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Learning a language

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 MikeR 10 May 2020

Hi all,

One productive thing I'm trying to do with lockdown is to learn some German.

I've been using the Duolingo app for a few weeks now. I quite like it and have certainly learnt quite a bit from that. But from what I've read it's best used in addition to classes.

Obviously face to face classes are not an option just now, and unlikely to be for me even when lockdown ends due to working shifts.

Can anyone recommend a method of learning German to supplement Duolingo?

For background info, I'm rubbish at languages, got an F for GCSE French and my only other language skills was some limited Spanish picked up over the course of six months in South America. However, I would love to get to conversational level in German as my partner is German. While she is fluent in English, a lot of her family speak very little English.

I realise that the best way would be to live in Germany for an extended period, but that's not an option, at least not at the moment. Any other suggestions welcome.

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 Oceanrower 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

If your partner is German then, surely, you have answered your own question.

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 Yanis Nayu 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Michel Thomas method, then MyLanguageExchange for practice. This will work!

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to Oceanrower:

We did try that, but while she's fluent in both languages, she's not the best at teaching. We have discussed the idea of German only days, but they would be pretty limited conversation at the moment! Need to get to higher level before that would work.

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to Yanis Nayu:

Thanks, I'll give those a look.

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 girlymonkey 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Instead of doing German only days with her, why not start with a pre prepared conversation with her. Then build up to non prepared but something you have researched a bit. Then do German only half hours or meals or something like that and build it up?

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 Doug 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

> We did try that, but while she's fluent in both languages, she's not the best at teaching. We have discussed the idea of German only days, but they would be pretty limited conversation at the moment! Need to get to higher level before that would work.


My wife is French & we mostly speak French at home. Every now & again she asks that we speak English as she'd like to improve her English. But every time it lasts maybe 20 minutes as she can't find the words in English. Do you have German TV ? especially if you also have subtitles.

For what its worth I was also terrible at languages at school (grade 6 in O level French) but learnt the language while working in a French speaking lab as a postdoc so it can be done.

Post edited at 11:03
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 Yanis Nayu 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

The main thing by a million miles is motivation. 

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 RBonney 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

I second Michael Thomas and found the app memrise to work really well with duolingo. Try using all 3 concurrently. 

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to girlymonkey:

Thanks for the suggestion, worth a try.

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to Doug:

I could try switching Netflix to German perhaps.

Well done for learning French. I think if I was immersed in it all the time, it would eventually percolate through. I doubt I'd ever become fluent without moving there, but would be nice to be able to talk to the extended family more easily.

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 Ciro 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

A French friend of mine, and his German partner went the whole hog - commited to not speaking German with each other until she was up to a decent conversational level (pretty much from scratch), prior to a holiday in France to meet his parents.

He said the first couple of weeks they used non-verbal communication to explain just about everything they were trying to say, but they maintained a sense of humour through the frustration, and it was only a month till she was at a pretty high conversational level.

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In reply to MikeR:

In the distant past, when I tried hard to become good at German, I did several things in parallel:

I tired to get as big a vocabulary as possible as quickly as possible. That makes it much easier to read things, which keeps it interesting, and also unlocks all the other paths to becoming better. In doing so you can see the grammar at work, so can get better at that.

One way of piling in a lot of words to start with is to use a themed English/German dictionary, where words are grouped by theme (the holiday, the supermarket, the farm etc). 

When your vocab is big enough you can learn more words by reading, noting down words you don't know as you come to them. This can be hard work though. To make it easier, read easy stuff about things you know about, so newspaper articles on topics you are aware of, and so on. You can also get books with parallel english/german text. 

I used a good grammar book too, Hammer's German Grammar and Usage, and made a point of doing some grammar work each day. I learned the tables of the different endings of words, by case and gender, by rote.

These days, I would listen to and watch all sorts of German on the internet. If you could find german films with English subtitles or vice-versa, that would help.

