The Best Way to Learn German
After years of dreaming about it, you finally want to speak German fluently. You want to be able to communicate with your friend from Austria and explore German-speaking culture.
But what’s the best way to learn German? Textbooks, apps, classes, software...What’s the easiest, cheapest, quickest way to make progress? What works and what doesn’t?
Starting to learn a new language can be overwhelming. With all of the options out there, it's difficult to figure out what the best method is. So what's the way forward?
Before we get to the holy grail of German learning, let's take a look at these five basic approaches to learning German - each with its own set of pros and cons:
- Plunging Right In (Immersion)
- Reading In German (Translation Approach)
- German Textbooks (Grammar-based Approach)
- German Classes (Communicative Approach)
- Learning German Online (Vocabulary-based Approach)
1. Plunging Right In (Immersion)
The immersion approach plunges you into German language and culture. You travel to a German-speaking country and spend an extended period of time there. This will force you to use German in your day-to-day life - everywhere you go!
It is a great option for those who don't like formal study and have plenty of time and money to spare.
- The advantages: The immersion approach helps you to connect with native speakers, and teaches you valuable knowledge about German culture. Not only that, but it does all of this within a very short period of time.
- The disadvantages: This method is not for everyone. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and not to mention stressful when it comes to dealing with culture shock.
2. Reading In German (Translation Approach)
Reading your favorite book a second, third or fourth time is always a good idea. Why not read it in German this time?
It will force you to translate between German and your native language. Feel free to use a dictionary here.
- The advantages: It’s an excellent way of broadening your vocabulary when you’ve got a basic knowledge of German. The translation approach is cost-effective and can bring results to those willing to invest time and energy.
- The disadvantages: A major drawback is that the translation approach doesn’t really teach you to speak, write or understand spoken German.
3. German Textbooks (Grammar-based Approach)
German-learning textbooks mostly use the grammar-based approach. They focus on teaching the grammatical rules of German. You will mostly train your reading and writing skills.
- The advantages: For learners who like to fully understand the structure of the German language, this is a great and cost-effective method.
- The disadvantages: You won’t get many opportunities to actually speak or listen to German and must memorize a lot of grammar rules. This can be very frustrating and sometimes a little boring.
4. German Classes (Communicative Approach)
This is the approach we all know from school. It involves a teacher who gives lessons to a small group of students. Lessons are usually divided into reading, writing, listening and speaking activities.
- The advantages: Language classes will give you a good general education. If the teacher plans and teaches the class well, you can have basic conversations in German a few weeks into the course. Another benefit is that you have plenty of learning partners in a group of students!
- The disadvantages: A big minus of German classes is that you won’t get individual training custom-tailored to you. Your learning depends on the group of students and their pace of progress. Also, courses at universities or language schools are expensive!
5. Learning German Online (Vocabulary-based Approach)
Have you thought about using a German learning app or software? We bet you have! It’s one of the most popular ways of learning German right now.
Most of the online learning applications make use of the vocabulary-based approach. You learn German by associating words with pictures of the objects they represent. Say goodbye to lessons on grammar rules. You will pick up the structure of a language along the way.
- The advantages: You can improve your vocabulary very quickly with this method because you repeat words over and over. A major plus is that you can learn at any time and any place that suits you.
- The disadvantages: First, the vocabulary you learn is often not the most practical. Second, you risk sounding a bit like Tarzan when you speak because you don’t learn any grammar rules. A good vocabulary-based program can be difficult to find and expensive.
What Is The Best Way To Learn German?
So what’s the secret? What is the best way to make progress?
The truth is that there isn't only one best way to learn German.
Keep two things in mind:
First - every German learner is different! What works for others, might not work for you. Try out different approaches and find out what suits you best.
Second - the key to being a successful German learner is incorporating the above methods. Different approaches will teach you different aspects of German - reading, writing, listening and speaking!
The best way to learn German is to surround yourself with the language as much as possible. Study German vocabulary and grammar in an engaging way - with apps, software, or books. Speak German out loud as often as you can - to native speakers or to other learners. Soak up German books, movies, and social media.
Ideally, the best way to learn German includes:
- Interactive lessons (online or in a classroom) that teach German vocabulary, grammar and culture through reading, writing, listening and speaking
- A period of daily German immersion
- The ability to study at your own pace
- Professional guidance from a native German speaker trained in education
- The ability to interact with German native speakers and other non-native German language learners
- Occasional translation activities between German and your native language
- The ability to study vocabulary in a colorful, visual and interactive way
- Reinforcement testing of skills learned
- Motivational incentives to encourage daily practice
This may sound like a lot to ask for, but online courses like Rocket German can provide you with many of these features. It's also easier than ever to supplement your studies with other programs either online or in person.
Learn German With Rocket German
Rocket German is an online German course that incorporates various of the above methods. Our lessons include audio tracks, a pronunciation tool, language & culture lessons and extensive reinforcement testing.
Why don’t you listen to the first Rocket German Interactive Audio Lesson right here?
Unlike other German learning resources out there, we don’t focus on only one approach. We believe there is more to learning a language than vocabulary and grammar drills.
You want to learn German to communicate with others - confidently and authentically. Rocket German will teach you exactly that.
Start your first German lesson right now! You can sign up to our completely free, life-time trial of Rocket German here.
What are you waiting for? Los geht's!
Paul Weber and the Rocket German Team