Spending a few months in Germany.. what to expect?

I plan later this year to spend 3 months between Germany and Austria. The idea is to fully immerse myself into the language whilst there. I will do this by going out every day and talking to strangers, going to cafes, bars, clubs, watching tv, films and generally using and listening to the language as much as I use English at home.

The goal is to go there with around 10,000 known words in LingQ and a vague level of comprehension in reading/listening. Although my speaking ability will be basic.

So what can i realistically expect after 3 months doing this? Is it right to assume that I will come home with excellent listening skills? Will I be able to give my opinion on subjects and generally get by in common everyday situations?

I would like to hear thoughts from people who have immersed themselves into a country for a few months whilst at a lower intermediate level and what changes they noticed. Thanks.

So… That is exactly Benny’s approach :slight_smile:

Well no, since I have been using this site on and off for 2 years and plan to go there armed with 10,000 known words via this site. Not starting from scratch.

I am sure you will improve your German a lot! And Germany has a lot to offer, many nice places with lots of history and culture, you will enjoy it!

I think you’ll be absolutely amazed at the progress you’ll make particularly if you end up immersing yourself in the language and using German as much as you use English back home. If you go with around 10,000 known words, you’ll have already done a lot of the groundwork and will probably find that much of what you have learnt is being consolidated at a tremendous pace.

Going with 10,000 words means that every interaction will be worthwhile and beneficial to you, you’ll already have far more than a basic comprehension of the vocabulary and will be able to soak up information every minute of the day.

It’s like taking the fast-track lane!!

Are you doing more than LingQing right now? Watching films with subtitles etc. etc?

I reckon you should read the paper (even online) every day while you’re there, and use LingQ.

Also, try to avoid using English. Pretend you’re Icelandic or something, just keep replying in German, no matter what (more or less)!

After three months, you’ll be a gun! :slight_smile:

Maria, I was doing other stuff like watching German tv online (without much comprehension) but the last few months I haven’t been learning sadly. This is going to change now and I will get back into it and do as much as my time allows me in preparation for the summer.

So everyone thinks 3 months of immersion is plenty to really make a difference? I see English language students every day who can speak English well enough to converse with and I am really jealous of them. That’s all I want from this, to be able to become that person who can converse with natives and understand what is said back with relative ease.

Switch your life over to German for three months (while there). You’ll struggle (for a day or two) to speak English when you get back home, but it will be worth it…

Expect of lot of fat Germans! I live abroad in China and last time I visited I was really shocked how overweight my countrymen have become. The constrast is especially stark when you live in Asia.

If you think Germans are big come live in England :slight_smile:

I hear the US is even worse!

Guitario, I hope you’re going to somewhere in the former East-Germany? (Or, failing that, to a fairly small out-of-the-way town?) If you’re going to a big West-German city, you may have a pretty tough time escaping from guys who can (and want) to speak English!

Anyway, my tips are:

  1. Be very outgoing; you may have to do things which you (possibly) wouldn’t normally dream of doing - e.g. church services, chess clubs, pottery classes, friendship circles for elderly folks, etc… You MUST meet people and make social contacts - just going into shops, etc, will NOT cut it.

  2. If you’re ever going to ask directions, etc, try to pick on an elderly person - you have a much better chance of getting an answer in German.

  3. If there is a particular shop, bar, restaurant, etc where the staff are English language fanatics, try to avoid going back there; try to find smaller establishments (often outside of town centres) where the patrons are mostly local people - especially ‘blue collar’ locals.

  4. Check out the local cinema. The chances are they will have films running which were released in England some months earlier, which you therefore may have seen already; now see 'em again, but this time with a dubbed German soundtrack!

  5. Whenever you’re not outside, try to watch TV all the time.

  6. Don’t try to read books - but by all means stock up on graphic novels (if you’re into them.)

  7. Have fun. Always remember that, although Germans are a little different from normal humans, they can’t help it - and most of 'em are really quite nice! ;-D

I’m sure you will make huge strides in 3 months although I would think it’s your speaking skills more than your listening and comprehension that should take the biggest jump. You should be able to really improve your listening and comprehension long before you get there just by using LingQ…of course! Lots of listening!