I was in a similar position to you, with a German wife who did not want to speak German to me, but had the advantage over you (I guess ) in that I lived for several years in Switzerland (which also brought  complications you could do without) and could immerse myself in it. It still took a few years though before I I could read a novel easily in German, and before I could just hear whether I was talking correctly.

Whatever route you choose, it's not rocket science but does  need time and some discipline. You won't go too far wrong with a combination of 1) learn lots of words, 2) learn lots of grammar and 3) have a go and don't be afraid to make mistakes. You eventually correct these using a combination of 1) and 2), which are the ones that need the discipline.

Oh, and having a goal can motivate you to learn more. I got started by making the false claim on a CV for a student summer job on a farm in Switzerland that I had German O level, when I didn't. I thought I could use the intervening six weeks to learn enough to cope, which I did, just. Much later, I had to teach a class, in German, once a week. I sweated for those.

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 HansStuttgart 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

If you enjoy reading, get German copies of children's books.

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to Yanis Nayu:

Well we're due to get married next year, and I'd like to do part of the speech in German, so that's some pretty good motivation!

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to Ciro:

That's some pretty impressive levels of motivation!

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to mbh:

Thanks for the suggestions. Yeah, I realise these things take a lot of time, just need to keep up the motivation for it.

Noticing little improvements along the way helps a lot.

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to HansStuttgart:

Thanks I like that idea.

We actually have a little one on the way, and are planning on bringing it up bilingual, so will definitely have German kids books.

My partner is planning on just speaking German to it, so that should help me too.

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In reply to MikeR:

That helped me a lot. We had two children who only spoke German until they were 4 and 7. I would speak English to them, they would speak German back. It seemed perfectly normal. Once we came to the UK, they rapidly flipped to English but still both have a remarkably good ear for German.

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 Doug 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

When I was learning French I found that reading about subjects I was interested in helped, so lots of French climbing magazines & books. As I was living in France they were easy to find which probably isn't the case if you're in the UK. But that was circa 30 years before the WWW came into use and now you can easily visit German/Austrain/Swiss  climbing sites on the web, and if you struggle, google translate is only a couple of clicks away.

Post edited at 11:56
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 daWalt 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

the good thing about german is it's phonetic. when you read: pronounce each letter individually, in the order given, you've said the word. even if you don't know what it means. once you know the correct sound to make for each letter (n.b. english speakers are notoriously awful, really, really awful at this) you're good to go. You can get your partner to at least help you out on this, e.g. v = pronounced like eng f, ü = eng oo, etc.

personally, me preference for becoming functional is abwandlung. get a phrase, or just a verb, and run though: he, she, they and past, present, future etc. this is what gives you the ability to put together what you want say from scratch. nouns are less important, you'll pick these up as you go.

the best advice I ever heard was in an interview with Antoine de Caunes: I'll have to paraphrase slightly, but it was essentially don't worry about making mistakes in your grammar, provided you can be understood, it has it's own kind of cuteness.

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 marsbar 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

I've found watching Netflix with subtitles on helps (both subtitles and sound on the language you want to learn) if they speak too fast you can read it too.  

Something easy with simple language to start with.  

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 baron 10 May 2020
In reply to marsbar:

I’ve just finished watching The Other Mother’ - a French series with subtitles.

Is was an excellent series made all the better because the subtitles meant that  I didn’t have to worry about the actors mumbling.

I don’t know what language the characters were speaking though, maybe it was the French equivalent of Geordie.

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 zv 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

To this day I feel the best approach to reach either near fluency or fluency are classes with a specialist teacher, preferrably a native speaker. 

Foreign languages are one of my major hobbies, learned English at school and German years ago, and have now been working hard in Spanish for a number of years. 

Initially I tried Spanish at home (even with a then native speaker partner) but that just wasn't cutting it. There is something about spending an hour a day, going through grammar, continously practicing new vocabulary and homework that I just could not get via apps or self taught books.

My local spanish institute (Cervantes) is offering online classes which probably not the best, I would still take multiple times over an app. 

For German in particular, I learned with classes from the Goethe Institut ( https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html ) and I cannot recommend them more. 

Enjoy! It's so rewarding and one of my favourite things in the world!

