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On this page, you'll find everything you need to learn German from scratch. You'll learn about the key features of the language and I'll share my best tips and recommended German resources with you.

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Learn German: The Ultimate Guide For Beginners

Starting out learning German can seem frightening at first…

Words can fill the length of a piece of paper…

And pronouncing letters you’ve never even heard of can feel daunting!

But in reality…

German is a language that opens up a world of possibilities… and it’s far easier than you think!

If you’re looking for the fastest and most enjoyable way to learn German, then I recommend the German Uncovered programme.

With German Uncovered you’ll use my unique StoryLearning¬ģ method to learn German through story… not rules.

It’s as fun as it is effective.

If you’re ready to get started, click here for a 7-day FREE trial.

But otherwise, let’s continue with the article…

I’m going to reveal everything I’ve discovered about how to learn German as a beginner, so you can start your journey to speak German off on the right path.

This article will give you all the information you need to know about this rich and beautiful language as well as how to start learning it.

Here’s What We’ll Cover

If you‚Äôve ever asked yourself any of the following questions, then this article is what you’re looking for. If you want to skip ahead, just click the section that interests you.

  1. Why Should I Learn German?
  2. What Are The Key Features of the German Language?
  3. What Do I Need to Know About German Culture?
  4. Is German Hard to Learn?
  5. How Can I Get to Grips With German Grammar?
  6. What Pitfalls Should I Watch Out For as a Beginner Learning German?
  7. How to Learn to Speak German as a Beginner
  8. What Are the Best Resources for Learning German?

Because this post covers everything you need to know as a beginner, it’s quite long!

I’ve also prepared a special PDF version of the post so you can download and read it anywhere, anytime:

Why Should I Learn German?

why learn german neuschwanstein castle

There are lots of different reasons you might be motivated to learn German.

  • You live in Germany or hope to move there
  • You have family or friends who speak German
  • You‚Äôre planning to visit Germany or another German-speaking country
  • Your significant other is a German-speaker
  • You‚Äôre intrigued by German Culture or History

Whatever your reason, you should be excited!

German is a fascinating and rewarding language to learn. By learning even basic German, you’ll open a world of opportunities for yourself.

Perhaps you’re already motivated to learn German, but here are a few more reasons learning this beautiful language could be a life changing experience for you:

1. German Is A Popular Language

When you think of learning German, you might think you’re learning a language only 81 million people speak in some small country in Europe.

Well, you’d be wrong, because it’s spoken all over the world, often in the most unusual places.

Including foreign speakers, German has up to 220 million speakers worldwide. Opening up your networking possibilities to such a large group of people can mean new opportunities for jobs, travel, friends, personal growth, love, and much more.

Aside from Germany, German is also the main language in:

  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • South Tyrol
  • Parts of Belgium

And it’s also recognised as a minority language in:

  • Czech Republic
  • Brazil
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • Denmark
  • Hungary
  • Russia
  • Namibia
  • And many others countries …

On the map below, the countries shown in bright red represent countries where German is the official primary or co-primary language. However, German is also recognised as a minority language in all of the regions marked in pink because of the large German-speaking communities who live there.german speaking countries

Estimates tell us that German is the native language of about 95 million people, up to 25 million speak it as their second language, and there could be as many as 100 million foreign speakers.

German is not only the most widely spoken language in the European Union, it’s also one of the most widely taught in Europe and the USA.

This means it’s a great language to learn because you’ll find opportunities to use it all over the world!

2. Learning German Can Change Your Life In Many Ways

  • If you love to travel, German will help you get by all across the globe.¬†The ability to speak German while travelling opens up new experiences in all of the countries highlighted on the map above. In German-speaking countries, natives can often steer you towards insider tips and top suggestions for things to do that wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t speak the language.
  • Learning German can do wonders for your career.¬†With one of the strongest economies in the world, Germans are all about efficiency, working hard, and saving money. They love to plan and organise their lives to be comfortable, sustainable, and cost-effective. Their workplace is similarly structured, with health insurance, pension plans, and long paid vacation periods being standard. Countries like Germany and Switzerland have some¬†of the highest standards of living in the world, which makes German speaking countries attractive places to live. If you’re a professional working in an on-demand field, some German language skills might just open up new career opportunities for you.
  • Learning German makes it much easier to learn additional languages.¬†Having a knowledge¬†of one foreign language makes it much easier to grasp the concepts of others. Once you start learning about new grammatical structures, their differences, and similarities, you will have an easier time adapting and applying your learning¬†methods¬†to other languages. Even if you don’t continue to learn other languages after German, you’ll find that German still helps you¬†understand some basic vocabulary in a lot of other foreign languages. Many Indo-European languages have words that are spelt similarly, or share the same roots so you’ll be able to decode simple words in related languages like Dutch or Danish.
  • Enjoy Authentic German Culture.¬†Germany has a rich cultural history, and learning the language will¬†allow you to appreciate some of its¬†finest masterpieces in their original state. Some of the greatest philosophical and literary works in the world were written in German and some of the most famous classical music composers come from Germany. German culture has had a tremendous impact on the rest of the world.

