Help with learning German

Hello, I have some questions, or at least I’m looking for some opinions about how to learn German, my native language is Romanian, not English. In the last 194 days, I spent 377 hours listening + 3.2M words read in German on Lingq. +I have been living in Austria for 7 months, so I have a little more “learning” time. And in the next year (the next 300-400 days) I want to reach the C1+ level because I want to be “material” for college. I can understand and read quite decently, depending on the theme and the level of the book. I will attach 2 pictures of different lessons to show you how I see a certain text, and how much I understand. All this sounds good until I hit the grammar and when I start speaking.

I know the words, I have an idea where the verb should be :), but then I start thinking “Der, die, das?” , I simply don’t know, and because I don’t know that, it creates other problems, such as “meinen, meiner, meines?etc”
Nominative/Genitive?, and I’m a disaster at exercises like “You have a sentence and you have to complete it with x for Genitive/Dative”. declensions? NO WAY.

So my basic question would be how do you approach grammar effectively? Do I simply take a book of 500 pages and start “filling in the boxes”? What is that 20% that will give me 80% of the results in grammar/German? What do I learn for the first time(grammar) and how do I learn it?

And let’s say that you had my experience in German, metaphorically speaking, what would you do every day if you had 3-4 hours (daily) in order to be C1 in German in the next 365 days? Would you read and listen for 2 hours? and 1h to talk with someone + 1h of grammar?, or 1h x, 1h y, 2h z, what would be your “recipe”?

I only know some of the words “in orange” but not as well as I would like, I have the words either “in orange” or I know them, no color (passive, that is, I can recognize them in a context, individually it becomes more hard, and “active” words become even fewer.


I’m not sure I have a good suggestion, because grammar is pretty low on my list of priorities (I figure much of it will just come to me…and has so far) and I don’t have a timeline or an ultimate goal other than to keep improving. However, I’m curious, and maybe others who might have suggestions will be curious…are you needing to pass an exam. Or show a certification that you are C1 to meet your goal? If no, then I might suggest just keep plugging away at what you’re doing. If yes, then it would seem some active learning of grammar may be in order, but I’m hesitant to recommend a direction. I’m actually about at the same level as you “lingq-wise”.

Hopefully others who are further along can make an appropriate suggestion.

1 Like

It appears as if you need to focus on your vocabulary for example you’ve highlighted:

Verbs
bekomme, geschickt, läuft

Nouns
Weihnachtslied

If you’ve been living in Austria for 7 months, you’ve got to get out there speaking.

By listening to people around you and joining coffee conversations, you’d hear:
“Hier läuft alles gut”
in real life situations.

it seems that while living in Austria you’ve spent the last seven months reading and listening on LingQ - listening for almost 2 hours a day.

What do you do with the rest of your time?
Are you a teen waiting to go to college?
Are you an adult working remotely?

Now is the time to get out there and interact with others.

  • Take up a new hobby
  • Join a club
  • Become a member of a gym
  • Take a German course
  • Do anything that gives you the chance to interact with others in German
    Once you’ve got real life exposure, interacting with others, you’ll become familiar with greetings and set ways of saying things.

You can focus on grammar whenever you wish, but you’ve really got to start taking advantage of living in the country.

4 Likes

I am 21 years old, I take a German course in the morning (A1), and I work part time in the afternoon. At work I don’t interact with many people because the work is for one person, so to speak.
And yes, I want to go to college if I can achieve this goal related to German.
And from the course comes the “problem” called grammar, in the course there is a lot of stress on grammar, less vocabulary, much less than it should be. So 3h± per day from Monday to Friday I hear/speak German. I’ve been doing the course for 2 months, it’s a little more and it’s over.
And you’re right, I really need to look for more people to speak German with, especially now that I can understand better.