Post edited at 12:19
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 elsewhere 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

I was in this situation and she's still far better with languages than I am.

Speaking German with your partner is a very good idea. 
Learning German from your partner is a very bad idea! 

25 years later I almost never speak English with my in-laws. I didn't do my assigned homework so my grammar is terrible. Nobody cares except my then toddler nephews & nieces who corrected stupid Uncle Elsewhere. Now that they're older and learning English I get my revenge and speak English with them. 

I was recommended Goethe Institut, otherwise university evening class. That's for the post lockdown future though.

We watch loads of German TV, we pick the stuff that has German subtitles for the deaf.

It's free and no ads! Some stuff is geoblocked so you can't view in the UK but there is loads available.

To start with you can try German with English subtitles but I think German with German subtitles is better when you can manage that.

Channel 4, Walter Presents, English subtitles
https://www.channel4.com/collection/walter-presents

Inspector Borowski - aka Tatort Keil 
Deutschland 86
Bad Banks
Helen Dorn  
Deutschland 83 - very very good
Deadly Money
Shades of Guilt
The Mind of a Murderer
Inspector Falke - aka Tatort Dortmund 
Frozen Sky

German with German subtitles, thousand of hours of free & ad free viewing. Stick with English subtitles (above) if this isn't enjoyable, there's little point watching stuff you don't understand enough to enjoy.

The news is often the easiest to follow as you know a lot of the stories already and it's just 3 mins per subject. Good place to start?

https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/heute-journal

https://www.tagesschau.de/archiv/sendungsarchiv100.html - 20:00 Uhr

Documentaries on subjects you know are a good choice for maintaining your interest when you don't follow the German and subject understanding helps you follow the German.

https://www.ardmediathek.de/ard/ - a lot is available with German subtitles including vast (hundreds?) of Tatort episodes, crime plots maybe a bit difficult to follow

https://www.daserste.de/unterhaltung/film/freitag-im-ersten/sendung/praxis-mit-meerblick-willkommen-auf-ruegen-108.html
Lightweight fluff, easier to follow

https://www.zdf.de/serien/die-schwarzwaldklinik
Lightweight soap opera, very very eighties! Long ago I couldn't understand this so possibly not a good option.

Penguin Parallel texts (German & English versions of same story)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/German-Short-Stories-Deutsche-Kurzgeshichten/dp/0140265422

A climbing magazine that might be of interest
https://www.klettern.de/

BBC has German courses and sometimes drama on BBC4
http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/german/tv/onbbc.shtml

  

Post edited at 12:24
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L KriszLukash 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Top tip: watch loads of German movies / tv with subtitles on, in german of course. You can try the series Dark on Netflix !

Post edited at 12:28
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 freeflyer 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

> My partner is planning on just speaking German to it, so that should help me too.

An excellent idea all round.

Don't expect your partner to speak German to you, just leave it up to her how to respond. Any time you can say what you want in German, do it! Don't be afraid to make lots of mistakes, and don't expect her to correct you. When you need a word, look it up. Talk to yourself in German.

Vocabulary is the most important. Make lists of words in context, and learn them.

Don't worry too much about grammar and niceties like word endings. Yes, it's all important, but being perfect will come later.

Since you can't go there at the moment, TV is the best substitute; watch as much as you can in German, with and without subtitles. Listen for useful phrases and try to use them yourself.

Google Translate is your friend.

My German is rubbish but I'm trying to improve as I have Swiss friends; they are mostly keen on improving their English with me however as other posters have remarked My French is much better, and initially the French think I am Belgian, then I stumble and they ask where I'm from, and then they are amazed that an English person can speak French and they say well done and I say thankyou.

Post edited at 12:46
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 Doug 10 May 2020
In reply to freeflyer:

I'm never sure if being taken for Belgian is a) a compliment (they think I'm from Wallonia so speak French but a little oddly at times) or b) they think I'm from Flanders. I hope its the first

Not sure if the grammar does come later, I learnt French by speaking with friends & colleagues so sound reasonably fluent, can read fairly well but my written French is still poor. Not helped by working in a French speaking office where almost all our reports, publications, etc were in English so never really wrote much French at work other than emails

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to baron:

A lot of my other halfs  extended family are from Bavaria. Great for climbing, but even if I master German I think I might struggle to understand some of there replies!

