10 Tips For Improving Your German

Learning German can be difficult and frustrating, but there are many ways to not only make it easier but also incorporate learning German in your daily life so that you don’t even realise you are doing it. Here are 10 of them that I have either done or, in most cases, am still doing:

1. Read German Books: This is the most important tip I have for improving your German, which is why I have put it at number 1. If you want to expand your vocabulary, gain confidence in reading German texts or improving your grammar, reading books written in German will achieve all these goals. Start out with children’s books, especially if you are a beginner. I started reading basic chapter books designed for 6 years old, like the one below about 3 years ago.

Then slowly over the years have worked my way up to reading young adult books. Try reading books you enjoyed as a child like Paddington Bear or Harry Potter or anything written by Enid Blyton, that way you already know the story and can work on learning new vocab and gaining confidence reading German.

2. Change Your Smartphone’s Language to German: Let’s face it, you probably spend more time looking at your smartphone than you want to admit, so why not use this time for a little language practice. You are probably already an expert user of your phone so changing the language isn’t going to leave you helpless, but it will teach you some handy vocab such as the names of the days and months.

3. Listen to German Radio: Every morning I turn on the radio and listen to NDR Info as I go through my morning routine. I’ve become a particular fan of the traffic report mainly because of the weird stuff that tends to find its way onto the road in Northern Germany. Even if you are a beginner, listening to news/talk radio is a good idea as it will tune your ears into the flow of German and you get to feel that thrill when you catch a word you understand.

4. Listen to German Podcasts: Another listening exercise, but one you can do on your way to work. Travelling on public transport is not the most exciting thing on the world so why not use this time to work on your listening skills. For beginners, podcasts like Deutsch- warum nicht? are a good place to start. Intermediate learning may enjoy Grüße aus Deutschland and advance learners Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten or Alltagsdeutsch.

5. Watch German TV and Films: This is a perfect way to improve your German whilst doing something fun. I suggest watching a mixture of dubbed German TV/films and TV/films made in German. The first is a great way to watch a film or TV series you already know in German and the second is a handy way to learn slang and everyday speech. Don’t forget to turn on the German subtitles (if available) to help you understand the dialogue. If watching films or TV series is beyond your ability right now, then start with something like Sesamstraße (Sesame Street).

6. Work on Vocab Using Memrise: Memrise is an online tool where you can learn vocab using spaced repetition – which is reviewing learned words in a way that is designed to boost lodging those words in your long-term memory. You can make use of vocab lists that have already been created or you can create your own.

7. Label Everything In Your House: This is a great tip for beginners – and that is to use your house as your language classroom.  Label everything (and I mean everything) in your house in German – and don’t forget to include the article der, die or das. Use blue paper for masculine words, pink for feminine and white/yellow for neutral to help you remember which words are which. This is what my old apartment used to look like when I first starting learning German.

8. Play Games in German: For those of you with gaming consoles, you can, depending on the console and the game you are playing, change the language into German. For those of you who enjoy playing online games, you can hunt down the German language version of your favourite games or find new games in German. Since I love trivia games, I have just started playing Triviador. Yes, it’s cheesy, but that’s part of the fun. For those of you who like your games old-style, then I recommend the board game Tabu (Taboo). I played it in German class this week and it was more fun than it honestly should have been.

9. Listen to German Music: Load up some German music onto your iPod and listen to it whilst you workout, clean the house or whenever you normally listen to music. If you have no idea where to start with German music, then check out my Deutsche Musik playlist.

10. Lyrics Training: This is a great, fun way to combine listening to German music with improving your listening skills. Lyrics Training has 3 different skill levels from beginner to advance and it’s a great way to discover new music whilst working on your listening skills.

Hopefully you will find some or even all of these tips helpful. If you have any tips of your own that you have found has made a real difference to your German learning, then please let us know in the comments below.




24 thoughts on “10 Tips For Improving Your German

  1. Thanks for the great post Meg! :) Now have Netflix so I can check out Mord mit Aussicht ~ and Triviador I love! It’s hard trying to get the questions when one does not know all the vocab… but, it’s so much fun!

    • You are going to love Netflix – there’s so much to watch in both English and German. I’m now exploring the greater world of German film.
      You are right about Triviador, it is hard to answer the question when you have no idea what they are talking about, nor is there time to look up what the word means, but it is way more fun than it should be.

      • that game is so hard.. even if you understand the question.. choosing the right answer is really schwierig

  2. I learned a lot of curse words from watching Til Schweiger films (which explains my accent while cursing sometimes, see: https://mylifeinlederhosen.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/schlappschwanz-for-idiots-daily-deutsch/) but I swear the absolute best way to learn German is to go out with German speakers (natives are best, but advanced non-natives are good, too) and refuse to speak English.

