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How to continue learning German between now and when German classes resume: Study Tips from Stephanie Clarke!

Stephanie Clarke
Berlin, am 21. December 2012

Whether you’re staying in Berlin or going back to your home country over the Christmas break, you may be asking yourself how you can continue learning German between now and when classes resume in the new year. Having had this same concern, as I go back to England over the Christmas period, I asked a number of DeutschAkademie teachers for some tips on how to keep up with German over the next couple of weeks. Based on their suggestions and recommendations, here are a number of simple steps that we can all take to keep our German up over the break and after…

Producing ‘Vokabelkarten’ (vocabulary cards)

This was something that was strongly encouraged by my teacher from Day 1 of my courses at DeutschAkademie. These vocabulary cards should be pocket-sized cards with German vocabulary written on one side and then the translation in your first language on the other side. For nouns, for example, simply put the noun in its singular and plural forms including gender, and then on the other side, the translation in your mother tongue. For verbs, depending on your German level, you can put it in its infinitive form and then in the tenses you have covered in class. I personally have found that having these cards to remind and test myself has really helped me to quickly build up a more substantial German vocabulary. If you’ve not already started making vocabulary cards for yourself, do it today! This easy and simple trick is great for studying on the move, whether that be on your flight home for Christmas or on the U-Bahn on your way to and from class!

Revising the work you have done in class over the past month

Revising the work you have done in class over the past month is something that you should also try. Making sure that you are confident in what you have already covered, will help provide you will a more solid foundation of German, helping you progress further in next month’s course. Here, you can go over old exercises from the textbook and complete those which were perhaps skipped by the teacher, refreshing yourself with both grammar and vocabulary.

Free online resources

The internet provides many free online resources to help you learn and practice German which you may find useful to use during the holidays. Deutsche Welle was recommended to me by one of the teachers as having lots of great resources, with numerous exercises, articles, and audio tailored to your German level. DeutschAkademie also have free online German courses which have also been recommended to me by another teacher. There are numerous different sites also available providing different resources. One classmate of mine, for instance, swears by watching YouTube videos which help to breakdown German grammar and help with pronunciation. Others have talked about finding online news and magazine articles in German helpful.

Writing a diary in German

Writing a diary in German over the Christmas break was another suggestion made by one of my teachers. By writing a short (or long for those of you feeling ambitious) diary entry each day, you will be made to keep using the vocabulary you have already acquired and expand your vocabulary looking up new words in order to complete your entries. This is something that only need take 5 or 10 minutes of your time each day but can really help to keep you thinking and writing in German.

Watching German television and listening to German radio

Watching German television and listening to German radio is a great way to adjust your ears to the German language and to keep this up while you’re abroad. While you may not have access to German television shows while abroad, most radio stations can be accessed online. Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand everything, you’re not expected to straightaway and I certainly don’t! What I do find, however, is that having the radio on in the background at home helps me to get used to listening to German, to hearing the accent and to getting used to the pace of speech. Another great way to do this is by watching your favourite films in German with German subtitles. This allows you to hear the spoken language while also seeing the written text on the screen. By watching films you’ve already seen, it doesn’t matter so much if you don’t understand everything as you can still follow the storyline from memory.

Talk with native German speakers!

And finally, where possible, talk with native German speakers! Admittedly, this is a lot easier said than done – when you’re new to the city and are not fluent in the language it can be especially hard to make friends with natives. I’d be the first one to admit that speak German can be really intimidating, particularly when you feel your vocabulary is so limited.  But, as all teachers stressed, in order to get more comfortable speaking German and used to hearing German, you really must practice doing so. They therefore suggested finding a tandem partner, giving you more opportunities to speak German. No matter what your mother tongue is, in Berlin you should always be able to find German natives looking to learn your language and who are interesting in finding a tandem partner. This is also a great way to make new friends and have locals show you new and exciting places in Berlin!

I wish you the best of luck with your German studies and hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas break!

Stephanie Clarke

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