Language learning is an intimidating and demanding process. Many language students fantasize about being able to fluently speak their target language as they grind away hopelessly at heir vocab and grammar exercises. No matter how dedicated we are to learning a language, doing so takes time and effort.
That being said, there are lots of ways you can get a great start learning certain parts of a language very quickly. If you just want to be able to order drinks at the bar when you’re on vacation, for example, you can learn that small amount in a short period of time. Even if you’re looking for a more complex understanding of the language, there are a myriad of ways you can master a conversational level within a reasonable time frame.
So in the case of German, how intense is learning the language? Is German really difficult? Does it take a lot of memorization? Can you learn German in a year?
The key to learning a language quickly is planning and dedication. Rushing through exercises and lessons will not teach you anything faster, it will only teach you poorer. If you want to learn as much of a language as possible, the most important thing is to have a good idea in your head of what exactly you will be studying, and how you will be studying it.
There are a number of methods that are built to teach language quickly. As much as thoughtful consideration is important when trying to learn any language, one of the most effective methods you will be using is immersion. Using native materials and other resources to create a thoroughly German presence in your day-to-day life will force you to use the language, and teach your brain how to speak it very quickly.
Of course, as with any method of language learning, you must do it properly. It can be easy to listen to German music all the time, watch German movies, and read German newspapers, but you have to make sure you are practicing and growing in a constructive manner. Immersion is very organic, but it will not automatically make you fluent or skilled in any language.
For this article, we’ll be taking a close look at language learning in general, and trying to answer the question about whether or not you can learn German in a year. We’ll also be looking at some specific challenges posed by learning German and a few good ways of working around these roadblocks. Hopefully, we can discuss and learn a few things about constructing good learning environments, and practicing conversational skills at a fast pace.
How Much Time Do You Need To Learn German?
It’s entirely unrealistic to learn any language in a year. Even if you can become fluent in every day conversation (which is entirely possible, by the way), you won’t have a deep understanding of the language that comes with speaking it and understanding it for long periods of time. Most people never really become fully literate or fluent in their own native language, let alone a foreign one, and trying to do so within a single year is quite ambitious.
That being said, depending on your goals with a language, it is entirely possible to learn certain competent skills inside of a single year. If you only needed basic conversational skills for buying groceries or ordering goods online, the grammar and vocabulary necessary for that could probably be understood within a few months. In the end, it will depend on your ability to adapt, immerse yourself, and stay dedicated to your studies.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that “learning German” refers to obtaining basic conversational fluency. A good example would be the ability to talk about things like the weather, interact with shop owners and services, discuss topical events such as news stories, and understand or give directions. If we allow ourselves to learn how to do these basic things, fleshing out the vocabulary and grammar becomes much easier.
For learning the grammar and vocabulary necessary for these basic conversational skills, a hybrid method of self-study and immersion is the most popular method. The general idea is to use textbooks, flashcards, online resources, and other tools to give yourself a good understanding of the basics. Once you have some good groundwork to build on, you can begin immersing yourself and studying native sources (like movies and magazines), in order to study and practice the language as it is actually used.
Obtaining a well-rounded and effective understanding of grammar like this can take as long as we want. We can study grammar theory and vocabulary for years and years, or we can build a basic set of skills that will allow us to speak and understand some German quickly. Even if we don’t learn the whole language in a year, we will be able to interact with German speakers, and quickly build a more complex understanding of the language.
Challenges And Considerations
The first thing we will want to consider is the challenges involved with tackling the German language within a year. There are some technical concerns with language learning in general which we should consider, as well as some specific qualities of German that are likely to give some students trouble. Taking the time to fully understand these challenges is important, and will prepare us for making constructive lesson plans later on.
One of the most important challenges involved with self-study is the possibility of practicing bad habits. When we teach ourselves, even if it is just to supplement things we’ve been taught in a classroom, we run the risk of teaching ourselves bad habits. Practicing incorrect ways of speaking or writing can be very destructive, since unlearning bad habits is much more difficult than developing good ones in the first place.
Another major challenge with learning language, in general, is the cost involved. Even without expensive courses or assisted learning resources, it can be expensive to cultivate a truly immersive environment, as well as dedicate the time required to properly study a language. Then there are specific challenges posed by the German language itself.
German has very complex grammar and pronunciations that are difficult for many other language speakers to learn. Their technical language is also much more complex and has little in common with English. They have more verb tenses, and the tenses themselves are more difficult to form.
One of the most difficult aspects of German for English speakers is the declension of the nouns. In German, nouns are “declined”, meaning their inflection changes based on their syntactic role in the sentence. This functions kind of like how verbs are conjugated to show their role, except declension deals with nouns instead of verbs.
Although these challenges can create a very tangible roadblock to effectively learning German, they are not insurmountable hurdles. Methods exist for language learning that can minimize the impact of these challenges, and being aware of them in general can go a long way towards helping us form good linguistic habits.
For learning German within a year (or, at least, enough German to carry a basic conversation), it is probably unrealistic to learn and study properly in a classroom setting. That is, unless you have a very good teacher, a small class size, and you are ready to supplement your classroom studies with rigorous self-study sessions.
