There are many reasons to learn a foreign language. It can improve your memory, advance your career, make you a better problem-solver. There are also many reasons to learn German in specific. After all, German is one of the most common languages in the Western world (especially in Europe). In this post, we will be looking at some of the best ways to learn German on your own.
Before You Start
There might be many reasons as to why you’ve decided to learn German on your own. Maybe you’re an introvert. Maybe you hate the class environment. Or perhaps you can’t really afford or access classes. Either way, it doesn’t matter. This guide is for all solo learners, no matter what your motivations may be.
You might’ve heard that it’s nearly impossible to learn a language on your own. Really, no one can do it. But this is wrong. Contrary to what some may say, it’s actually pretty common for people to learn languages on their own. Including German. I myself prefer learning languages alone.
There are, however, a couple of things you will need to learn German on your own successfully. These are:
- Discipline: You will find it very difficult to learn a language if you only do it “when you feel like it.”
- Patience: Languages are difficult. They don’t always make sense, and there is a lot to learn. More than you think. And that goes double for German. You will make mistakes and face plenty of obstacles, and for that, you have to be patient. With the language and with yourself.
- Passion: If you’re not motivated enough, chances are you will find it impossible to stick with language learning. Find your drive—the reason why you want to learn. And keep reminding yourself of it.
- Resources: Specifically, the right resources. The material you use can make or break your journey.
While some of these are deeply personal and will solely depend on you, some are things I can help you with. And I will. So, let’s get started. These are some of the things you need to learn German on your own:
Before you get started, it’s important to figure out what you’re doing. Ask yourself the following questions to get a better idea of your goals:
- Do I know any German at all? If yes, is it just a couple of words and phrases, or do I already have a solid base?
- What am I trying to achieve? Do I want to become fluent or learn just enough to get by on my next trip to Berlin?
- How quickly do I want to achieve my goals? Is this realistic?
- How much time a day (or week) can I spend learning German?
These questions should give you an idea of what kind of things you need to focus on. If you’re trying to become fluent, you need to be very diligent and thorough in your learning. You need to study grammar as well as vocabulary and practice all the different skills it takes to master a language (more on this later).
If your only goal is to be able to order a latté in Hamburg, then maybe you can spend less time on grammar and instead focus on common words and phrases, as well as pronunciation.
I would also recommend coming up with a schedule you can stick with. Consistency is key. If you want to learn German on your own, the best way to do so is to practice the language every single day – even if it is for just a couple of minutes.
Skills to Focus on When Trying to Learn German on Your Own
You need to make sure you cover all your bases. Languages aren’t just vocabulary. They aren’t just grammar, either. Any seasoned learner will tell you that there are several areas you need to work on. These are:
If you want to become fluent in German, you need to practice all of these. You’ll probably enjoy some more than others, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the ones you dislike. I, for one, hate practicing speaking – but I still do it. Speaking is, after all, crucial when it comes to language fluency.
Now, let’s move on to some of the resources and ways you can learn. With each one, I’ll explain in more detail which skill they cover and how you can get the most out of them.
Use Language Learning Apps
Language apps are invaluable. They’re interactive, fun, and easy to access. They make “learning on the go” not just a possibility but a simple reality.
They are also a goldmine when it comes to all the essential skills. You can learn grammar and vocabulary and practice reading, writing, and listening. Plus, if you repeat things aloud, you’re practicing speaking, too! See? All in one. Language learning apps are the best.
If you’re an intermediate learner, you can read our guide to some of the Best Intermediate German Apps. Don’t forget to check out Clozemaster, too – it’s a great way to improve your German and track your progress.
Grammar and Textbook Ideas
Having something to refer to when in doubt is important. Especially when it comes to grammar. Even more so when it comes to German grammar, which is almost infamous for its complexity.
This is why you may want to consider acquiring a textbook or a grammar book. But don’t worry – I’m not telling you to spend money on expensive books! Grammar books can come in many forms.
Yes, you can buy one. But you can also look online for any free grammar resources. For example, our Clozemaster blog offers lots and lots of grammar articles.
Personally, I like to use online resources to create my own personal grammar books. I read all the helpful articles I can, and then I write a summary in my little designated notebook. This way, I have an all-encompassing grammar resource that hasn’t cost me a penny. And because I write it all myself, I learn more. After all, you have to be pretty confident about a subject to be able to explain it and put it on paper.
Watch TV and Movies
This is one of the best ways to learn German on your own. It’s also one of the most fun ways!
Watching TV and movies may feel like a waste of time, but if you switch to German audio, it becomes extremely valuable. Not only are you getting all that needed listening in, but you’re also very likely to learn some fun informal and slang words and phrases.
Here are some examples of words and phrases I learned through watching German TV:
- pleite sein – to be broke
- kotzen – to barf
- das Weichei – wuss
See? These are fun and useful – certainly if you live in Germany and want to know what the natives are talking about. You won’t find these words in learner’s dictionaries and textbooks, but you will find them in media.
If you’re a beginner, there are two things I would recommend you do:
- Watch German cartoons. They’re made for kids, so the language level will be more suitable for your needs. You can watch with English subtitles, or, if you dare, with German subtitles (this is better, but only if you do know at least some German).
- Watch German dubbing of your favorite TV show. For example, if you’re a fan of The Office, go on Netflix and put German audio on. You already know what happens in the show, so it will be easier to keep up, even if the language has suddenly changed. Also, how fun is it to hear how German actors interpret your favorite characters?
If you’re a more intermediate learner, you can try watching proper German TV shows and movies. Netflix’s Dark is a show that everyone I know loves, so you can start there. But there are tons of other options, too – just give it a google!
Read Books in German
What’s the best way to improve your reading skills? By reading, of course!
You can opt for books written for German learners. This is especially perfect for beginners, as the language will be super simple, and there will be glossaries and exercises to accompany the texts.
You can also try reading some shorter, more accessible books. For example, Kafka’s Metamorphosis (or Die Verwandlung in German) isn’t as difficult as one might think.
Go on YouTube
YouTube is the holy grail for all language learners. Trust me – if you want to learn German on your own, you have to go on YouTube. The platform has everything. Let me show you what I mean:
Want someone to explain German tenses to you? Watch this helpful guide:
In the mood for some fun facts about German? Check out this interesting video:
Or maybe you just want to watch some videos in German to get more used to the language? Maybe these travel vlogs will be up your street:
You can learn vocab and grammar on YouTube, but you can also improve your listening and reading skills. And it’s all for free!
Connect with Other Learners
The one thing that you might miss out on when you learn German on your own (as opposed to in a classroom) is talking to other learners. This is important, not just for your speaking skills, but also for your motivation. Seeing how others are getting on might just encourage you to keep going, too.
Luckily, you don’t actually have to miss out on it. You don’t need a classroom to find people to talk to. Try looking into language groups or language cafés in your area. Those are always fun.
Or try using language exchange apps (like Tandem). There are dozens out there, all with many users wanting to connect with others and learn together. Learning German on your own has never been easier.
How to Learn German on Your Own – Final Thoughts
Learning a language can be a very rewarding process. Yes, it will be challenging and frustrating at times, but if you keep going, eventually, you’ll be able to see the results. And there’s no better feeling than that.
I hope this post has been helpful and that you now feel more ready to learn German on your own. But before you go, consider checking out some of the other helpful posts we have on our blog, such as: