Life story,  Thoughts

A Guide to Learn German in 365 Days (English Version)

How to learn German in one year! I wish I could give some tips of how to learn German in 30 days.. but unfortunately I can’t.. Instead, I will share with you, how I’ve been struggling with this wonderful yet difficult language.

This post is dedicated for all fellows, who are struggling to learn German.

I know exactly how notably difficult the German language is. I have been struggling to master this language since about 13 years and I haven’t really managed to do so. I’ve already written in my earlier post, what kind of difficulties I had to overcome within my first years of study (and that still happened although I had already spoken German for about a year) -> if you’re interested in the post, please click here. The one thing, which could help is: practice..practice..practice.. (I know that I’m being boring here.. 😉 )

Anyways, I want to tell you today, what I have been doing to manage learning and speaking German up to this day. So.. I guess you’ve realized through my previous posts, of how I love lists. So here it is again 😉 :

  • As a preparation for my exchange year I took a basic German class at the “Goethe Institut” in Bandung, Indonesia (hallo Frau Indriyati!). That wasn’t an intensive course, as I merely had 2 classes with each 2 hours in a week. And I must admit, that I wasn’t that highly motivated as I am now. That’s why I didn’t really have a good progress while attending this course. I was such a dud that time.. By the end of the course I only managed to say “Guten Tag und Danke” (okay..I’m a little exaggerating here..hehe..). No seriously, I wish I had take the German course much more seriously than I did at that time. Because in my opinion, a German course is so inevitable if you plan to learn the language correctly. With the help of the teachers you will just learn the principal basics, such as the structures of the sentences, which article should be used (I know..there are zillions of exceptions regarding the articles. But still..). If you plan to live in Germany, it’s so much better to attend a course IN Germany. You will just automatically speak and hear much more German! That’s why, here’s my tip: look for a language course with the fewest pupils from your own country! Hereby you’d be automatically much less seduced to speak your native language.
  • The first time I stepped into the house of my German family, we naturally spoke more English than German. As I said before, I could basically only say, “Guten Tag, mein Name ist Andina. Ich komme aus Indonesien. Ich bin 17 Jahre alt. Vielen Dank. Tschüss“. But I gave my very best to speak as much German as I could by the third day in Hannover. Even if it was only such sentence, “Guten Morgen, wie geht es Euch. Ich habe gut geschlafen. Oh, es ist schönes Wetter!”. A memory just came up now, of how I used to bug my German mother and sister on our first bike-trip around the city on my the third day in Hannover. I kept asking them with questions like,”Wie heißt dog auf Deutsch? Wie heißt grass auf Deutsch?“ etc. By the end of our bike trip that day I could build an incredible sentence „Es sind viele Hunde auf der Wiese”.
  • I read a gigantic amount of german children books in the beginning of my exchange year and I always had my pocket „Oxford German-English“ dictionary with me ANYTIME and EVERYWHERE I go (well except to the toilet). I even used to read this lovely dictionary in the train going to school everyday just to memorize new vocabularies. Anyways, reading children books is simply the best method to learn basic sentences. That was how I learned English in my childhood as well. I have always loved reading books. We children didn’t get any allowance from our parents until we got into the high school. Instead I was allowed to buy one English or one Indonesian book every week. I believe that my love for learning languages originated from this particular hobby. Here are some of my favorite German children books, which I used to like to read in my first months in Hannover:
    • Ein Sams zu Viel von Paul Maar
    • Die Lustigsten Geschichten von Wilhelm Busch
    • Der Struwwelpeter
    • Alles auf Deutsch übersetzte Werke von Enid Blyton und Astrid Lindgren.

A little bit later I read these books and grew to love them very much:

    • Fünf Freunde by Enid Blyton
    • Tintenwelt – Trilogie by Cornelia Funke
    • Momo by Michael Ende
    • Freche Mädchen – Freche Bücher (a book series written by various German authors from the publishing company Thienemann – Esslinger)
    • And really many more..

It is extremely normal to botch your other foreign language while you learn a new foreign language. Your brain has just to be acclimatized to the new foreign language. Believe me, this particular organ in your head is a magnificent one. You will get better even before you realize it. During my exchange year in Hannover I promised myself to read at least 2 German books and 2 English books (usually I only read light stuffs and novels), so that this acclimatization process would get faster. Every city in Germany has at least one big library with a loot of books, which you can borrow from usually for free (or else you need to apply for a member card for a little money).  And that’s what I love from Germany soo much. God knows, how I love the city library of  Hannover. I could have lived there.. And that is why I can absolutely recommend this library!