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What Are the Key Features of the German Language?

In this section, you’re going to learn about the key linguistic features of German and what they mean for you as a beginner learner:

1. What is German? A Linguistic Background

2. The German Cases

3. German Verbs

4. German Prefixes and Suffixes

5. The Sounds of German

For a deep dive into the German language, and especially its diverse dialects, check out this video:

1. What Is German? A Linguistic Background

german book

German belongs to the West Germanic group of Indo-European languages, alongside English and Dutch. That means we have some similarities to get started and form a basic understanding.

The first recordings of the German language start with the Romans in the first century BC. From this time until the 6th century AD, there was a single Germanic language with almost no dialects. Different dialects and forms of German first appeared later on.

Nowadays, like English, German has many different dialects in different regions. Most of these dialects belong to either High German or Low German, differing by their pronunciation.

2. The German Cases

German is an inflective language, which means words differ according to their grammatical gender. There are three different possibilities:

  • masculine
  • feminine
  • neuter

These just have to be learned by heart, but sometimes there is a logical correlation. For example:

Grammatical gender in German

Not too difficult so far, right?

Nouns are then inflected based on one of the four cases:

  • nominative
  • accusative
  • dative
  • genitive.

This is¬†one of the main differences between German and English. Learning to use the correct ending is not always easy for us English speakers, and takes time and practice to get used to. In the¬†grammar section of this article, you’ll read about cases in more detail and learn how they work.

Don’t fear, there are clear rules for when to use each case and no strange exceptions like in English.

3. German Verb Tenses

German has six verb tenses: four derived from auxiliary verbs and two tenses without. This sounds complicated but fortunately, the tenses are actually quite straightforward and have a lot in common with English.

The two finite tenses (those formed with just a single verb) are the present tense (Präsens) and the simple past tense (Imperfekt).

To use these tenses, you simply conjugate the verb you want to use, for example:

  • Present:¬†ich laufe¬†(I run/walk)
  • Simple Past:¬†ich lief¬†(I ran/walked)

The four verb¬†tenses which use auxiliary verbs are the¬†future¬†(Futur), the¬†present perfect¬†(Perfekt), the¬†past perfect¬†(Plusquamperfekt), and the¬†future perfect¬†(Futur perfekt). They’re formed as follows:

  • Future
    • werden¬†+ the infinitive¬†(base form)¬†of the main verb
    • Example:
      • Ich werde Basketball spielen¬†– I will play basketball
  • Present Perfect
    • present tense of¬†haben¬†or¬†sein¬†+¬†the past participle of the¬†main verb
    • Examples:
      • Ich habe Fu√üball gespielt¬†– I played football
      • Ich bin um 7 Uhr nach Hause gekommen¬†– I came home at seven o’clock.
  • Past Perfect:
    • simple past tense of¬†haben¬†or¬†sein¬†+ the¬†past participle¬†of the¬†main verb
    • Examples:
      • Ich hatte¬†meine¬†Hausaufgaben gemacht¬†– I had done my homework.
      • Als ich an der Bushaltestelle ankam, war der Bus schon losgefahren.¬†– When I arrived at the bus stop, the bus had already left.
  • Future Perfect
    • werden¬†+¬†past participle¬†of main verb + the¬†infinitive of¬†haben¬†or¬†sein
    • Example:
      • Ich werde gelaufen sein¬†– I will have run

As you can see, each tense has a clear pattern and the structures are quite similar to English, it’s just a case of learning the German verb¬†conjugations¬†and¬†participles, which is quite simple.

It will take a little time to get used to everything, but once you’ve grasped the concept, it’s easy to put into practice.

For now, don’t worry about memorising each tense and instead just focus on trying to notice and recognise them while reading and listening.

4. German Prefixes and Suffixes

Understanding prefixes and suffixes will also be an important part of learning German.

A prefix is a root or combination of letters that gets added to the beginning of the word, while a suffix is added at the end of a word.

An example of a¬†prefix in English would be¬†im-. By adding it to the beginning of words, you can change their meaning. For example,¬†‘probable’ can become ‘improbable’.

German has even more of these patterns! These prefixes and suffixes can completely change or add something to the meaning of a base word in German and even create new words.

Take the verb brechen (to break), for example.