No eugrus, this is not the Benny approach. It is the opposite. This is exactly what I would choose to do. Get your comprehension, vocabulary and familiarity with the language up to a level where you can expect to be able to converse with people, and then go to the country, as a reward, and to achieve a breakthrough. Excellent!!

My experience is that people there are generally friendly, more so in Germany than in Austria, more so in the North than in the South, and quite willing to speak German with you, although not always. You will not be able to spend your day speaking to people, but the fact of being in an environment where the language is all around you, where using it is necessary and the situation is real, will change your outlook on the language and help you make a breakthrough. Don’t let the odd unfriendly, impatient person, or person who switched to English on you, discourage you. These people exist everywhere.

Restaurants are great for conversations, especially those where you share tables with people, which is quite common. The same is true of pubs.

Get a railpass and travel the country. The small towns in Germany are wonderful and the scenery, often simply beautiful.

Just living there, and traveling there, and having to negotiate your way in train stations, grocery stores, book stores etc. , while not providing a lot of conversation, helps to hone your German readiness.

Contrary to Rank’s advice, I do read books and listen to audio books while in the country, and don’t watch a lot of movies or TV. It all depends on your interest. In the larger towns in Germany, you have access to great book stores, with tons of audio books. These are also great places to meet people. Besides, you cannot just spend the day walking around expecting to talk to people. I really recommend reading a lot. You will probably be on trains or other forms of transportation. If you are able to strike up conversations there, fine, otherwise, reading about the country in German, or listening to audio books on subjects of interest, and in German, helps to keep you immersed.

Good luck!


Read a lot? Absolutely - I couldn’t agree more. But after 1, 2 or 3 months? Well, I think it depends what Guitario’s reading level is now.

I was by no means a beginner when I first lived in Germany, but I would say it took me at least 6 months before I was ready to start reading straight authentic German language materials. (But people are different, of course…)

Thanks for the replies.

My provisional plan is to go straight to Munich and some small towns in and around the area before getting the train or bus to Vienna (might hop to Bratislava for a visit while I’m there). The other plan is to do the North West with Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Cologne all in close proximity.

I have friends in Basel Switzerland and I thought about paying a visit, and while they do speak normal German fluently, it prob won’t help me as the rest of the city is Swiss German and it may as well be in klingon!

Also Steve, i think it’s totally possible to spend all day speaking with people. Obviously not every day but I’m outgoing and am not afraid to speak with strangers, especially women. I plan to make some friends over there, go to some bars/clubs also and maybe a few dates too. :slight_smile:

Of course this is assuming my German is a half decent standard to begin with, which I hope it will be with my goal of 10,000 words. I was listening to your German podcasts with Irene and others and your speaking level is what I hope to be close to before I travel.

München, Wien and Bratislava are beautiful…Düsseldorf and Köln are nice…but why on earth the dirty industrial “Ruhrpott” with Dortmund? :wink:

I don’t know where you live, and whether you really know the “Ruhrgebiet” (Ruhrpott) of today. Just one comment: The “dirty industrial Ruhrpott” has changed to a nicer and greener area than you would expect. Many people visited the “Ruhr 2010” expo and were quite astonished about the changes in the last years.

Aha, der Hape kommt aus dem Ruhrgebiet! :smiley:

Southern Germany => clean air, lovely scenery, mountains, forests, excellent beer, buxom ladies, nice folks…

North-Western Germany => (as Borat might say) “not so much”!

We must tell it like it is folks! :smiley:

Of course there are some nice places in the Ruhrgebiet (Hattingen comes in my mind) and I have seen myself that much has changed since I visited it for the first time in 1992. But anyway, I wouldn’t think about to go for vacation or side-seeing in the big towns like Dortmund (except for watching soccer), Essen, Bochum, Bottrop or Gladbeck, especially if it would be my first trip to Germany. Therefore I am interested, why guitario wants to visit this place.

Btw. I don’t live in the Ruhrgebiet, so I don’t say that I know it very well. But I have relatives there and so I have visited it quite often.