Since classroom learning is largely ineffective for fast-paced targeted study, the method you will probably want to use is a hybrid of self-study techniques and immersion. We discussed this a bit earlier, but we’ll talk more about it here. Self study allows you to learn what you need, at your own pace, without dedicating large swaths of time to memorizing lists of grammar that are good to know, but slow down your progress towards the skills you want.
Of course, you will want to learn all of that boring stuff eventually, but learning effective and practical language skills is much more effective for fast-paced learning. As long as you get the basics and can carry on a conversation, you can fill in the blanks later. In fact, many of the blanks will fill themselves in as you learn the language.
Pros And Cons Of Different Methods
There are some basic techniques for self-study and immersion that can come in handy when trying to learn German in a year. These include flash cards, textbooks, assisted learning apps, online courses, native sources (e.g. movies, books), and pen pals/online chatrooms. All of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s good to get an idea of how using them together can help you grain a good basic understanding of German.
First up is flash cards. Flash cards are great for one thing: memorization. Lot’s of schools use repetition in order to teach things that must be memorized, but this has been shown to be ineffective. The key to memorizing things effectively is spaced repetition, which flash cards are perfect for.
The main disadvantage of flash cards is the need to actually create and manage them. There are apps, like Anki, that can help create and manage flashcards effectively, and it is recommended that you do so. Still, in order to effectively learn, you must make your own flash cards, and this can take time.
Next up is textbooks. Textbooks are good for learning and practicing basic grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. Good textbooks have exercises and vocabulary lists which are great for making your own practice exercises and flashcards from. Although they outlive their usefulness pretty quickly if used properly, textbooks are a great resource for dedicated language students.
There are two main cons to textbooks. They are boring, and learning from them requires a lot of dedicated effort. The best textbooks will have interesting and effective lessons, exercises, and resources, but it will still take time and effort to benefit from them. Another disadvantage is the cost.
Assisted learning apps are a great and relatively new resource that are constantly expanding. Apps like Duolingo can be very effective to supplement dedicated language study. They provide an easy and effective way to add lightweight language exercises to your day-to-day life, and some even have game-like methods of motivating their users to study.
The main cons of these kinds of apps are the costs. Most of the free versions are very limited, with low-quality resources. Another con is that these cannot be used by themselves, and they are less effective than self-managed counterparts (e.g. flashcards). They also require a device of some kind with an internet connection in order to use them.
Online courses are much like assisted learning apps, but they are much more intense. These courses will typically use experienced teachers to plan lessons and distribute exercises to students. Most online learning resources are very one-on-one, making them quite effective for quick learning. If you’re dedicated to language studies, it can be very easy to learn with an online course.
The main disadvantage to this obviously is the cost. Free resources are available, but like with assisted learning apps, they can be very limited and ineffective. Another possibility is language learning scams and for-profit schools that fail to teach anything of value. As always, it’s important to educate yourself and keep your wits about you.
Learning by immersing yourself with native resources is probably the easiest and most effective method once you’ve gotten into the groove of things. Once you’ve got a good source for native German resources like TV shows, movies, and books, it’s very easy to learn a lot of stuff really quickly. You can take everything you don’t understand from your native resources and use it to make flash cards or exercises.
The cons of doing this is basically that it takes a lot of time and money to do properly. The best way to immerse yourself is to actually move to Germany. Since this is unrealistic for most people, it is necessary for them to obtain native resources either through the internet or by shipping them from Germany.
The final method is another good one, involving pen pals or online chatrooms. Connecting with real native speakers, or even online teachers, can give you unique opportunity to lean and gain experience with practical language skills. Pen pals, language learning partners, and online communities with native speakers are all great resources for making these kinds of connections.
The main disadvantages of this method are the effort involved in connecting with people, as well as the risks involved with using the internet. Using safe browsing practices is essential to protecting your safety online. Always remember never to give personal information to people online if you don’t know them.
So, How Much Time Does It Take?
Learning German can be a very demanding and fruitful experience for those dedicated enough to undertake it. Learning the conversational basics of the language within a year is even more demanding, but it can be done by the right students utilizing the right methods. The key is to stay informed, and carefully plan your lessons and exercises in order to form a good conversational understanding that can be built upon.
There are many theories about language learning, and how different methods can affect the amount of time it takes for different people. An interesting benchmark that you will hear from time to time is 10,000 hours. It’s generally thought to take around 10,000 hours of proper practice in order to develop a skill to mastery.
Of course, this will always depend on the student, the target language, and their dedication to studying the language every day, in a constructive manner. It can be easy to get into a comfortable zone of minimal practice and progress, but fast paced learning requires us to push ourselves to the limit.
In the end, it is possible to learn some German in a year. Although it is unlikely you will gain a mastery of the language itself, it is entirely within our grasp to study languages to conversational fluency if we use the right methods and techniques. Finding the methods that are right for you is key.
One word of warning that we will give to you is that if you try and rush your language studies, you’re gonna have a bad time. It’s simply unrealistic to rush through a very complex and thoughtful undertaking and expect good results. As much as it can be tempting to learn as much as possible very quickly, it is important to do so thoughtfully, and with dedication to your studies.
Learning German can give you a unique opportunity to experience a culture full of history and grandeur. Being able to speak German when traveling in Germany can also give you a great way to liven up the experience, and really connect with the things you see and the people you meet. Even when we try to learn languages very quickly, taking the time to learn them properly can open up a world of opportunities for us.