We can add a prefix and suffix to create an adjective: zerbrechlich (fragile).

Or we can apply different changes to turn it into a person: Verbrecher (criminal).

Again, this can seem intimidating at first but it actually makes learning German vocabulary easier!

Once you know the suffixes and prefixes you’ll have hundreds of extra words at your fingertips without having to learn them all from scratch!

This is just another reason learning German vocabulary is easier than it might seem at first glance.

5. The Sounds of German

The German alphabet is almost the same as the English one, but with a few extra letters:

  1. German uses umlauts, √§, √∂, √ľ.
  2. There is also an √ü, or ‚ÄúEss-tset‚ÄĚ, which is just a fancy ‘s’.

Most of the sounds in the German alphabet are similar to sounds in English, with a few exceptions, like the rolled -r, or -ch ending.

The German ‘R’

There are two common pronunciations for the German ‘r’:

  • consonantal
  • vocalic

The consonantal ‘r’ is one of the hardest sounds to learn in German. It’s kind of like gargling without water.

Let’s take the word ‘drei’ (three), for example. The rolling sound is created at the back of the vocal tract by creating a narrow passage with the tongue.

The vocalic ‘r’, on the other hand, is spoken very softly, more like a vowel. A vocalic ‘r’ is common with ‘er’ endings, like in Schwester (sister). Here the ‘r’ is barely noticeable, as it is unstressed.

In fact, it doesn’t really sound like what we would think of as an ‘r’ sound at all, more like an ‘ah’ (Sch-ves-tah).

The German ‘-ch’

There are two possible pronunciations for the -ch sound in German.

The word ‘Drachen’ (dragon) is a good example of the first one. Following the vowels ‘a’, ‘au’, ‘o’, and ‘u’, it’s spoken like a Scotsman saying Loch Ness.

This sound comes from the back of the tongue touching the soft palate.

The other sound is created when -ch follows ‘e’, ‘ei’, ‘eu’, ‘√§’, ‘i’, ‘√§u’ and ‘√∂’, or after a consonant, as is ‘ich’ (I), and ‘M√§dchen’ (girl).

In this case, we articulate the -ch towards the front of the mouth. It’s almost like a cross between¬†-sh and a -ch in English.

Start by making the English -sh, but then instead of allowing air to flow at the side of the tongue, push the air over the top of the tongue, which is close to the roof of your mouth.

Getting The Hang Of German Pronunciation

Although many sounds may be similar, their correlations are different and need to be learned and practised. It’s important to learn the German¬†alphabet at the very beginning. This way you can develop the habit of correct pronunciation.

If you are just starting out learning your first foreign language, you’ll find it useful to become acquainted with the¬†International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA for short.

It’s made up of¬†phonemes, or unique individual sounds, which help as a great aid in pronunciation. Dictionaries usually have an IPA spelling of the word.

If we want to pronounce the German word for apples, √Ąpfel: /ňą…õpf…ôl/, for example, the IPA (/ňą…õpf…ôl/) can be very helpful.

This is especially useful when you need to figure out which of the ‘r’ or ‘ch’ sounds a word uses.

As a native English speaker, German pronunciation can seem difficult in the beginning.

We are used to making certain movements with our mouths and tongues when we speak and we’ve been training ourselves to do this ever since we first started talking.

When you begin to learn German, you’re starting that process all over again with a new set of sounds so it’s natural that it will take you some time to really get the hang of them.

This is where phonetic practice with a native German speaker becomes very important. A native speaker can help you train those difficult sounds and teach you the intricacies of pronunciation.

The more you speak, the easier it will become.

Even without perfect pronunciation, most Germans will be able to understand you with an accent, so don’t let difficult sounds get in the way of practising the language.

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What You Need To Know About German Culture

German culture oktoberfest

What Is German Culture?

When you think of German culture, what comes to mind?

Octoberfest? Beer? Currywurst and other meats? Giant pretzels? Punctuality and organisation? Like any country, Germany has a lot of stereotypes.

However, Germany has a rich culture that has touched many of our lives at some point. German philosophers, writers, musicians, inventors, media, and society have all been inspiring the world for centuries.

The Land of Poets and Thinkers

german culture schiller goethe

Germany has a literary background that goes all the way back to the middle ages.

If you’re interested in literature you may be familiar with Hermann Hesse, Heinrich B√∂ll, and Herta M√ľller; all Germans who have won Nobel prizes for their work.

I’m sure most people have heard of the¬†Brothers Grimm, who wrote many Folklore masterpieces, such as ‚ÄúRapunzel‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúRumpelstiltskin‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúHanzel and Gretel‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúCinderella‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúSleeping Beauty‚ÄĚ, and ‚ÄúSnow White‚ÄĚ, just to name a few.

