First, I need to start with a few disclaimers:
- I learned English (for 30 years), Spanish (for 4 years in the school) and French (4 years in the institute), so my experience with German is subjective because of that;
- I chose Lingoda as the main way of learning, and although I like it, this article is about why you shouldn't stick to Lingoda only;
- I'm not affiliated with Lignoda, I pay for my learning myself, but you can find a link to save 50 USD if you join the sect; :)
- With Lingoda I completed 50 lessons from A 1.2 course and started A 2.1 course recently;
- I'm not always satisfied with Lingoda, but it's beyond the scope of this particular article; instead, I'll share my thoughts on Lingoda's limits.
With all this in mind, let's start! In this post I'm going to share some thoughts regarding the following:
- What makes German complicated and how to deal with it
- What structure do you need to study a language
- What particular tools you can use to study German
In the end, I'll provide some hints to ease the learning process.
German is complicated
I underestimated the extent, to which German is difficult, so it requires, in my mind, way more time and patience to master it. When you start, everything seems simple, even articles (definite/indefinite), conjugations, and declinations are not that hard. The problem is that when you speak, you need to think about all the rules at once:
- Choosing an article (or no article)
- Word order, which is very different from other languages
I hypothesize that Germans just don't do it – instead, they remember the templates. And remembering the templates is a good way to learn any language. Still, pronunciation rules help a lot. To my surprise teacher, which are native German speakers, were not able to tell these rules. And these rules were absent in the book we had on my first learning course. I found these rules in a book called 'German Demystified'. You read one page and you start to read properly.
The way all the other topics are explained differs a lot in various books and guides. My choice is the same book mentioned above because I like the way it's explained in plain English. Regretfully, I found very few explanations on grammar in the Lingoda course.
So, it's a lot about grammar: the learning process, speaking and understanding German. Pronunciation is still hard, but we'll deal with it.
A structure to learn a language
So, let's talk about the target structure you need to master the language. In my opinion, you need to:
- Learn grammar
- Learn vocabulary
- Have a feedback
- Have a roadmap
By each activity I mean the process, when at the beginning you are not able to do it, and at the end you can do it for sure. It's not like you visited some class, where the teacher explained grammar, but you didn't get it. So, we need a result, and a result requires investing some time in each activity and implementing the proper process. So, what is the proper process?
- To talk the best thing is story-telling. If you tell a story to your neighbor in German, that's it! You can find a native speaker through the app or take the courses. With the app I assume that the native speaker will be interested from the B1 level, otherwise it hurts. With the courses, the idea is to take every opportunity to speak. While you are not fluent, just repeating podcasts in German helps a lot.
- To write is to have enough writing exercises to make use of your muscle memory. I think that Lingoda does not have enough written exercises, but you can look for other resources. I found exercises in the same book I mentioned above, you can also find exercises online. The idea is to write full sentences by hand or type them, not just to fill in the gaps.
- Listening to podcasts, music, news, and watching movies in the target language helps a lot. At first, it's hard, but then there's a moment like: "Oh, I can understand 60%". And the only way to get there is to start and do it regularly.
- I don't believe that anyone learns grammar after oral explanations. I know, for example, that the human brain has two modes: communication and deep thinking, needed for learning. So I strongly believe that only studying written explanations of grammar helps, along with the written exercises, to apply the knowledge and convert remembered information into knowledge.
- To learn vocabulary you need to remember the words, a lot of words. Thankfully, humanity invented lots of ways to remember things, so just google it and find the way you like. The idea is that it's a conscious intent to remember a lot of words, so you remember them when you need them.
- The feedback is the most valuable part. With a book, you can have keys to a fixed number of exercises. But every human invents his/her way to express ideas, and it's great to have a native speaker who can correct you. And two more points here: studying in a group is more encouraging and is cheaper. With Lingoda you'll have a different teacher each time, but I like it, because every time I have a fresh feedback.
- A roadmap is the second most valuable thing every course needs. There are some unified German certifications/exams, so it's better not to skip anything. The interesting point is that I studied with a book, which was approved by BAMF (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, a migration service, in short) and it was so far behind Lingoda's course for the same level.
Tools and resources to learn a language
Ok, just a list of resources I use every day:
- Google Translate, to check pronunciation and the meaning, of course
- Netzverb Dictionary for declanations and conjugations
- Slow German podcast, I repeat a phrase by phrase
- fröhlich Deutsch – a YouTube teacher, who helped me with my German 'R'
- Duden, the most respected German dictionary, if you have doubts
- German with Laura, lot's of grammar rules simplified
The only tip you need
There's a great article 8 ways to fall in love with language learning, and I highly recommend it. I could deal with the grammar in German, but I didn't like the pronunciation. I didn't like to speak German, it hurt even if I missed unnecessary consonants. I didn't like the sound, it was heavy and tuneless and the sound itself also hurt me. But the idea to find a way to love German changed everything, and it happened. I remember the two moments vividly:
- I met the teacher from Switzerland. His speech was so melodic and sweet and soft. I thought: that's it, I want to speak like that! And I just started speaking like that, so a teacher from Germany told me that I have a Swiss accent. It's not good or bad: everyone understands me, and I'm happy to speak like that. There are numerous accents in Germany, and some of them are melodic, but I liked the Swiss variant the best.
- In the Slow German podcast there was an issue about modern German music, and I found indie German music. Not all of these bands sing in German, regretfully, but I liked AnnenMayKantereit (a link to their YouTube channel), which do. And again, the sounds of the language are so soft and sweet... This band is now among my favorites on Spotify.