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to zv:

Thanks, I'll check out the link.

It is pretty rewarding whenever I get an ahaa moment. It's also teaching me about English grammar, definitely not one of my strengths.

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

Thanks, loads of suggestions there.

My partner's young nephews live in Turkey at the moment, so are speaking a confusing mix of German, Turkish and the occasional English!

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to freeflyer:

Thanks for theothe tips.

I once got completed on my very good English about four months into my big South American trip, having been mistaken as a local. I think it was my tan after living mostly outdoors for the last three months rather than any local dialect that fooled them!

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 elsewhere 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

DW.de aimed at non-native speakers

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 kirsten 10 May 2020
In reply to elsewhere:

I learn Serbian (don’t ask) with native teachers via skype - it works pretty well, even in non-pandemic times.  When you’ve picked up a bit more then start reading,  maybe start with books for teenagers or first person narrative contemporary fiction.  Avoid children’s books, the language is all over the place and actually harder than something which may at first appear rather offputting. 

It’s incredibly difficult to flip the language you communicate with your partner in. We speak English but message in Serbian.  Changing either is just weird for both of us.  Don’t expect them to know why it’s X rather than Y any more than you can explain some of the the finer points of English. 

Have an interim goal maybe to pass an A2 or B1 exam. Gives you something realistic to work for as it’s very hard to feel you’re progressing otherwise.  With maths etc you have a eureka moment and then you understand something, i find that doesn’t happen with language. 

At least with German there is lots of carefully graded material. For me there’s nothing in between very beginner and full-on tv etc. 

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 Billhook 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

"Rubbish at languages"  

Rubbish!  How do you think you managed to learn English!

You could ask that your partner speak to you in German only.  Yes they'll be problems at the start as you will be starting from the same position as a baby does.  

I have experience of  my two grandchildren who both lived in Spain with their English mum and Spanish dad (who didn't speak any English).  Mum only ever spoke to her two kids in English even if, as one did when he became a teenager, and refused to speak to mum in English!.  Neither had any trouble learning to become totally fluent in both languages without confusion.  

Carlos never did take up my daughters offer to help him learn English, but 26 years of listening to his English being spoken at home means he's not too bad at English now though - learning through listening!!

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to Billhook:

> "Rubbish at languages"  

> Rubbish!  How do you think you managed to learn English!

You've not heard my English 😉

> You could ask that your partner speak to you in German only.  Yes they'll be problems at the start as you will be starting from the same position as a baby does.  

It's a nice idea, but I think life will be difficult enough with a new born.

It has actually made me think a bit about how babies learn language. I suspect it's quite different from an adult learning a new language, although I'm hoping it will help my quest for German.

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 jcw 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

In reply to MikeR:

One suggestion I make,  learnt on an Arabic interpretership  course,  is to use cards to build your vocab. Acquire or cut up packs of blank visiting card size and write the English on one side and the foreign language words, verbs etc with genders, declination, s.pl. etc on the other and carry 200 in a rubber band around with you in your pocket:  take them out whenever you have a spare moment and shuffle them till you have them be heart. When you pass the test say 75%, add in the next block. I am sure there are progressive lists in German language manuals of vocab recommendations  (certainly there are/were in French).

For youngsters I found the best thing in French at any rate was to get comics, eg Lucky Luke  and give them a dictionary (Google)  and they will work at it on their own enthusiastically . Plus showing them a bit of basic etymology, eg. Grimms law for trying to work out the meaning of a word Fr.  guêpe>< wasp, Ger.  proben/prove. Myself I used to read all the San Antonio detective stories full of slang not understanding most of it but finding one absorbed a remarkable amount as one went along: likewise with climbers. The trouble with German  is that unlike the French and Brits  they all seem to speak English. So if you find a partner you make it a condition  that they only speak in their language and refuse to reply or obey  any call in English; and pick up their slang and swearing on the way. You'll soon learn take in, slack, keep it snug along with what a Schuppe is when you get to it!