Schiller, Goethe, and Lessing are some of the other most famous German authors and influential thinkers of the modern era.

Those who understand German can also read the original works of some of the world’s most brilliant philosophers. Germans philosophers have been shaping the way we perceive life for centuries:

  • Leibniz was one of the three advocates of rationalism
  • Kant brought us his Critique of Pure Reason in the 18th century, which influenced German idealism in the 19th century
  • Schopenhauer built on Kant’s work and introduced us to philosophical pessimism
  • Nietzsche provided us with many important ¬†ideas including the radical critique of truth in favour of perspectivism

Of course, you can read translated versions, but having a knowledge of the German language and culture will allow you to have an even deeper understanding of the material.

Philosophy might not really be your cup of tea, but if that’s the case there are still lots of other fascinating elements of German culture to explore.

Germany’s Great Composers

german music

Germany is home to the world’s most famous classical composers, including Beethoven, Schumann, H√§ndel, Bach, Haydn, Schubert, Wagner, and Brahms, to name just a few.

It was also a German – Wolkenstein – who revolutionised classical music in the 14th century. He collected and shared the classical techniques he learned throughout his European journeys, which played a significant role in the development of future composers.

The Neue Deutsche Welle in the 1970s brought us a new form of German rock music. This underground movement was a mix of punk and new wave music, which introduced us to artists like Nena and Falco.

Germans were also very influential in the development of electronic music. The band Kraftwerk, for example, was one of the first bands to play only on electronic instruments. Today, Germany continues to have one of the largest electronic music scenes in the world.

Many of our Christmas songs also come from German. ‚ÄúSilent Night‚ÄĚ (Stille Nacht) and ‚ÄúO Christmas Tree‚ÄĚ (O Tannenbaum)¬†are well known in their English translations.

These are just a few examples of the many ways in which Germans have had an impact on the world of music. Germany is also well known for its Schlager and folk music, synthpop, punk, heavy metal, and even hip hop.

German Innovators and Inventors

printing press german inventions

Innovative Germans have brought us a wide array of discoveries, from cell theory to jeans, and so much in between.

Gutenberg, for example, is accredited with the invention of movable type and the development of the printing press.

Albert Einstein provided us with many of our current theories in physics and Leibniz with new mathematical concepts.

Germans have played a significant role in developments in medicine, biology, chemistry, sociology, and astronomy as well.

German Media and Society

Media Harbour Dusseldorf Germany

Germany may have a history of Nazism and extreme right-wing conservatism, but modern day Germany has changed tremendously.

The country is now a multicultural centre with a wide variety of lifestyles and ethnocentric backgrounds mixed together.

Today, around 20% of the population originates from outside of Germany. Civil unions, disability rights, and a high level of gender equality are the result of tolerance and cultural integration.

Germans love to travel and are some of the top spenders in the world when it comes to holidays. Six weeks of paid holiday is normal in Germany. Germans use this to see and experience the rest of the world, improving their multicultural status.

Although it might not seem obvious, Germany is also home to some of the largest media conglomerates in the world.

It has Europe’s largest television market and bestselling newspapers.

It’s no wonder that Germany holds one of the world’s most significant book fairs given that German publishers release nearly 60,000 new publications each year.

As a German learner, you certainly won’t find yourself short of reading material!

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Is German Hard to Learn?

is german hard to learn? berlin reichstag

Compared with some other European languages, German seems to have a developed a reputation for being notoriously difficult to learn.

But in fact, once you overcome the unfamiliarity, you’ll find that German isn’t as hard as you might think.

German Isn’t As Hard As You Might Think

English is a Germanic language, and both English and German come from the Indo-European language family.

This means¬†our languages aren’t actually as different as they seem.

  • Old English had a grammar very similar to German
  • Our alphabets are almost the same, with a few small differences
  • We share many of the same words (e.g. ‘House’/’Haus‘)

At first glance, German might seem like an intimidating language. But once you break it down into its components, you realise it’s actually very logical.

German has adopted a lot of words from the English language, making a lot of vocabulary self-explanatory for English speakers.

English is believed to have the largest vocabulary of all languages, with over one million words in the dictionary, and counting. German has at least 140 thousand words, but not nearly as many as English, making it much easier to learn.

Even though there are lots of very long words in German, these are always just a combination of shorter, simpler ones, which makes them easy to learn. Not to mention all the words German and English share in common.

Misconceptions About German

If we look at some of the most common misconceptions about German, you’ll see just why this wonderful language isn’t as a tricky as it might seem.

1. It’s Full of Long Words

Some people might see long German words full of consonants and feel too frightened to even attempt pronouncing them.

