There’s a debate raging in the world of learning languages that influences how you learn German.
It’s an argument about whether or not you should learn words in isolation or embedded in phrases.
In my experience, if you’re really going to learn German, the answer is both. Olly Richards and I came to a similar conclusion on this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast.
The issue always comes back to …
Which Words? Which Phrases?
And there’s no simple answer.
However, there is a simple set of principles you can follow that will always keep you on the right track. I call them The Big Five Of Language Learning:
Each of The Big Five requires time and energy, but you can cover them all in just 15 minutes a day and still see a significant result over time. It’s incremental growth that matters, so by focusing on even just one word or phrase over a day or two, you’re far better off than doing nothing.
In fact …
You’ll Be Doing More Than The Majority!
It’s true. Most people only dream of learning a language. Then they stick their efforts into a spaced-repetition program.
But shouldn’t they be commended for taking some kind of action?
Sure. Why not?
Yet, these programs are just one avenue of learning. And used in isolation, they lead to a simple fact:
You’re learning to respond to the software well, not other humans.
You don’t want to learn German so you can speak German with computers, do you?
The Big Five Of Language Learning
To learn German, you need to exercise multiple representation centers. For language learning, The Big Five are:
Remembering is easy so long as you have a dedicated memory strategy. I prefer an organic means of remembering German vocabulary and phrases, something you can enjoy picking up How to Learn and Memorize German Vocabulary.
For speaking, that’s as simple as walking out my door.
But I Haven’t Always Lived In Germany!
To make sure I got enough speaking practice in, I talked with native Germans on Skype through Skillsilo.
I also went to German cultural events. Heck, I once even went to the German Embassy in Vancouver just to get in a bit of practice.
Anyone can find opportunities to speak auf Deutsch if they really want to learn German. Even if it’s just to say “ja” or “nein.”
Your Ears Are Always Open
Listening is easier. The Rammstein button in my iPhone, for example, is never far from my fingers. The first song I memorized all the lyrics from was Ohne Dich:
Just for kicks, here’s the second:
Although both those songs deal with sad themes, I find them great to play directly from my memory. Using memory techniques makes that possible in a manner of minutes.
You’ve also got movies for listening practice. German culture was essential to movie history and because I’m a former Film Studies professor, a lot of people ask me about my favorite recommendations.
As it happens, I wrote two entries in this edition of The Directory of World Cinema.
Nosferatu is a silent picture, so you’ll be reading older German text (fun!):
Kurz und Schmerzlos has a wonderful Turkish flavor, so you’ll definitely want to check that one out to develop your understanding of this element of German culture.
You Can Read Movies Too
It can take a bit of hunting to find them, but you can watch movies with German subtitles turned on. Search YouTube with “Deutsch Untertitel.” Tons will come up.
You can watch German movies with the German titles on, but be sure that the text matches the dialogue. It’s very frustrating watching words play out that do not reflect the sounds.
There’s a powerful exception to this rule, however. You can also watch in your mother tongue with German subtitles on and freeze the screen to pick up vocabulary. I did this a lot with Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, which was a rich source of vocabulary.
Pick Up Your Pen And Make A Mark
Writing is the final piece of the puzzle. Just a few minutes a day works wonders. You can journal on italki or find a German penpal to write with. You may even have relatives in the family willing to write back to you.
If not, you don’t have to have a partner at all to write. You can create your own translations of German texts just to find out what they say. At the moment, I’m engaged in a big German translation project that involves the history of memory and Matteo Ricci. Stay tuned for news about that!
Let’s Start To Learn German Vocabulary En Masse
Does your goal to learn German seem more exciting now than ever before? Now that you know exactly what to do, I hope so. If you haven’t already subscribed to my free How To Memorize German Vocabulary guide, I recommend that you scroll up to the top and grab it now. You’ll be glad you did.
And feel free to post your commitment in the comments below. Letting others know that you’re on board is a great way to get going. Once you’re set up with the free guide and have posted here, head on over to the Learn German Memory Hacks Facebook Group and introduce yourself. Can’t wait to meet you there!