Good luck!

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 cb294 10 May 2020
In reply to mbh:

That is exactly the opposite to our children, we addressed them in German and they answered in English!

CB

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 DD72 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

A few people have mentioned the Goethe Institute. I would say wait till post lockdown as from bitter personal experience I would say their teaching is excellent but online their offer is as they say here ganz Scheiße.

The online materials from these guys are OK and not too pricy: https://shop.easy-deutsch.de/ 

For a simple website I found this fairly useful as well: http://germanforenglishspeakers.com/

Someone also mentioned Hammer Grammer. I am using this and I have sort of stuck with it because I'm used to it but I wouldn't recommend it as a lot of the terms aren't used in current teaching. I showed some of my German teachers and they were pretty unimpressed.

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 DD72 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Another tip, I have found reading articles online and then using DeepL to translate the sentences I cant understand helps me to read much more complex text, thus enjoying it more and improving my vocabulary at the same time.

It also gives you a different perspective on the news.

Some of the Deutsche Welle online stuff is also pretty good.  

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 Pefa 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

I'm in the same position with Czech and my partner who is very helpful doesn't have the patience to teach. It's especially embarrassing over there when I can't speak to his family. I gave it a bit of a go years ago but it seems such a huge effort when we don't live there. It's very frustrating as it isn't easy to learn. 

Post edited at 20:14
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 freeflyer 10 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

> A lot of my other halfs  extended family are from Bavaria. Great for climbing, but even if I master German I think I might struggle to understand some of there replies!

That is so, and I am also learning the Swiss-German dialect of the Valais, only because that's where I often end up. In my experience they make an effort to speak high German at least sometimes! One Swiss-resident friend is actually Dutch, speaks four languages, several dialects, and being Dutch, corrects my English, clearly.

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 MikeR 10 May 2020
In reply to jcw:

I like that idea. One of the things I'm struggling with is remembering all the seemingly random genders of everything.

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 zv 11 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Nice one Mike! Vielen Spaß! : )

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 Chris Shorter 11 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Hi

I live in the Czech Republic and have been learning Czech for 7 or 8 years. I've been using DuoLingo for the last couple of years and am currently working through the final level. Could I learn Czech almost exclusively from DuoLingo? Not a chance! I tend to view it as a sort of fun game that is useful for practicing certain aspects of the language. It is great for practicing word order within a sentence, for which Czech has a whole host of rules. But it's very little use for developing knowledge of the cases of nouns, adjectives, personal pronouns etc - crucial in Czech - and a good teacher is essential for this.

I live with a Czech partner. I did a month's intensive Czech summer school at the Masaryk University in Brno and the tutors there were amazed that we only spoke English at home. "You must speak Czech!" they all said (of course they actually said, "Musite mluvit Český doma!"). But if you've lived with someone for 12 years, and your whole life together has been in English, swapping to speak Czech would be a very profound change in our relationship.

My teachers say that their only really sucessfull students are those that must learn the language to work and they are probably right, as these people are forced to practice for 40 plus hours a week. Needless to say, I work for a company whose business language is English!

My best experience with using Czech was when I had to have two nights in hospital having a hernia operation. The Consultant and Surgeon spoke English but all the other doctors, nurses, catering staff, cleaners, patients and their visitors spoke only Czech. Really great 48 hour free Czech lesson for me and I got my hernia fixed as well! I was a bit bothered that my Czech might not hold up when I came around from the general anaesthetic in the recovery room with a befudled head but when the nurse asked me a couple of questions, I understood and could reply.

Good luck with your learning!

Chris

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 daWalt 11 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

>  seemingly random genders of everything.

this is difficult with any new language, probably because your not attune to the subtleties of tone and inflection. I think it helps to abandon the idea of gender as such, it's really no more than determitive option a, or determitive option b,

similar to why we say a banana, an apple. Try to develop a feel for what sounds right and why.

