6 helpful tools for learning German
Updated: Aug 14
You are never too young or too old to learn a new language!
"Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation. ..." - Angela Carter
I moved to Berlin in June of 2019. I am embarrassed to admit that at that time I knew only a handful of words in German. With that said, I knew my chances of finding success and connection would be greater if I started to dive deep into the German language. I won't lie to you, it's a hard language to learn but absolutely worth it!
The following month in July of 2019, I started at a German language school called Speakeasy. I signed up for the Super-intensive course which consisted of three hours per day, four days a week. I spent 7 straight months going to this class. Every month I would progress to the next level, which are measured from A (Beginner) to C (Advanced), with multiple sub-levels in between.
We were required to purchase two books (at the school) per month (1 course-book, 1 workbook). I can't stress enough how important it is to practice and do the homework when you are learning a new language, because there is so much new grammar to digest with almost every topic.
Here are what my beginner books looked like (@ 10€ per book):
After 7 months, I decided to take a break from the school and work one-on-one with a private tutor. Taking in months and months of new grammar without any breaks in between means that you can probably slowly complete your homework with the aids of your books and apps, but struggle to remember which parts to use when you're speaking in real time.
The tutor I found to help me is a native Berliner who also speaks fluent English, however, when we meet for 1.5 hours per week we ONLY speak in German!
Applying all the vocabulary and grammar to typical, everyday conversations with my tutor has been extremely helpful in terms of my ability to phrase things and just my overall confidence!
If you are currently enrolled in a proper language school or just have a desire to learn the language, I have included what I found to be six helpful tools that improved my skills and confidence.
1. Read this book: German In Review
I ordered my (used) copy off Amazon. This is by far the best, most thorough book for a native English speaker to comprehend German. I highly recommend!
2. Read these children's books: Pixi Bücher
These super cheap, pocket size books are so fun! Even as an adult I felt so empowered to know I could read an entire story regardless of the fact that it was intended for kids in Germany.
If you are in Berlin and you walk past most book stores there is a plastic boy standing outside holding a bowl full of these books. You can purchase them for less than 3€ each.
3. Read this book: PONS Sprachlern Comic
The dialogue in these comic strips helps you learn German the way it is actually spoken. It is a colorful and lighthearted book with minimal writing activities that suit a beginner or intermediate student who wants to review. I picked up my copy here in Berlin at Thalia Books.
4. Download this FREE German Course: Harry DW
This free, online course is interactive and includes 100 episodes and review quizzes. You learn vocabulary, geography and cultural German phrases.
Have you ever seen Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? His character, Phil Connors is caught in a time loop, repeatedly reliving the same day. That is exactly what "Harry," does. Harry keeps experiencing the same day – again and again – in Germany!
5. Play a board game: Codenames
I am a visual learner so I thought it would be fun to incorporate a board game like Codenames into my practice. Its fun, you can get together with friends to socialize and still feel like you are studying!
6. Watch your favorite show or movie in German with: Netflix
When I started learning I used to play FRIENDS on repeat with both the audio and subtitles switched to German. Since I already knew every line to every episode in English it made it easier for me to follow along in German, and I found myself still laughing at all the right times.
When I was sitting at home working on something, I would keep the show on in the background so I was still immersing myself with the language.
Below are some popular German Movies available on Netflix:
1. “A Coffee in Berlin” (Oh Boy)
3. "Funny Games"
4. “Der Untergang” (The Downfall)
Eventually, I will go back to Speakeasy and finish my last three months of school to prepare to take the B2 Exam. Telc Deutsch B2 or the Zertifikat Deutsch B2 is an exam for those of you who have general knowledge of German on an advanced level and who have to show a sufficient understanding of German for university or a job.
These exams are recognized worldwide and are valued proof of your language proficiency for employers and educational facilities.
Helpful APPS to Download for Vocabulary:
Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!