For the past few weeks I’ve been learning how to speak German. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time — having previously lived and worked in Germany, I have always felt a strong connection to the country and its people. Now that I have moved to one of Germany’s neighboring countries and work on projects involving the DLR German Aerospace Centre — it feels like a natural next step for me to speak the language too 🙂
I’m enrolled at the Goethe Institute, an international language school with centres located across the globe. The course that I’m taking is the A1.1 class – the very beginning of the beginners course! Having studied German in school, I have some background in the language, however I think that starting with the basics (der, die und das anyone?) is the best way for me to really understand my new language.
I already speak English, Hindi and Punjabi, and have been noticing some interesting correlations between the four languages as I learn. With A1.1 set to be completed by the end of this April, I aim to get started with A1.2 soon and eventually, I’ll be making my way into the realm of level B German!
However, learning a new language in your 20s is not the easiest of hobbies to have. So here are some tips that I feel have helped me and will hopefully help some of you along the way:
1) Patience – be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to first passively learn the language and then actively. This first stage will mean that you understand more than you can speak. And that is perfectly okay.
2) Keep an open-mind – Yes, this language is different to yours. And no, you cannot make up verb endings (I wish). Getting frustrated is not the best way to learn, so keep an open-mind and embrace the change. You might find you prefer your new language in the end!
3) Have snacks – this is in my opinion, one of the most important. I learn German after work once a week, for 3 hours. If you’re doing the same, then going straight from your full-time day job to learning verb conjugations at night will mean that you may have less concentration. Staying mentally connected is vital in order to get your head around your new language so bring a snack and stay hydrated throughout your lessons.
4) Do Your Homework – Remember that just attending class is not all it takes to learn another language. Whatever you learnt needs to be reinforced. The homework (oder Hausaufgaben auf Deutsch) you are set is there to take what you were previously taught, and to apply it by yourself. This way, things will start to stick and you will remember more and more, until you are fluent.
5) Speak more – it’s great to learn how to write and read a new language, but outside of class try to speak it as much as you can. Whether it’s with a friend, relative, or even using YouTube – speaking your new language out loud and making those mistakes now, will help you to correct yourself and practice speaking. Soon, I’ll be taking a few trips to Deutschland, which is another great way to practice a new language, by speaking it with native speakers.
I hope that I can inspire anyone who has been thinking about learning a new language to take the first step towards doing it. It really is worth it. With every new German word, grammar rule or sentence that I learn, a previously-foreign world is opening up to me and becoming familiar. I am learning faster than I expected and even find myself even sprinkling the occasional Deutsch words into English sentences — sort of inventing my own version of Denglish 🙂