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 marsbar 11 May 2020
In reply to daWalt:

That isn't the same, there is a simple clear rule for a or an and it can be worked out from the rule which to use based on the first letter.  You don't have to learn the list of words that use an.  

As far as I am aware there is no alternative to learning which words are der die das, and then just when you get the hang of it there are more complications with tense.  

Post edited at 12:45
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 daWalt 11 May 2020
In reply to marsbar:

I didn't say it was the same. The point I was trying to make was native speakers know how to apply determanitives by feel. For example with words youve never heard before. 

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 Doug 11 May 2020
In reply to daWalt:

> I didn't say it was the same. The point I was trying to make was native speakers know how to apply determanitives by feel. For example with words youve never heard before. 


Not sure that's always true - my wife  is addicted to a French TV word quiz which includes a round for contestants to say whether a given word is masculine or feminine and they frequently get it wrong.

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 elsewhere 11 May 2020
In reply to marsbar:

> That isn't the same, there is a simple clear rule for a or an and it can be worked out from the rule which to use based on the first letter.  You don't have to learn the list of words that use an.  

> As far as I am aware there is no alternative to learning which words are der die das, and then just when you get the hang of it there are more complications with tense.  

I was once in Germany giving a technical talk in English and somebody didn't understand one of my slides. I read out sentence and he understood. I didn't understand why he now understood as I'd just read from slide.

On slide (in English) to save space it was equivalent of "cat sat on mat" but I automatically read out sentence as "the cat sat on the mat" which he understood.

We then discussed that "the" doesn't convey much in English and often left out for brevity. He was so used to 14* different German ways of saying "the" to convey information that the omission in English had flummoxed him.

I missed out "the" from my post a few times.

*I've not counted but some duplication between masc, fem, neut, pl and nom, akk dat, gen. My alternative to learning them is just to get them wrong.

Post edited at 13:57
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 DaveHK 11 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

> Can anyone recommend a method of learning German to supplement Duolingo?

Harry Flashman always maintained that the best way to learn a foreign language was in bed with a native speaker.

I expect that will have to wait 'till after the pandemic is over.

Post edited at 14:00
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 gimmergimmer 11 May 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

I'm speechless.

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In reply to daWalt:

I didn't get that feel for years, and I've lost it now.

One of the things I liked about Hammer, who got a hammering above, was the lists of words of the same gender, grouped by some means or other. It made their gender easier to remember.

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 daWalt 11 May 2020
In reply to Doug:

nothing is ever 100%. I'm guessing it wasn't words like Dog

you can definitely get a grasp of what sounds wrong (in time). but it takes a fair bit of time. learning a foreign language shows you how peculiar english is, and how much you've instinctively naturalised a whole array of irregular verbs.

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 yorkshireman 11 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Lots of good advice here. I was good at elementary French at school, so encouraged to take that and German as well for GCSE. I didn't really want to and ended up getting terrible passes in both of them. So as others have said, motivation is key.

I've since moved to and have been living in France for 8 years and I love learning the language. I've used a mixture of 1:1 tutoring, Duolingo, intensive course at Alliance Française and others but there's no substitute for just wanting to do it and finding it interesting.

I found that living with neighbours who mostly don't speak English is helpful - with my colleagues who speak excellent English, its easy to fall back and also to feel intimidated at what you perceive as a poor level of language compared to them.

When it comes to prononuciation French is a minefield but is helped if you think about changing the shape of your mouth for certain words. We've spent a lifetime using our mouth, teeth and tongue in a certain way and it can feel alien to switch - am sure German is similar.

Also try not to worry about that British (if you are) reserve - half the battle is 'performing' the language so throw yourself into it and be almost over-animated in how you speak.

If you're on Twitter, follow a few of the news and current affairs accounts as you will often see articles with current language and vocabulary that you might not get from textbooks. Lets face it I'm having conversations with my friends and neighbours about lockdown and Trump rather than asking where the library is.

