In this post, you’ll learn about 6 strategies for boosting your German from Beginner A1/A2 all the way to the advanced level B2/C1.
These strategies make you think, analyze and reflect on what you learn – these principles are also called active learning. Studies show that the best approach to learning is “active learning”. Compared to passive learning, when you simply consume the information without much thinking about it and using it in practice, Active learning is all about engaging with the information, trying to understand it, and applying it. It’s harder work, but it’s efficient and more rewarding. There is no better feeling than noticing how your speaking confidence improves and how you used the words that you discovered just a few days ago in a real dialog.
Every successful language learner embraces hard work and active learning in their own unique way. It’s always great to get inspired by strategies that worked for others. That said, it’s up to you to create your own active learning approach to mastering German. Let’s jump right into it.
1. Never learn German vocabulary that’s irrelevant.
The biggest vocabulary learning mistake we see is rote memorization of frequency lists. That’s a waste of your time and such a miserable way of learning. Your brain only retains what it finds important. It’s extremely hard to find something important if you don’t actually know why it’s important. It just gets too dull over time and feels more like a chore. Even spaced repetition won’t crack it.
Discovering vocabulary effectively means learning only the words that you find interesting and relevant. One criterion for that is the likelihood of using the word in everyday life. Another is if it simply looks interesting and fun. How would you discover such vocabulary? Here are a few ways:
- Browse a dictionary online and read the words and their meanings without trying to learn them
- Watch funny commercials
- Watch interviews on Youtube or read news
- Try to ask yourself about how you’d say something you just said in German. Then go to DeepL and translate it
How is it efficient to spend more time on each word? – you might ask. Vocabulary learning is not just a numbers game. If you are learning 100 words a day and forgetting 99% of them within 3 days, you’re essentially wasting your time. You could be just learning 1 word a day, but spend more time on it so that you’d never forget it and know exactly how to use it and maybe learn other words that often appear in the same context because you did extra research. In short, doing extra research helps a lot with long-term retention.
Don’t just learn “ausgehen – to go out” on its own. Google it. A Google search returns the AnnenMayKantereit song “ausgehen” with cool lyrics that set the scene. The song is about a guy who’s asking a girl to go out with him.
Würdest du heute mit mir ausgehen? (Would you go out with me tonight?)
Ich würd dich auch nach Haus bringen (I’d also take you home)
A pretty cool way to build context around the word. Yes, you spent more time, but now you are way likelier to remember it. Discovering a cool German song is a sweet bonus.
2. Practice speaking with a native tutor
Here is the king of all problems we German learners face: we don’t get to speak German enough. Finding an opportunity to practice English is way easier than German. If you are not in Germany, you might think that moving to Germany would give you more opportunities to practice, but many expats in Berlin complain that practicing German is a challenge, as everyone either speaks or instantly switches to English.
Some folks manage to find tandem partners to practice. If you can find a great tandem partner, that’s amazing and you should definitely do it.
But it’s not easy for various reasons. Your native language might not be in demand. Or you might not have time or desire to teach others.
In that case, getting a private tutor is the best shortcut to getting plenty of German practice. It used to be more expensive, but thanks to platforms like iTalki and Preply, getting conversational practice is nowaffordable.
For as low as 8-10 Euros, you get 1 hour of German conversation practice with a native speaker! That’s invaluable. Make sure to go through a few tutors to find the one that works best for you. Don’t settle for the first tutor you discover and find one who’s motivated and eager to help you.
3. Use Heylama to build a vast & active vocabulary base
Heylama is the flashcard vocabulary tool designed exclusively for language learning. Heylama lets you quickly add your words, practice them with spaced repetition, and track your progress.
- It comes with features unique to language learning such as automatic pronunciation, translation, example suggestions, maximizing the speed of adding vocabs, etc.
- It's flexible and minimalist. It sports a no-bullshit and no-distraction design that lets you focus on learning and not managing the app or your vocabulary.
- The best part of Heylama is that it also comes with a Telegram coach that lets you practice your vocabs on your favorite messenger! Learners who use our Telegram coach learn 4x more vocabs. Learning with our Telegram coach feels like a fun conversation, not a chore. Smart reminders sent at perfect times will help you stay on track.
We already have a strong community of 1000s of users who are helping us make Heylama the #1 vocab learning tool for serious learners🤘.
4. Learn what you would learn anyway, but in German
You’re probably taking online courses or reading books on certain subjects. Whatever fascinates you most likely also fascinates native German speakers. That means that there are books, podcasts, blogs, youtube channels, and more about that subject in German language. That’s awesome because that lets you learn about things you like while improving your German.
You might find it hard at the beginning, but as you pick up the relevant words and phrases related to the subject matter, you’ll quickly get used to learning about it in German. It’s extremely effective.
5. Create Tik Toks
If you have no way of practicing your German, then TikTok is a great place to start. Many language learners share TikToks on how they are learning German (or any other language), tell stories from their lives, and practice the new words they learned. It’s a super supportive community. Here is an example:
6. Sign yourself up for a test
Some people have an unlimited supply of intrinsic motivation and can keep learning on and on. Most of us are not like that. Some of us need external pressure such as a deadline or social commitment to get into action.
If that resonates with you, then there’s a great way to take advantage of that. Sign up for a German language test, 1 or 2 levels above your current level. Give yourself exactly 6 months. For an extra boost, make a public announcement and ask your friends to hold you accountable. If you do it right, the 6 months leading up to the test will be a game-changer for your German skills. The cheapest German language test is the Telc or Duolingo test. Here is a post about how I used this strategy to improve my German and how I prepared for the test.