However, most German words aren’t that long. The most common words are pretty short, and even the long words that look confusing can be broken down into short easy words.

Long words in German are mostly compound words created by combining two or more shorter words together. This is something we have in English as well, just not to the same extent as German.

English words like ‘swimsuit’ (swim suit) and ‘bedroom’ (bed room) are examples of a similar phenomenon.

As you’ll soon see, long words in German are nothing to be overly worried about!

2. It’s A Harsh Sounding Language

Another misconception is that German is a harsh language.

Many people have the impression that German is a rough language, spoken from the throat, but it isn’t actually like that.

The sounds don’t all come from the throat, rather from certain lip and tongue movements.

Once you start to practice speaking German, you’ll realise that it’s actually quite simple to pronounce.

3. The Grammar Is Difficult

German grammar actually has a lot more in common with English than some other languages.

The cases may seem confusing at first, but there are only 4 of them. In comparison, Finnish has 26!

German also shares an alphabet with English, unlike Greek, Russian, Chinese and many other languages.

Since German and English both come from the same language family, the similarities are greater than the differences.

What Do German and English Have In Common?

Many of the most common words in English are of Germanic descent.

I have and ich habe, for example, are very similar, which makes these types of word combinations easy to remember.

Learning simple German sentences will be encouraging in the beginning. Take a look at these phrases:

  • Ich bin ein Amerikaner¬†(I am American
  • Ich wohne in Deutschland¬†(I live in Germany)

They’re not so different from English, right? The word order is the same and even some of the words are quite similar. Phrases like this take almost no effort to learn and will have you practising the German language in no time.

There are hundreds of words that are spelt the same and have the same meaning in both German and English. Here are some great examples of words shared by both languages:

English-German cognates

This makes it easy to start learning German vocabulary quickly.

You can instantly grow your German vocabulary, just by making or finding a list of all the common words.

There are also ‚Äúfalse friends‚ÄĚ, or words that are spelt similarly but have different meanings.

Take ‘fabric’ and ‘fabrik‘, for example.

Both words sound the same but have different meanings.¬†Fabrik¬†in German means factory, whereas the word for ‘fabric’ is actually¬†Stoff.

That said, a few simple memory tricks can make these correlations fun and easy to learn. Create an image in your mind of a fabric factory, for example. That way, whenever you see the word ‘Fabrik’, you’ll also think of a factory.

There are also similarities in German and English grammar.

The past tense forms of the English word ‘drink’, for example, are:

  • ‘drank’
  • ‘drunk’

We see that the German version follows almost the same pattern and gives us:

  • trink
  • trank
  • getrunken

Many German verbs follow patterns that we are used to in English, making the grammar that much easier.

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How Can I Get To Grips With German Grammar?

how to learn german grammar

German grammar may seem intimidating as a beginner. (You can blame the Grammar Villain for that!)

Sentence structure, verb conjugations, and case endings can appear overwhelming.

However,¬†German grammar isn’t as complicated as it looks.

Unlike English grammar, German grammar has few exceptions to its rules, and its explanations are straightforward and simple.

This section is a comprehensive overview of the basics of German grammar which will show you why German isn’t so difficult and how you should go about tackling it. Here’s what we’ll learn about:

1. German Word Gender and the Case System

2. Prepositions and Word Endings

3. Compound Words and How They’re Formed

4. Conjugating German Verbs

5. Why German Grammar Is Easier Than English Grammar

1. Word Gender and the Case System

German is an inflected language. That means every noun is associated with a masculine, feminine, or neutral gender article.

Instead of just having one word for ‘a’ or ‘the’, Germans have multiple possibilities.

This can be one of the most confusing parts of learning German when you’re just getting started. How do you know whether to use¬†der,¬†die, or¬†das?

The grammatical gender of each word is best learned with the word itself.

Although many correlations are obvious, most genders have to be learned together with the new vocabulary.

The cases, on the other hand, follow specific rules. The table below shows how the article ‘the’ changes for each of the genders, as well as for each case.

german case table

As we can see, the nominative and accusative cases are almost the same, with the exception of¬†der¬†becoming¬†den‘.

The dative case is slightly more different, with the masculine and neutral articles becoming¬†dem, feminine becoming¬†der, and plural¬†den‘.

In a German sentence:

  • The¬†subject¬†of the sentence (i.e. the person doing the action)¬†is in the¬†nominative¬†case
  • The¬†direct object, or object receiving the action, takes on the¬†accusative¬†case
  • An¬†indirect object, which is passively affected by the action in the sentence takes on the¬†dative¬†case
  • The¬†genitive¬†is used to show possession, for example, where we would use the word¬†of¬†in English

If you’re new to cases, this probably sounds very difficult but you’ll find that once you start practising it’s quite straightforward.