It’s just that if you are at the beginning, a beginner and you barely understand 2 words, it sounds nice to be told that “Oh, you live in Austria, go and stay/talk to more Austrians”, in reality they don’t speak slowly, or very clearly, and many don’t really want to repeat 100 times just so you understand. And when you come across someone with a strong dialect… good luck understanding that, I talked to some of them and they said that sometimes they don’t understand each other, that sounds crazy:) So that’s why I tried to read/listen a lot German before having a chance to interact with words not just through finger signs.

3 Likes

Yes, I need a C1 certificate, I don’t like grammar at all to be honest, I didn’t learn it even in English :). It’s just that without grammar I will simply have problems in the exams at the end of the course.

You are on the right track. It is the same issue with me in Germany. Understanding working-class people in your workplace is totally a different ball game than say understanding your German teachers in the Class who speak German clearly.

Sometimes German natives pass on hints to select content based on my needs.
For example, they tell me to watch news channels. Read biographies of famous people as the language used in such books reflect day-to-day experiences and how it is spoken and used by natives.

I am currently reading a 1000-page biography of Adolf Hitler (written by Peter Longerich ) which I borrowed from my university.

And, yes, you need to buy a good grammar book. I have found one. It makes a huge difference and makes the German language more comprehensible while reading and listening. Grammar concepts are explained with lots of example sentences and do not read like a 500 page verbose tomb. Buy a physical copy.

Deutsche Grammatik: Schritt für Schritt einfach erklärt (A1 - B1) by Anna Zwolińska-Simon

It is easily available on Amazon.

You will find that German grammar is not that difficult to understand after going through such a book. You need to combine reading with grammar study to derive benefits.

2 Likes

It looks like you are doing very well but it will still take a lot of work and time. As you imply in another comment, you are doing three hours every morning Monday to Friday. You will certainly learn a lot that way especially if you are also working hard on LingQ. I did the same when I started German. If you have the dosh, maybe you can also do online one-on-one lessons online. I found teachers on italki and the price was about the same per hour as the language school.

Are you going to Meridian in Vienna by any chance?

1 Like

Thank you for the recommended book, the book seems arranged to my taste, very simple with explanations. As well as her other book (Anna Zwolińska-Simon) with exercises, it seems very good to me. Better than my monster of 500 pages, all in black and white.

“MERIDIAN Sprachenzentrum”? No, I’m closer to Linz, it’s easier for me there.
I will probably try italki too, or I was thinking of looking for an Austrian girlfriend, I saw that this is fashionable :), we combine the useful with the pleasant. …Pleasant until you realize that it can cost you more than an hour online, one on one with a teacher:)

2 Likes

Luca Lampariello always recommends Assimil for both beginners and ‘false beginners’ for many of the languages he has mastered. I have just checked and Assimil does not do German for Romanian speakers, but your English looks plenty good enough to take on the standard Assimil German course book for English speakers, which comes with audio. Assimil takes you up to B2, which is what you need right now. There are one hundred daily lessons in an Assimil book, and there is a reasonable level of humour to keep your interest, and, yes, I would recommend you do a solid hour every day on this aspect of your studies. Assimil will definitely help you with grammar. On grammar check out also the free YouTube videos of the Lingster Academy with Julia Brodt. [Peter Bormann is likely to comment on your request, and he quite rightly points out the “no gain without pain” school of thought, which I agree is inescapable if you need to get to C1 with a good understanding of the grammatical patterns in German.]
You have already had some very good suggestions for useful building blocks for German studies: “Easy German” videos and podcasts (and their weekly additional grammar exercises on Seedlang are good too) and italki, which will get you a “bespoke” teacher to motivate and encourage you. Both Are relatively modest in outlay and certainly good “value for money”.
A slightly old-fashioned book, but one which makes a lot of sense in building vocabulary, is Karl Schmidt “Easy Ways to enlarge your German vocabulary” (Dover Publications).
And the best book on explaining the mystery of German gender is Constantin Vayenas “Der, die, das: The Secrets of German Gender”, which is an eye-opener because, contrary to what most people will tell you, there really are some underlying principles!
You already have Lingq in your armoury, so that is an incredible resource at any level, but my final tip is to look at Deutsche Welle, as their free German resources cover an enormous wide range and you can always find good material there.

