5 Top Tips to Help You Speak German More Easily
Erfolg hat drei Buchstaben: t u n !
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Success has two letters: do!
To be successful at speaking German, you need to speak, and trying to speak without any form or specific goal makes it more difficult. It’s important to give yourself a specific task or framework for speaking.
Most people simply try to talk about everything all the time. That won't help you. Why? Because you know a TON of English/whatever your native language is, however in a foreign language you might have only a few skills, as in a few tools in your toolbox.
So here are five ways to repeat what you have in front of you if you don't have enough speaking practice.
Tip #1: Read the texts in your book aloud.
If you have a textbook for learning German, start by reading the texts aloud.
The material in that book is (I hope!) 100% correct and you've probably learned that topic already.
It requires nothing new of you, so you can relax into the text. Relax into the activity and enjoy reading it aloud.
Tip #2: Repeat all the German listening you have.
This works well for a German audio program, the audio part of your book, or a podcast.
We get really into more, more, more, consume, consume, consume and that spills over into German learning as well.
WHAT IF you were to repeat that one audio three to five times?
Try it, and tell me what you think.
Tip #3: Have a conversation…with yourself
There are probably several dialogues in your book that you could read aloud. And you've probably tried some kind of acting at some point.
Now's your chance.
Take a dialogue from your book and play both parts.
Play person A and person B.
With funny voices.
Or with one funny voice and one serious voice.
You can switch it up on a daily basis as you practice through the week. If you’re sick of this dialogue by the end of the week, you’ve learned it well. Gut gemacht!
Tip #4: Learn your favorite movie quotes by heart in German
There is perhaps nothing more fun than learning your favorite movie quotes in German. If it’s your favorite movie quote already, you’re bound to know it well and you can learn something in German which immediately means something to you. The more meaning German has to you, the better you will learn it.
Do you know which movies these are from?
„Der Typ sah irgendwie schräg aus.“
„Beim zweiten Stern rechts und dann gerade aus.“
„Naja, ich will nicht arrogant klingen oder so, aber ich bin der beste Botaniker auf diesem Planeten.“
The first one is from the Coen Brothers’ movie “Fargo,” and is the quote from Mr. Mohra when he says the guy was “kinda funny-lookin’.”
The second quote is from “Peter Pan.” “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.”
The third one is from “The Martian,” from character Mark Watney: “I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the greatest botanist on this planet.”
What’s your favorite movie quote? Google the name of the movie with the German word Zitate (quotes) and voila! You’ve got it.
Once you’ve learned it and sat with it a while, ask yourself if it’s what you expected. Does it feel different in German? Does it give you a new perspective on the same meaning? (This was true for me when I saw Fargo in German; since I’m from the upper Midwest “funny-lookin’” is a totally normal expression for me, I know exactly what they mean. But schräg?! Das ist ja ganz was anderes!
Tip #5: Talk to your cat/dog/dust bunnies in German.
This may sound like the weirdest tip, but it is one of the most helpful techniques if you think you are too shy to speak in German.
Your cat/dog/dust bunnies aren’t going to judge you for making a mistake or sounding like you have a thick accent in German. So start out with a few phrases and repeat them over the course of a week and see how your opinion on your own speaking changes. Here are a few phrases you can say to Muffin (or Rex):
Hast du Hunger? – Are you hungry?
Wir gehen jetzt schlafen. – We’re going to sleep now!
Was machst du? – What are you doing?
Really, though, this tip gets at the fact of the matter: all you need to do to speak German more easily is to speak. So whether it’s to the dust bunnies, the dog, or your non-German-speaking spouse or roommate, it all circles back to Goethe:
Erfolg hat drei Buchstaben: t u n !
~Johann Wolfang von Goethe
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