The more exposure you get to the language, the better you’ll become at choosing the right genders and cases to use.

2. Prepositions and Word Endings

In German, certain prepositions are associated with the accusative and dative cases. As your German improves you’ll come across more and more of these.

Dual prepositions can take either the accusative or dative case. These include:

  • an¬†(at)
  • auf¬†(on)
  • hinter¬†(behind)
  • in¬†(in)
  • neben¬†(next)
  • √ľber¬†(over/above)
  • vor¬†(in front)
  • zwischen¬†(in between)

For static, non-moving subjects, the dative case is used, for example:

  • ‚ÄúDein Essen steht auf dem Tisch‚ÄĚ (Your food is on the table).

In this instance:

  • Dein Essen¬†(your food) is the subject, in the nominative case
  • Der Tisch¬†(the table), takes the dative form, in this case,¬†dem, because it is stationary and not moving

Let’s look at another example:

  • ‚ÄúIch habe dein Essen¬†auf den Tisch gestellt‚ÄĚ (I put your food on the table)

We now have:

  • ich¬†(I) as the subject
  • dein Essen¬†(your food) as the direct object
  • den Tisch¬†as the indirect object.

Since this sentence involves a motion, your food being put somewhere, the table takes on the accusative form.

There are also some special dative prepositions, which always take on the dative case, regardless of motion. These are:

  • aus¬†(out)
  • au√üer¬†(except)¬†
  • bei¬†(at)
  • mit¬†(with)
  • nach¬†(after)
  • seit¬†(since)
  • von¬†(from)
  • zu¬†(to)

The best way to learn these is to pay attention to how they’re used when you see them in sentences.

Instead of trying to memorise rules, focus on noticing the patterns of the cases and prepositions in sentences you read and hear.

Then try to copy these patterns when you’re creating your own sentences!

Of course, you’ll make lots of mistakes in the beginning but that’s ok. Just keep learning from your mistakes and the structures will become more natural the more you practice.

3. Compound Words And How They’re Formed

It’s easy to get intimidated by long German words. They seem to take up half the page and at first glance, you think¬†‘I’ll never be able to pronounce that.’

But actually, pronouncing such words is quite simple. It’s just a case of knowing how to approach it.

Let’s look at one of the longer¬†words in German –¬†Freundschaftsbeweis, which means ‘a demonstration of friendship’.

It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s actually not.

If we break this word up into its individual elements, we see that it’s made up of small words, which would look like this:

German compound words

None of the individual words is particularly difficult to pronounce. Think of such words as sentences written without spaces, and approach them by breaking them up into pieces.

4. Conjugating German Verbs

In English, we conjugate verbs by adding an ending for regular verbs or changing the word for irregular verbs.

For example, in English we conjugate the verb ‘to be’ as follows:

  • I¬†am
  • You¬†are
  • He/she/it¬†is
  • We¬†are
  • You (plural)¬†are
  • They¬†are¬†

German also conjugates verbs, and the word sein (to be) is conjugated similarly:

  • Ich¬†bin¬†(I am)
  • Du¬†bist¬†(you are)
  • Er/sie/es¬†ist¬†(he/she/it is)
  • Wir¬†sind¬†(we are)
  • Ihr¬†seid¬†(you plural are)
  • Sie¬†sind¬†(they are)

As we can see, both the English and German equivalents follow very similar patterns.

English and German both conjugate verbs in the past tense as well. Although German conjugates verbs to a further extent than English, the conjugations often follow rules and are easy to learn.

Get a good book with clear explanations and exercises, then practice the conjugations a lot. Try to identify the conjugations when you’re listening or reading and when you speak, try your best to use them.

This kind of constant exposure to the language will help you memorise them in time.

5. German Grammar Is Easier Than English Grammar

Believe it of not, there are some things about German that are easier than English!

In German, for example, there are no continuous tenses.

In English, we have the present tense, as well as the present continuous. For example:

  • I eat meat (present simple)
  • I am eating meat (present continuous)

The first sentence is a generalisation, whereas the second sentence describes a one-time event happening at the moment.

In German, however, both sentences are the same:

  • Ich esse Fleisch

The meaning is then determined by the context in which the sentence appears.

German grammar may seem scary at first but this is because it’s unfamiliar.

While it may take you some time to get a handle on German grammar, it’s reassuring to know that it’s very regular and there are very few exceptions to the rules, unlike in English which is full of them!

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4 Pitfalls To Watch Out For as a Beginner Learning German

common german mistakes

Learning your first foreign language is always the hardest. It’s hard to know where to start or which approaches¬†really¬†work.