3 Likes

The thing that’s great about Assimil is that little tidbits of grammar are interspersed in the lessons with a little more detail every 7th lesson. This helps so you aren’t inundated with endless boring grammar explanations, plus you see good examples. There is also a nice grammar section at the end of the book where you can look things up more formally as a reference.

For grammar I do like Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage. It is a bit of a tome, but it is a great reference to look up things when you see something strange in the language for an explanation. (I would not try to read the book straight through =D ). It also has a lot of the rules for die/der/das…probably similar to the book you suggest Bembe. I did notice that book on Amazon earlier and wondered if there was anything “new” compared to what I have in Hammer’s.

1 Like

“For grammar I do like Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage.”

Dieses Buch ist der Hammer!

…I’ll show myself out

4 Likes

I chuckled. It really Hammered the point home. =D

4 Likes

I haven’t taken the C1 exam, but I’ve been to language schools and have done tests with them and, yeah, you do really need to know some of the formal aspects of grammar (like the names of cases and stuff). Before any exam (like in uni), you should do exam-specific study. The best way to do this is usually practice/mock exams. You don’t need to do this for a while though. Do your real exam-specific study in the last couple of weeks/months. Taking a mock exam in half a year might be useful too to see where exactly you are at and what you need to focus on next.

If you already know that your weaknesses are grammar and speaking, it’s simple, work on doing them. Sure, continue reading and listening to improve your vocabulary and unconscious grammar awareness, but you should also do some deliberate study for grammar and speak more.

To improve your grammar, here are some ideas:

  • Read a grammar textbook. This can be boring though. I bought Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage ages back and tried reading it from the start. It was bloody boring as… I think I only got through 30 pages or something before never picking it up again and getting rid of it.
  • Watch some grammar explanations on YouTube. This is more interesting and engaging than reading the textbook. There are quite a few YouTube channels which have several-minute-long videos on specific grammar topics. If you watch some of these occassionally, over the months, your grammar knowledge will accumulate.
  • If you have any specific questions relating to grammar, google them. You can then skim through some blogs and articles on the topic. You’ll get more away from it because you have a strong desire to understand what it is than just searching any random grammar topic. If you have a textbook, this would be when you go to the table of contents and find the section and only read that one section.
  • Hire a tutor, who is knowledgeable of German grammar. Prepare a list of questions (eg. finding grammar constructions and texts, which you don’t understand) beforehand and you can ask them for explanations. Make sure you keep control of the conversation though, so they don’t go down some superfluous rabbit hole. Hence, the importance of preparation beforehand. If done correctly (that is, prepare and control the conversation), this is probably the most effective and efficient way to do it.
  • Ask more questions in class. Your teacher is there to help you.

To get good at speaking, you have to speak more. You’ve already got a solid foundation of input, so now it’s time to ‘activate’ it, as per the lingo. How? The best way would be to make German/Austrian-speaking friends. How to make friends, you ask? Sign up to some sporting activity (soccer, volleyball, martial arts, Österreicher Alpinverein, whatever). Volunteer for the soup kitchen or for some charity raising money on the streets (ideally something customer-facing, but anything really). Or, even better, get paid to practise German by finding a job in customer service (waiter, salesperson, call centre operative, etc.).

As a side note, writing (and improving it) should also increase your speaking ability. You have more time to check which gender the nouns are and to focus on grammar. It could be as simple as writing a few words in a journal each day or writing a short essay and getting your teacher in your course (or private tutor or on LingQ) to mark it.

3 Likes

I thank you and the others for taking the time to offer their advice.
I find it very interesting and helpful to see how other people approach a problem/challenge and how they would solve it, in this case learning German.
6 minds are better than 1 :slight_smile:

2 Likes