There's a tonne of slang which can confuse you - I find watching English-language shows on streaming services with the French subtitles throw up some fun swear words. Succession was great for this. Contractions, filler phrases and shortcuts are useful in English (I'd, gonna, won't etc) so learn the equivalents of these so that you don't sound like the equivalent of Jacob Reese-Mogg and recognise them in everyday speech (again I've forgotten all my German so only based on French experience here).

I read French fiction on a Kindle. Generally I prefer non-fiction from real books but fiction in French is great for learning because there's usually a lot of conversation mimicking real life interactions, and with a Kindle you can highlight words and get them translated instantly. You can also highlight phrases and then go back to them later online so I'll keep a notebook of the ones that I don't know or are going to be useful.

People say that children have a great aptitude for learning languages, but what they actually have are a) thousands of hours of free time, b) no hangups about embarassing themselves, and c) no choice in the matter other than to plough on regardless if they want to communicate. Few of us can manage more than one or two of those circumstances.

Best of luck.

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In reply to yorkshireman:

That all rings very true.

On the motivation thing, I had a Danish girlfriend once, a long time ago. I worked hard at it and got an A at Danish O level (I did say it was a long time ago). Later, after she had dumped me, I got an E in the A level. I had other things to do that got in the way, but somehow they didn't with the O level.

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 Doug 11 May 2020
In reply to yorkshireman:

> Also try not to worry about that British (if you are) reserve - half the battle is 'performing' the language so throw yourself into it and be almost over-animated in how you speak.

From the several former colleagues back in Paris who were native English speakers with no/very little French when they arrived, the two who became fluent in French the fastest were both Irish. No hangups about making errors. One of the slowest to learn French was a Slovak who had studied French & who had a better knowledge of  French grammar than I'll ever had but was too timid to speak in French preferring her very good English. All changed once she met the Frenchman in the office next door who became her boyfriend & then husband.

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In reply to Doug:

I tried to mimic the people I was with. That meant that I acquired a mixture of Schwäbisch dialect and Swiss German on top of however close I could get to High German. It worked, though my daughters now say they were embarrassed by me and I probably sounded like Jan Molby doing Scouse. It was eventually a frustration that the Swiss would rarely speak their native language to me, but instead mainly used high German, in which they sounded very dull. 

I empathised with them. That feeling, of being trapped in a foreign language in which you want to express yourself but cannot is a great motivator. As is hearing the flat language of those trying very hard to speak in your own.

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 nufkin 11 May 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

>  Harry Flashman always maintained that the best way to learn a foreign language was in bed with a native speaker.

Yeah, but there's not many other situations where 'können sie bitte dein daumen herauf meine arsche legen?' would really be all that useful

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 elsewhere 11 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

This chat up line will impress your partner.

Komm, ich zeig dir meine Kaffeebohnensammlung.

(c) Tchibo

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 THE.WALRUS 12 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

Not sure if they've been  mentioned yet.

I'm a Spanish speaker - the two online resources I find most useful are News In Slow Spanish (they also do German, French, Italian etc) and iTalki...good for all languages...great for random language chat.

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In reply to MikeR:

> Hi all,

> One productive thing I'm trying to do with lockdown is to learn some German.

Ich auch! Wie geht's?

> I've been using the Duolingo app for a few weeks now. I quite like it and have certainly learnt quite a bit from that. But from what I've read it's best used in addition to classes.

Always look at the tips before you start a lesson. Try  a bit of Memrise to add variety.  Go to a class when the balloon goes down. Probably not a good idea to start lessons in all the other languages at the same time! I was like a kid in a sweetshop for a bit! (I even had a go at Dutch because I was going to Bruges for a mini break.)

There's a great YouTube channel called "Easy German" which I find just too fast but the more I listen the more I pick up. Also watch any climbing videos in German. I watched a video of Reinhold Messner walking around in the Dolomites and I got the gist. I can't wait to get to the alps to try it out.

The reason Europeans speak such good English is a lot to do with them watching movies, music vids etc  Also they are not afraid of languages like most Brits. Or of being clever.