What prevents people from learning a language is normally not the difficulty of the language itself. It’s the fact that they don’t know¬†how¬†to learn a language.

Through trial and error when learning German, you’ll learn what works and, importantly, what doesn‚Äôt work.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the common mistakes many new language learners make:

1. Don’t Skip the Alphabet

Learning the alphabet and pronunciation of individual letters is often overlooked by new learners because it seems boring and too simple.

Although it’s great to dive right in by learning key phrases at the beginning, don’t forget to learn the pronunciation of the alphabet.

The German alphabet is similar to the English alphabet, which at first glance, might seem like there’s nothing new to learn.

However,¬†German pronunciation¬†is slightly different and takes practice to get used to. English speakers often have trouble losing their accent because they didn’t take the time to learn the basics.

2. Don’t Get Worked Up About Pronunciation

After you’ve learned the basics of pronunciation, don’t dwell too much on sounds that give you difficulty in the beginning.

Practice is key to improving fluency, so find a way to improvise a rolled ‘r’, and at some point, it will come naturally.

Focus more on the sounds you are able to get right and use this as encouragement to continue learning. In the beginning, it’s about familiarising yourself with the language, not perfect pronunciation.

3. Don’t Hesitate to Start Speaking German

learn to speak german

Many people are hesitant to start speaking a foreign language in the beginning.

If you are unsure how to pronounce certain words, which grammar to use, or confused about German adjective declension, you might feel like you’re not ready to start speaking German yet.

However, it’s important to start speaking in the beginning and accept that you’re going to¬†make mistakes.

Instead of becoming discouraged by your mistakes, see them as an opportunity to improve your language skills. Chances are, people aren’t judging you as harshly as you imagine!

4. Focus On The Language, Not The Resources

When you start to learn German as your first foreign language, you might not know the best approach to take.

Should you learn German online? Or with a book? Should you sign up for a class?

There are countless ways to learn, no matter where you are in life. Take the time to find something you like and enjoy using, then get started!

Focus on learning the language rather than always looking for the perfect resource – there is no easy solution.

Learning a new language can be hard to grasp at first, but it should also be fun.

So if your current approach leaves you feeling unmotivated, switch things up a bit. Try a new method, teacher, or approach, and remember that learning German should be enjoyable.

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6 Steps to Learn How to Speak German as a Beginner

Step 1: Enrol In German Uncovered To Learn The Fundamentals Of The Language (And Much More!)

step 1 learn the fundamentals

One important thing about learning a language is that it must come from the learner, not the teacher. The teacher‚Äôs job is to guide you ‚Äď but you must do the learning.

This means you will need the necessary tools to learn, and a good beginner course is indispensable.

You‚Äôre going to need lots of input via reading and listening in order to move beyond beginners German and grow your vocabulary. That’s why I’ve created my online German course – German¬†Uncovered¬†– to teach you through the¬†power of story.

German Uncovered Course 800px

You’ll listen to and read your first book in German, and our expert German teacher Kerstin, will help uncover the grammar and vocabulary in the story, chapter by chapter.

By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be a confident and well-rounded German speaker, ready to use your German in the real world!

Get started now with a FREE 7-day trial

Step 2: Set Short And Long Term Goals

set short and long-term goals

When you’re just starting out learning German, take the time to learn the basics.

Figure out how¬†German pronunciation works and focus on learning the basic phrases you’re likely to use in your first conversations. That’s a great short-term goal to get you started.

These are core skills you can practice in the beginning that get you exposure to the language, without the frustration of learning any difficult new concepts.

Phrases like ‚ÄúGuten Tag‚ÄĚ (good day), ‚ÄúWie geht’s?‚ÄĚ ( how are you), and ‚ÄúWie hei√üt das?‚ÄĚ (What is that called?) are easy to remember, commonly used, and get you speaking right from the beginning.

Step 3: Memorise Key German Phrases

start with key phrases

Once you’ve gotten to know the fundamentals, it’s time to start learning some phrases.

There are certain key words and phrases that will give you a huge head start in¬†conversational German. Learn these first and you’ll be surprised how much you can communicate in a short period of time.

It’s also a good idea to write down any relevant new vocabulary you encounter, not forgetting to take note of the word’s gender.

You don’t need to learn every word, but when you come across something you can imagine yourself using in a conversation, take note of it.

You’d be surprised how a few key phrases can have you leading a conversation in no time.

It’s also useful to take note of polite forms of speech. For example:

  • Ich will ein Bier¬†(I want a beer) sounds impolite in German
  • Ich h√§tte gern ein Bier, Bitte¬†(I would like to have a beer, please) is considered polite

If this already seems too difficult in the beginning, remember that there is always an easier way to say something. ‚ÄúEin Bier, Bitte‚ÄĚ (one beer, please) is much easier to remember.

