Posts

Are you, too, learning too many nouns in German?

I can already see the angry emails: “We should always learn more words.” “Nouns are the most important word category because everything around us has a name”. I know. What I want to point out is the following: Many of us focus too much on learning nouns, which is: names for objects. At the same time, we neglect to learn verbs. Why? It is easier, both for the teacher and for the language learner. Every baby starts learning new words with an illustrated book. I can show you a picture of a dog, a lawnmower or a hat and I can say: “Der Hund; der Rasenmäher; der Hut”. If, as a teacher, I want to explain many everyday verbs, I need good skills as an actor. In many practical situations, verbs are more important than nouns. In our native language, we often use the context and/or we point with our fingers in sentences like: “Put this here”. “Open this and give it to her”. Most often, the communication works just fine. On the other hand, try saying the following sentences without kno

The frustration of not understanding audio material in German

Every teacher tells you that you need to listen more to audio material in German. However, this is frustrating for most of us. Especially if we want to listen to something interesting.   In the end, most of us remain watching video clips for beginners. Often for many years. Here are some practical tips. ·         Think about the topic that most interests you. It could be playing tennis, cooking Indian food, repairing cars or following up on the latest gossip. Choose audio material (videos or podcasts) on those topics. ·         Alternate difficult and easy material. Today: easy material; tomorrow: difficult material; the day after tomorrow: easy material; and so on. From September/October, I will have one online group for learning German with exactly eight participants and with English as the language of communication. If you want to be informed as soon as the course is open for registration,  please click here . We will not work with a textbook like at school. We will focus

Hidden psychological motives why we make no progress in learning the German language

As many of you may know, I am also a psychologist. Psychology has a big influence on our success in learning the German language. Even with the best teacher, the best books and the best techniques, many of us do engage in self-sabotage. Here is a short list of psychological motives I have observed in myself and in others. Of course, many of those motives may sound very speculative or far-fetched. Please send me a message with your own observations. ·         We feel that we do not have the necessary talent to learn a foreign language. This may be caused by dismissive comments at school or by our parents – often many years ago. Sometimes, one such comment alone is enough for stopping a child for the rest of its life in pursuing an activity (“You look so strange when you dance” “You have such a funny voice”). 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.    h

How to find non-dangerous conversation partners to practice your German language

Many people think like this: As soon as I will be in Germany (or Austria, or Switzerland, or Liechtenstein), I will have unlimited opportunities to talk in German with the local population.   The reality is often quite different. Especially if you live in smaller towns, you will soon see that most families stay in their houses after seven o’clock. The streets are empty. And, often, the only native Germans that you will find are alcoholics near the train station (sorry for being politically incorrect). As with dating in general, finding conversation partners through the internet may be quite dangerous (or at least, unpleasant), not only if you are a woman. What is the solution? What are you looking for? Most people would agree with the following. “I want to find Germans that are reasonably educated, well-mannered and not necessarily interested only in flirting with attractive foreigners.” Here are some ideas: Do you want free membership in my Facebook group for learning German

Strategies for learning to think in German

Every act of speaking, including in our native language, needs a preceding thought. The clearer we think, the more correct and convincing our speech becomes. For many of us, this cognitive process has become automatic to such a degree that we do not perceive it consciously anymore. One reason for stage fright or fear of public speaking is that the situation forces us to do something consciously that we normally do habitually. In that moment, we feel we no longer know how to produce sentences and sounds intentionally. Apart from, maybe, experienced meditators and Zen masters, most of us have a constant inner dialogue. Our mind is a chatterbox, commenting on everything we do and experience. Why not channel this process into German? This can save you a lot of time. If you just have 10% of your normal thought processes translated into German, you will have a priceless practice. Begin with a few sentences only, but do it several times during the day. Imagine somebody calls you j

Why your accent is not so important when you speak German

My hypothesis is that many participants in language courses have the wrong priorities. They focus on learning new words and they want to have the perfect accent. On the other hand, they neglect, comparatively, sentence structure and stylistics. Many feel incompetent because they have a “strange” accent. Why is this not so important? And what would be indeed important? There are more than 50 dialects of the German language. There any many more regional and local accents. Of course, since the 1950ies, increased television consumption has had the effect of standardizing pronunciation. To a certain degree. However, somebody from Germany will still recognize somebody from Switzerland. For most Austrians, I have a strong accent (I was born in Hamburg). Another factor is the increased proportion of the population with a migration background. Of course, there are different and conflicting methodologies how to measure this. In bigger cities, 35%-55% have a different ethnic background.

What is correct: “der Bonbon” or “das Bonbon”?

Most of us would like the German language (and any other language) to be like a bureaucratically planned system. They think that a good language should be free of ambiguities. However, all natural languages are anarchical systems. There is no director of the German language. Angela Merkel is not in charge of the German grammar. Dictionary companies do not invent new words. They just include new words that have become popular. A language is a bit like Wikipedia. Everyone contributes to the development of the German language. Over time, some grammatical forms become generally accepted. However, this does not automatically mean that the forms that are less used are automatically wrong. Here are some words that can have more than one gender, according to the reference book “Duden Grammatik”. Yes, you are free to choose. Biotop, der/das Bonbon, der/das Curry, der/das Filter, der/das Gelee, der/das Gulasch, das/der Poster, das/der Rhododendron, das/der Schrot, der/das