  • I have always loved writing, even if my text is usually very cheeky and not so high qualitative 😉 Already in my childhood I used to write a diary both in English and in Indonesian. And that’s exactly what I did during my exchange year. I wrote a diary in German, English and sometimes also in Indonesian. Lately I grabbed out my old diary from this particular year and I was in awe about my own language development over the year. Here is some example of my diary entries:

Hannover, 12.10.03 (ein Monat nach meiner Ankunft in Hannover): Ich werde in München für 2 Tage sein.. Sehr interessant! Angela hat gesagt, dass München viele größer als Hannover ist.. Ich möchte zum Olympia Stadion gehen. Wenn es möglich ist, möchte ich Bayern München sehen.

Davos, 05.04.04 (7 Monate nach meiner Ankunft in Hannover, ca. 3 Monate vor meinem Rückkehr nach Indonesien): Heute bin ich um 8 aufgestanden, habe mich geduscht, Frühstück vorbereitet, gefrühstückt und zum Skifahren mich vorbereitet. Ich bin um 9:30 zur Piste gefahren. Mein linkes Bein hat völlig weh getan, ich konnte echt nicht mehr aushalten.. Ich hab’ fast geheult! Gott..Nicole (meine Skilehrerin) hat mich verboten, Ski zu fahren, weil ich so schlecht laufen konnte. Ich hab’ meine Stiefel umgetauscht und bin zum Kurs zu spät angekommen.. Heute ist es irgendwie nicht mein Tag.. Ich bin ständig hingefallen, als wir runtergefahren sind.

  • It’s probably (or definitely?) a personal kink. Every time I learn a foreign language, I would love to talk to myself or I would think loudly. That way I could sort out my thoughts and even correct my sentences. My parents used to think that I was very peculiar, just because I used to give a speech in front of the reflection of myself (either in my own room or my bathroom) or I even gave a speech to myself during the car rides. But it did actually help me to become one of the best speakers in various debating championships I used to participate in, in the last two years of my high school! (Hello Putri Karina & Redwan!! 🙂 ) So I can only assure you, just do it! (even if some people would find you peculiar..)
  • I love TV-series (who don’t??) and during my highschool time I was a loyal big fan of “Friends”. I had already watched almost all of the episodes in Indonesia (usually in English with Indonesian subtitle). And then I thought, ”why don’t I watch the serial again in German?” It used to be played at Pro Sieben almost every afternoon. Soo, I watched it in German every time I had a free time (if I didn’t do sport or else.. I used to play much tennis or swim..(well not: my German family knows how much I hated swimming at that time, just because I was the slowest swimmer in the whole school), just to compensate my humongous appetite! I did gain about 10 kg during the exchange year, which I fortunately/unfortunately lost the moment I got back to Indonesia by catching a typhoid fever infection).
  • This is a disclosure: I am not a big fan of German music (I know.. I’m sorry…). But during my exchange year I used to listen to my German sister’s music a lot. Some of my favorite German bands at that time were „Wir sind Helden“, die „Prinzen“ and „Zeichen der Zeit“. I managed to memorize the texts of my favorite songs (such as „Aurelie“ by Wir sind Helden, „Du Bist Nicht Allein“ by Zeichen der Zeit oder „Küssen Verboten“ by Die Prinzen and sang them over and over again (please forgive me, I might have sounded like a broken radio). Hereby I succeeded in learning so many new words and it was just incredibly fun!
  • To this end, the utterly most important thing to do to learn a new language is simply talking..talking and talking.. That’s why, go get German friends, a language partner or even a German girlfriend/boyfriend! I have learned soo many new vocabularies ever since I’ve been in a relationship with my husband (well, the daily discussions or sometimes the quarrels are just inevitable in a relationship 😉 ). From my own experience I can say, that it’s not always easy to begin a conversation with a German person, whom you completely don’t know. The Germans are known to be “reserved” (I’m not even sure, if this is the right term). Anyhow, the Germans usually say something, if there IS something important to talk about, otherwise they don’t do so much chatting as much as for example Indonesians ;), Americans, south Americans, Italians or Spanish people. But I know, that once you’ve “captured” the hearts of the Germans, you’ve got yourself long life friends. It might be a Cliché, but as I told you, I speak only based on my PERSONAL experience. That’s why I’d just like to motivate you to draw your own conclusions by making friendships to the Germans!

I know, that everyone has to find their own best way and methods to learn a foreign language. At the moment I am learning Spanish. Let’s see in a year, how good my Spanish will be 😉

I hope that you had fun reading my entry and I hope that you could extract some of my methods to master the oh so difficult German language!





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