Step 4: Don’t Get Too Hung Up On German Grammar

don't get hung up on grammar

When learning a new language, it’s easy to¬†get hung up on grammar.

Grammar is important and you will need to focus on it more as you progress.

But as a beginner, you shouldn’t spend inordinate amounts of time studying grammar books. Don’t worry if you make grammatical mistakes.

Instead, focus on exposing yourself to German as much as possible and paying careful attention to the patterns you start to recognise.

If you do this, you’ll soon start to notice the main grammatical structures becoming clear.

Try and pick up the grammar through context and use these patterns you identify as clues.

Of course, you will make mistakes in grammar. Even native speakers mess up their grammar sometimes.

Just try to stay focused on continuing to practice what you’re able to understand and build up your language knowledge on the basis you already have.

Step 5: Speak German From The Beginning

find people to speak with

There’s no better way to learn a language than exposure and practice!

Try to find native speakers, fellow learners, friends or teachers who you can speak German with.

If you want to become confident when speaking German then one of the best ways is to hire a tutor. My #1 recommendation for finding native German tutors is LanguaTalk, where you can take personalised lessons with talented, native German teachers. You can book a free trial session (no card required) here.

Look for German events in your community, such as a Stammtisch (a type of informal German meet-up), that can offer an opportunity for language practice. The Goethe Institute can be another great place to meet German speakers and fellow learners.

Alternatively, you can search online for language meet-up events or look for conversation exchange partners on sites like conversationexchange.com.

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Recommended Resources For Learning German

Now that you’re ready to start learning German, these are my recommended resources to learn as quickly as possible.

German Courses Online

  • German Uncovered – My comprehensive online German course teaches you German through the power of story. If you’re looking for the most fun, effective way to learn German, based on the methods I have personally developed of 15 years of teaching and learning, you’ll love German Uncovered. Get started now with a FREE 7-day trial.

German Uncovered Course 800px

Test Your Current German Level

Not sure of your current level in German? Take my FREE online German level test and find out, so that you can choose the right resources and strategies for your level.

Learn to Speak German

LanguaTalk square logo

  • My favourite way to learn to speak a new language is to get lessons with a private tutor. You can find talented, native German tutors on LanguaTalk, my #1 recommendation for personalised 1-on-1 language lessons. You can book a free trial session (no card required) here.

Learn to Read German

  • german short storiesGerman Short Stories for Beginners¬†– One of the best ways to improve your German and expand your vocabulary is to read German books. I wrote a series of short stories designed especially for beginners. If you enjoy reading, you’ll love these stories, which are packed with special features to help you understand and – above all – enjoy reading German! Available on Amazon Kindle and paperback:¬†CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

German Audio Materials for Listening Practice

  • Conversations¬†–¬†Do you struggle to understand fast, spoken German? Conversations helps you understand real German & transform your listening skills in less than 90 days.

German Conversations

Master German Grammar Through Story

  • German Grammar Hero¬†–¬†Want to master German grammar without translating in your head or pouring over grammar books? Discover my method for learning the essentials of German grammar the natural way through story.

German Grammar Hero

Now You’re Ready To Start Learning German!

Follow these tips and¬†you’ll be speaking German in no time!

Start with the basics and find native speakers to practice with. If you put in the time and effort, your fluency will gradually improve.

Remember that learning a new language takes time, and practice and exposure are the best ways to improve your skills. Have patience with the learning process and try not to get hung up on difficult grammatical concepts in the beginning.

With the ability to speak German, you’ll be able to get around effortlessly, not only in Germany but many other countries. There are entire German-speaking communities in many places you wouldn’t expect all around the world!

Learning German will allow you to better understand the original works of some of the world’s greatest philosophers, scientists, authors, artists, and musicians. You’ll have a better understanding of German culture and gain new insight into your own.

When you learn German, you’re learning more than just a new language.

You’re learning to think about the world in a new way, you’re learning how culture plays an important role in the development of a language, and you’re opening up your mind to new possibilities.

Whether you’re interested in travel or work opportunities, expanding your networking options, learning about culture and society, or just language in general, the German language has¬†something to offer everyone.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful!

If you have a friend learning German, please take a moment to share this post with them, it would mean a lot to me! (You can click here to send a Tweet!)

I know this is a long post and it‚Äôs difficult to take everything in all at once. That‚Äôs why I‚Äôve created a special PDF version which you can download and refer to any time you need it! And if you download the PDF, I’ll send you even more tips to help you as you continue learning German.

Click here to download the PDF version of the article and receive more great language learning tips for free.