    If it helps at first, you could also speak English while demanding they stay in German. It’s not easy to express yourself in German at first, and I always know who shares my sense of humor based on whether they giggle at my mistakes or correct me when I say I “survived” an exam instead of “took” it (ueberstanden v. bestanden), but it is vital to your development to hear how other people use the language. It was the only way I figured out, i.e., that there are 10 different ways to say I want to vomit and from context, knew my favorite was “ich kotze gleich.” Honestly, even after all the studying and exams I did, the only reason my German is so good is because I spent every afternoon on the playground with Diva when she was 2 and made those mamas talk to me. Sometimes it was embarrassing what I said, but it worked wonders.

    • That’s such a great tip. I know I should be spending more time with people who speak German, but I keep making excuses like people won’t want to talk to me because my German can be all over the place & I need them to repeat things. But these are just excuses. I know I need to get out of my comfort zone & just do it. Thanks for the push! :)

  3. Thank you for this post! I haven’t been studying German for long but am already feeling like I’ve hit a bit of a wall idea-wise! I listen to the radio and watch a couple of TV shows, but you have some really great tips here :) Love the idea of plastering the flat in post-its – not sure how my flatmates will feel about it though haha! Thanks again! Linda.

    • It is definitely normal, for me anyway, to hit a wall many times whilst learning German when you have no idea what to do or how to do it. My best advice is just to keep on chipping away at it a bit at a time. Listening to the radio and watching TV are great activities especially since it doesn’t feel like studying.
      Best of luck!!

      • Thanks! I ended up buying a book for 6-8 year-olds today :) I looked like a bit of a loony reading it on the train on the way home (it came with a ‘magic eye’ that I was trying to figure out), but it will all be worth it in the end! I also bought post-its but have promised my flatmates to restrict them to my room ;)

        • Well done! Since you live in Germany I definitely recommend getting a library card and borrowing books from the children’s section of the library. It’s much cheaper than buying children’s books that you will probably never want to re-read again.

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  5. I have downloaded few apps for practicing my vocab and one of them is Wortschatz(the name in the Google Play store is “Learn German – 3400 words” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wlingua.voc.de&hl=en_GB android). It helps you to develop your listening skills also as it actually contains the learning words and a part of the game is to hear the German words and match them with English. I have spent over one hour studying today.
    BTW a good post, shall start doing a couple of changes in the flat soon :D Also I will advise this to my flatmate who learns Spanish :)

  6. Thank you so much for sharing! I already do several of these, but I will have to give some of them that I haven’t before a shot. Danke! :-)

  7. My american husband came to Germany in Februar 1981.
    By February 1982 he spoke fluently “Hochdeutsch” !
    The “high german” means perfect german without “slang” !
    You want to know how ?
    With a “Kinderduden” from 1966 ( it’s a childrens dictionary !), and the commercials on German Television wich only had 3 (!!!) programstations in those days !!! :-)
    He had a lot of sparetime alone at home while I was at the university during the day, so I gave him lessons he had to rehearse !
    On every page of the Kinderduden there is a picture of everyday stuff and occasions, and on the opposite page is the written expression to each item shown on the picture . Like a picture of a livingroom, for example. Each item on the picture has a number, like the entrancedoor is #1
    (die Eingangstür);
    the ceiling #2 (die Decke);
    the Windows #3 (das Fenster) …
    and so on.
    I bought him a “notebook” (not the kind of from today, but the paperstyle notebook for to write “notes” in.)
    To each item I wrote him the english expression, plus the german spelling to the words numbered in the Kinderduden.
    Since it was made for 1st. graders it was really simple written, but easy to understand.
    So he had to do a new page everyday while I was gone, and to repeat the ones from the days before !
    In the evening I asked him questions about the things he learned new that day, and we exercised his spelling and writing !
    He was getting really fast an expert in spelling the words right, cause every evening he watched the german commercials on TV. And they got repeated over and over again, every day !!!
    I think even today he still knows them all, like “Tilly” and her “Palmolive handcare”, or “Klementine” and her “Ariel” -Washingmashine detergent !!!
    He still can sing all the jingles to it !!!
    “Repetition” is the trick to it all !
    And starting out “slow and easy”, and in a calm ambiente !
    No need to rush, or to start at “expert-level” !
    If you start on a “Kinder”-level you don’t fail so easy, and you don’t get unsatisfied too fast !
    Now he has a terrible “german” accent,(thanks to his working colleagues )
    and he speeks a better regional slang (“Pfälzisch” / Palatinate Idiom) then I do !
    That’s my hint for you how to learn a foreign language !
    In this case : Difficult german !!!
    And I can proudly say: He never “rolled” the “r”, like a lot of Americans do !!!

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