Since I live in Germany, my current plan is to improve my German. I’m taking kind of intensive approach to this. I first thought of taking actual lessons from a professional teacher in italki, but I realized these are not super useful for me and I just end up paying more. I’m not against paying for lessons, but I want to study as efficiently as I can and for me taking lessons is not the best way. My approach is to:
- learn grammar and vocabulary with free resources in the internet and reading the books I have
- practice speaking with italki tutors, with language exchange partners, and in everyday life (since I am in Germany after all)
- Keep a diary in German
Learning grammar and vocabulary
For grammar, I still have my grammar book from when I used to study German in business school ~10-15 years ago (Viel Erfolg!, WSOY). This is nice, because it explains the basic grammar very clearly and in my native Finnish, which makes it a great source for me. Although I’m quite used to learning languages with English as the base language nowadays.
German is one of the “big” languages that many people study and there is a lot of material free online. I’m currently watching series from Netflix and Amazon. I can’t watch dubbed shows, but I found Türkisch für Anfänger in Netflix, which is a sitcom about a single mother who has 2 children and who has fallen in love with a Turkish man with 2 children of his own. The show starts when they decide to move in together and the teenage children are not really enthusiastic about this change. Other interesting shows I saw in Amazon are: Deutschland 83, Ku’damm 56, and Krupp: Eine deutsche Familie. These might of course not be available everywhere, so I’m taking advantage of living in Germany.
But there are also material available for everyone. I haven’t yet gone through all sites I’ve found, and the ones I have looked at I haven’t looked at very thoroughly, but I’m listing here some that I find most promising:
General German resources
- Deutsche Welle is German international broadcaster, with a lot of free material online to learn German. They also have several podcasts aimed for people studying German and audio courses for German studies. Also the material can be sorted by your level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. You can also take a short test if you have no idea what your level is, but the test is not comprehensive. If you’re still unsure after taking the test, just try from the levels you think you might be and see which material is the most useful to you. For introduction of the interactive learning part see this video.
- Deutsch perfekt Online seems to also have a lot of material. These are divided into three levels: leicht (light), mittel (medium), and schwer (hard). They also offer a test to figure out your level. Deutsch perfekt is also a magazine that you can order and not all the articles are available in the online version.
- Goethe Institut is a well-known German language and culture center. The courses are quite expensive, but they do have free online material (Deutsch für dich).
- Deutsch Akademie is a language school in Berlin but has also free online material. I’m impressed that the pages are also in Finnish. Some of the online material is completely in German, so you will need to understand a bit to actually use it.
- Deutsch training is also mostly in German. It is a new website and not everything is ready yet, so this might change. At the moment you can’t actually sign up for the courses, but if I understand correctly the actual courses will be something you need to pay for. However, the site does include quite a lot of free material.
- Learn German Online is another free resource to learn German. It actually collects free links where you can learn German rather than being a resource itself. What I like is, that it lists also videos and podcasts, so you have something to start with
- Learn German with Herr Antrim is a youtube channel with a lot of videos and content to listen to when you’re not quite at the level of native audience.
- German with Jenny also has a lot of videos and content.
- Deutsch für Euch doesn’t really distinguish the videos by levels, but from what I see, there is material for me to listen to when my level isn’t good enough for youtube channels which are meant for native audience
Some resources in Finnish
Additional useful websites
I had some questions about German from my colleague and he showed me some interesting web sites, so I will add them to my resources:
- Dictionary of German vs. several languages, when Google translate isn’t enough (besides English there is French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, and Polish)
- Duden is like the German Oxford English dictionary, it’s basically the instance that defines what is official standard German (hochdeutsch)
- Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache is a site where you can search for words and see in which area of Germany they are used in, this will give you an idea if the word you are using is just a local variant or if it’s more widely used in Germany
Speaking practice I will do mostly in italki. I’ve been talking to one tutor for several times now, but he is on holidays all September, so I decided to look for others. Also, I thought it would be a good idea to talk to several people, because if you just talk to one person, you only learn to talk to that one person.
I like to use tutors I pay for, because I don’t then need to use my time to speak a language I already know and I have no social obligations to these people. If it doesn’t work as well as I want, I can just stop taking lessons with that person. I have nothing bad to say about my tutors, but like with people in general, with some people you click more than with others. In addition, you can take the lessons exactly when it fits your schedule at least if you are learning something like German where there’s a lot of choice for tutors. I like to have my lessons in the morning before I go to work.
Next week will be very intensive on the speaking part for me, I have a lesson every day except Tuesday when I’m meeting a language partner in real life. My friend who teaches Finnish in the University of Cologne found me a tandem partner who wants to practice her Finnish. I’m excited to have a “real” live conversation. Every lesson I have on Skype is with a different person and I expect to keep speaking with 1 or 2 after this week.
I’m trying to increase my everyday conversations, but this I’m not counting on too much. I might try to make more effort in finding local friends, but I’m not stressing about it. I am, however, using German every time I order something in a restaurant or if I need help in the store. I also have started to use German when contacting people via e-mail. Small things, but they add up.
Diary in German
I first thought of doing this just on my own. I used to write a diary in English when I was 12, and while I made a lot of mistakes, it helped me to use English and make my own sentences. But then I realized that italki has this notebook thing. You can write short texts and native speakers will correct your text. This is super useful, because you can see your mistakes and learn from them. So, my current plan is to write a short entry every day during the week (I keep weekends free from active German study) and then the next day when I have the corrected version, I record a short video reading the corrected version.
These videos I keep currently for my own use only. I’m hoping that after awhile I could just have a video diary instead of writing it down first. But in general, I’m finding the italki notebooks a super useful feature. I don’t know how long it takes you get corrections if you’re studying a language that is not so widely known, but then again those texts don’t also come so often, so at least in Finnish I saw corrections coming up fairly quickly.