little nerve-wracking, and having someone there to guide you through the process might help you feel more at ease.
Intensive German courses typically last anywhere from three to four weeks, or roughly eight hours per week. After finishing one month of an intensive German course, you might not be able to hold the most complex and detailed conversations, but you should be able to navigate daily life in German with little to no problem.
3. Total German Immersion
When it comes to learning a language, nothing will ever replace being able to communicate with native speakers. In addition to an intensive language course, I had the benefit of living in Germany and the chance to practice every day. While living abroad, you’ll be totally surrounded by German at all times.
See if you can plan a Sprachreise (study aboard trip) in a German-speaking country, such as Austria, Switzerland or, of course, Germany, so that you can get a feel for the cadence and pronunciation of German. After all, what good is knowing a language if you can’t actually communicate with people?
Being able to read and write in German is one thing, but being able to understand what people are saying is a different matter entirely!
It’s also important to note that languages are so much more than words and phrases—they also provide insight into the country’s culture, which is something you can really only experience firsthand. If you don’t know the language, you don’t know the culture—and vice versa.
Airlines like WOW Air have offers on flights to Europe for as little as $400 round trip, so now is as great a time as any to book a trip and immerse yourself in a foreign culture.
It might seem scary at first, but don’t worry, even advanced speakers make mistakes! Most Germans will understand that you’re still learning and will appreciate the fact that you’re making an effort. Prepare yourself with some tips on how to speak more confidently and master a few key phrases ahead of time to make your life a little easier.
Here are some good lines to get you started:
“Entschuldigung, ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsche” (Sorry, I only speak a little German)
“Ich heiße _____. Ich komme aus _____.” (My name is _____. I am from _____.)
In order to make the most of your month of rapid German learning, I recommend that you spend the first two weeks preparing for the trip, then the next two weeks actually in the country of your choice.
Regardless of how hard you study in the first two weeks, you’ll likely still find it difficult to understand what people are saying at the beginning of your Sprachreise, but that’s okay, the entire point of the trip is to train your ears. If you prepare well, you should start picking up the language in no time.
4. Find a German Speaking Partner
When you’re learning a language, it helps to have someone to learn with. After all, language is a tool for communication, and speaking with someone else is more fun than talking to yourself!
See if any of your friends are also interested in learning German, check local colleges and universities, or post an ad online. There are tons of online services, such as italki, that will connect you to language learners from all over the world.
LingQ is a multifaceted language learning program which gives you access to varied learning materials, interactive activities, a customizable German library and the ability to set up group classes and tutoring sessions.
To have a professional German teacher or tutor chat with you, you can try Verbling. There are hundreds upon hundreds of great teachers there you can choose from, and then you can have one-on-one German sessions online, at your convenience.
Once you have a partner, role-play as much as possible. Try to come up with a dialogue for situations such as ordering food, buying a train ticket, or asking for directions. Role-play is a great way to pick up new vocabulary and prepare for real life scenarios.
Try to talk to your partner for at least 15 to 30 minutes every day. Yes, that’s some high frequency. If one single partner can’t meet with you every day for a chat, mix the resources above to get your daily conversation practice in. Be sure to prepare prompts and vocabulary lists beforehand so you actually have something to talk about. Texting your partner in German is a great way to get some extra practice in too, and thanks to messenger apps such as WhatsApp, sending messages internationally is easier than ever.
Tip: When role-playing, remember to be mindful of when you’re using du and when you’re using Sie!
5. Find German Movies and TV Shows with Subtitles
If you aren’t able to plan a trip to a German speaking country, watching German TV or movies with subtitles is the next best thing! If you’re a fan of “The Office,” then you’ll probably enjoy “Stromberg” too.
If you have a Netflix account, see if a show that you’ve watched before but are planning on re-watching anyway has German subtitles, or better yet, a German dub. It might be difficult to follow at first, but the fact that you’ve already watched the show will help you understand what’s going on. Plus, watching an old show in a new language will help keep it fresh and interesting! If the episode length is short, try to watch two to three episodes every day.
Like visiting a German speaking country, watching TV and movies in German will help train your hearing and give you a better understanding of what the language is supposed to sound like.
Try to spend at least one hour a day listening to German music or podcasts.
Yes, podcasts and music are fantastic options, but bear in mind that certain genres will be more difficult to understand than others. You can start with podcasts made specifically for German students, like the internet favorite GermanPod101. This has a huge variety of listening materials with texts and activities to support you, and will even step up the game from beginner to intermediate and advanced as you make more progress after this first month of study.
If you like pop music, Tim Bendzko is a great artist to start with. His accent is neutral and he enunciates clearly.
The nice thing about watching TV or movies in German is that these things typically feel a lot less work than some of the other tips, but that doesn’t mean you get to sit back and relax! Print out lyrics when you’re listening to music and try to follow along, and actively listen to what’s being said during the movies or shows.
You’ll find yourself looking up a lot of words in the beginning, but things will get easier as the month progresses, and by the end, you should be able to watch TV in German with few interruptions, if any at all.
6. Buy a German as a Foreign Language Dictionary
A “Deutsche als Fremdsprache“ dictionary is hands down one of the best resources you can buy. I carry mine with me everywhere I go. With any language, it’s important to learn how to define words in that language. The nice thing about a DaF dictionary is that it uses relatively simple language.
Google Translate and similar translators are fantastic tools to start with, but sometimes they provide a word that doesn’t fit the context you’re in, which is why you’re going to want to move to a German dictionary as quickly as possible.
For example, let’s say you wanted to translate a word like the verb fressen. Google Translate will tell you that this means, “to eat” but it won’t tell you important contextual information. In this case, fressen does mean to eat, but it typically refers to animals eating (or someone with terrible table manners).
In the beginning, I would recommend using a mix of both a translator and a DaF dictionary, until you feel comfortable enough using the DaF dictionary on it’s own.
Like I mentioned previously, aim for at least 10-15 new words every day. If you keep this up for the whole 30 days, that’s anywhere from 300 to 450 words that you’ve learned, which should carry you through everyday conversations.
7. Be Realistic With Your Expectations
German is a difficult language! Within a month, you should be able to get a hang of most of the basics, such as haben and sein and using the Perfekt tense, enough to where you’ll be able to navigate your daily life with relative ease.
The fastest way to become discouraged is to expect way too much from one month of studying. You can expect a ton of great progress, but you can’t expect complete fluency just yet.
Berlin wasn’t built in one day.
If you want to be really fluent in German, you’re going to have to keep learning and practicing.
And there you have it!
Learning a language in a month might seem like a daunting task, but hopefully with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to mastering German.
Here’s to one incredible, productive, German-filled month!