Can you guess the gender of loanwords in German?

This is a frequent question. Many of us look for easy answers. On Youtube you will find many of those. The problem is, in the German dictionary Duden the respective underlying rules all include words like “tendency”, “often” and “mostly”. This means that there will be many words that do not follow the rules.  Therefore, there are three steps you should take: 1.       Learn all the rules you can find. 2.       Start a list of exceptions to those rules.   3.       Make a list of your common mistakes. Looks complicated, but it just takes to start three lists on separate sheets of paper (or on your app). However, most learners take only the first step. And then they ask for more rules, instead of taking steps 2 and 3. Here is a summary of the Duden rules. Do you want free membership in my Facebook group for learning German? There, you will get updates on my articles.  And you can ask me anything related to learning German. Fo

The Relativity Theory of learning German

At school, I was very bad at physics. I still am. But, I know the following. Time does not equal Time. At least, when we are talking about time for learning German.  Especially in East Asian countries, many parents think that the longer children go to school, the more intelligent they will become. It is more of a norm than an exception that a child has to study 14 hours a day (doing homework included). I have had many online students from countries with such a “study ethic”, and I can affirm that most of them are very much depleted of mental energy. They often have problems to understand even the simplest concepts in German grammar. Since every day has 24 hours, we need to be more strategic about our German lessons. The 80/20 rule says that 20% of activities will yield 80% of results. The reverse is also true: 80% of activities will yield only 20% of results. What do you think? Do you want free membership in my Facebook group for learning German? There, you will get updates on my

Myth - A lot of practice is enough for speaking German well

Try to do some research: How many professional soccer (or basketball, ice hockey, tennis, etc.) players do just play matches, and never attend any training? How many professional musicians or actors do only make live performances, and never attend any rehearsal?  The answer: You will not find any single professional doing this. But, you will find some amateur players and musicians do that. What does that have to do with learning the German language? A lot! Because many language learners get exactly the same advice. “It is enough to just practice in real-life situations. You do not need to train.” Why should this work with learning foreign languages, if this is extremely bad advice for any other type of performance? I have the ultimate proof that this does not work. It goes like that. Do you know people from your country of origin that speak your native language badly? Or: People that would be an embarrassment on national radio or television because of their bad grammar? Y

How to learn German verbs with prefixes

This is a very complicated topic. And, in this article we will not discuss the grammar. You probably know this already: There are verbs with separable and inseparable prefixes. Er kauft mit ihr ein (einkaufen). Sie verkauft ihm ihr Buch. (verkaufen). There are some prefixes that in some verbs are separable; in other verbs, they are inseparable. Wir setzen mit der Fähre über (ÜBERsetzen). Wir übersetzen einen Text ins Deutsche (überSETzen). Here are just some strategies on how to learn the meaning of those verbs. Typically, verbs with a separable prefix express a very specific situation. Therefore, those verbs can be found especially in technical language. It is often very difficult to translate such verbs into another language, because you often need to use an entire sentence to explain the correct meaning. Example: ausparken: to pull out of a parking space Do you want free membership in my Facebook group for learning German? There, you will get updates on my articles.  A

Learning German in times of potential civil unrest

Since I started teaching German abroad, I behaved differently than many German teachers do. From my observation, many of them think it is their job to tell students how great Germany is. Of course, since the German government directly or indirectly finances many of them, this is their job description.  I always saw myself more like a responsible travel agent. If you send travellers to a new country, you need to warn them, too: about dangerous areas, the quality of the drinking water, about local customs and about typical fraud. When I went to school, we had on the classroom wall that famous picture of the three monkeys covering their ears, noses and eyes. Many of us think this a valuable option for life, in general. Therefore, probably some of you will become upset with me; they will become angry with me for attacking their fantasy world of how Germany should be.   My position is this. If some meteorologists announce a tsunami, it does not mean that you need to “believe” in it an

Learning German by the method of absorption

Have you observed it? Many people speak like their parents. The same expressions, mannerisms and, unfortunately, negative comments, too. Children do not consciously imitate all those aspects. They have just absorbed them. However, as we can absorb negative habits, we can also absorb positive speaking habits. The key for absorption to take place is to be exposed to a limited amount of material repeatedly. Try to remember, how your parents talked to you when you broke something, or when they praised you. Most probably, they were repeating the same messages over many years. What are the practical implications? Here is what I do, which is very personal to my interests and needs. I have several cycles of books that I read and listen to in cycles. When one cycle is over, I begin it again. My cycles are, among others, all 38 Shakespeare plays (one play a week, and, yes, there is a debate on how many plays he actually wrote), novels by Theodor Fontane, and theater plays in Spanish

The danger of simplified German courses

It is understandable. “I want to learn German fast. I want to participate in a simple German course.” Many language teachers and authors of textbooks adapt to this demand by simplifying their explanations. Course participants do not want to be bothered with complicated explanations based on probabilities. They want to have a clear answer: Is my sentence correct or not? There is no problem with simplified explanations. We do this when we talk to our children, too. It becomes only a problem if we do not update those simplified rules later on in life. Unfortunately, also with German grammar, many course participants do stick to those simplified, but not 100% correct rules for many years without updating them. Here are some examples of incomplete rules. If you have updated them already: congratulations to you! 1.       “Kein” is used for negating nouns; “nicht” for negating all other kinds of words. 2.       If you have only one verb in a sentence, the typical position of “nic