You might have had a good time learning a language, or quite the opposite. Regardless of whether you enjoy the process or not, one thing is certain: learning languages it’s never really that easy.
There are numerous people out there promising to share the secret of how to easily learn languages and become a polyglot. If you take up a language with that promise in mind, there’s a good chance you will give up once you realise it’s not the walk in the park your thought it would be. And you’re not to blame. The expectations you set out with are important and they need to be realistic, so you don’t feel like you’re failing from the start.
We all want to hear it will be easy and it won’t take too long. So, when someone tells you they have the secret to becoming fluent in three months, you’re going to pay attention to that someone. Who doesn’t want instant gratification at the end of the day? But what happens at the end of the three months, when you’ve put in quite some time and effort, but you still can’t order your Knödel with a side salad? You’re probably going to draw the conclusion that you don’t have that special gene that makes it so easy for others to learn languages and just resign yourself to pointing at things on the menu.
When we started Lost in Translation, we knew we couldn’t fool anyone that learning German will be easy. We can’t rewrite the language, reassign genders so that they make sense, or just drop the use of Nominativ, Akussativ, Dativ and Genitiv. So we decided it’s better to make the inevitably long process enjoyable and have fun German classes in Hamburg.
A few weeks ago, we sat down with a few of our teachers and asked what they think can make this process more fun and, why not, more efficient?
Josef is an experienced German teacher and he told us: “The most important thing for me is the real conversation in German: with German or German-speaking colleagues at work; with salespeople at the baker’s/butcher’s/newspaper kiosk/weekly market; with pub acquaintances and football fans (in the Sky-Bar or on the pitch) etc. My provocative recommendation is “finding” a German girl/boyfriend that does not speak your own language.”
Our founder, Sabine knows real life is important too. She says: “Don’t be shy, put yourself out there and use the language learned in the classroom in the real world. Whether at the supermarket, at work, or with friends, use your words as much as you can!”
Then she adds: “Learn a new language through your hobbies. If you like soccer, get a sports magazine in the language you are learning! If you like knitting, learn to knit in a new language. If you are interested in politics, switch to reading about it on a website in your target language. Join a yoga class. In a nutshell, connect learning a language with something fun.”
Studies have shown how important it is to mix language learning and language use even in the classroom. Spontaneous conversations are as beneficial, if not more beneficial than the planned role-plays, and learning a new skill in the target language is great because you won’t go through that translation process from the mother tongue, like with everything else.
But active use of the language is not the only trick. As our teacher, Ghazale recommends: “Read and listen a lot. This is the only way to get a feeling for language and that will help you speak with more confidence.”
It’s important to see how other speakers use the language before you can do that yourself. And if you’re at a loss as to what to listen to or read, the Lost in Translation team has some powerful resources for you.
Besides, reading newspapers in German, even tabloids and yellow press (finally, a good excuse to read all that gossip), Josef also shared with us this priceless tip: the Deutsche Welle website offers news read out slower, especially for those learning German. Check it out here, we did and absolutely loved it.
If news are not really your thing, then take Sabine’s advice: “Watch a short series in English (Friends, etc.). – maybe watch an episode in your language and then in the language you study – get a feel for accents and speed of language. It is perfectly fine not to understand EVERYTHING.”
Learning German in Hamburg will be easier than learning it in New Delhi, but the beauty of these resources and tips is that you can use them everywhere.
If you have other tips or know other useful resources, leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear what works for you.