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 Tim Davies 13 May 2020
In reply to RBonney:

another vote for michel Thomas. His accent in other languages apart from French can be a bit dodgy but the way he builds up each sentence is very easy to follow. 

really helped with my French A level that I did years after leaving school. 
 

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 MikeR 16 May 2020
In reply to everyone

Vielen dank an alle,

I've just finished the introductory tapes of Michel Thomas. Very different to the style I've been using so far, but I like it.

Looking forward to trying the next set.

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 Yanis Nayu 16 May 2020
In reply to MikeR:

It’s very effective. Well done and good luck. 

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L Doofus 16:56 Sat
In reply to MikeR:

Easy German on YouTube is one of the best resources out there in my opinion.

Hammer's German Grammar is a great book, perhaps more for when you're intermediate/advanced, but get it now and if you're not sure about something you can refer to it.

Paul Noble German is a good introduction to German grammar, although because he doesn't focus on pronunciation I'd look at something else first. Doing something like 8 lessons of Pimsleur to start with is hard to go wrong with for a language like German. If you can get access to Mango Languages through your library, I'd recommend it to start as well/instead.

Olle Kjellin's Audacity Method is great with any language. If you have any source for audio, you can make your own pronunciation course.

Also, learn the articles with the nouns. If you're learning "water" is "Wasser" and not "das Wasser", you'll regret it fairly quickly. (Not that you directly translate like that anyway, but you want to know which article goes with the noun).

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 jimtitt 17:18 Sat
In reply to Doofus:

Until it's a water rat and then.........

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In reply to MikeR:

Ich lerne deutsch auch, fur veilleicht vier jahren. I've tried a number of different apps/websites with mixed success. Ultimately, I lose motivation if I don't return to germany/austria every 3 months or so, so after lockdown, I'd recommend you book in 3-4 holidays a year. The confidence of speaking to natives and the motivation it gives you is better than any app or tool you can find.

The fact your partner speaks German gives you a massive advantage and I'd imagine learning will be quite easy for you. Even if you say you're not a good language learner, just bear in mind that the way languages are traditionally taught in school (no offense teachers) is a complete failure and the reason practically no one leaves school with any language skills. Anyone can learn a language relatively easily, but you have to completely forget the methods you were taught in school.

You can become a fluent speaker without ever picking up a textbook or writing a sentence. Watch this guy for some inspiration - he learns a level 5 language (arabic) in months just speaking (only in arabic) to native speakers. Think how do babies learn a language and do that! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=illApgaLgGA&

So the No 1 thing you can do to learn fast: ask your partner to refuse to speak to you in English 99% of the time and within 3 months you'll probably be quite fluent (depending how strictly you can abide by that).

If you have time though, duolingo is good, so is anki for learning vocab, germanpod101 is good for listening skills (paywall) and the easygerman videos on youtube are great for learning how 'real' germans speak. Seedlang seems quite good, but I couldn't really get into it and it costs. Never do an open university course! I'm doing one now and it's very boring and demotivating (in fact I've pretty much given up). After lockdown, see if there are any german Meetups near you - it'll feel very intimidating, but persevere and refuse to speak English (also do this abroad). 

When visiting Germany, consider avoiding Berlin as everyone speaks English there (usually better than we do) and can't be bothered with the hassle of speaking to you in German. Head to more remote areas, little towns, or even better, go on a hut tour in Österreich as there is nothing more immersive than being in a mountain hut surrounded by Austrians who refuse to speak English to you!

One thing I was looking into before lockdown was an intensive course in Germany. You can live with a German host family while you're there and I've read good things. They are costly, but for what you get, it's probably quite good value. The next best thing would be a Goethe Institute course here in the UK, but you'll want to do a face to face and there aren't many centres (there is one here in Glasgow and London).

Most importantly, learn whichever way you enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, then you won't remember it. So forget the textbooks and boring grammar lessons.

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In reply to mbh:

I recall reading somewhere that people who watch foreign films with subtitles in their native language retain very little compared to (better) subtitles in the films language and (best) no subtitles.

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In reply to sharpendclimbing:

>I recall reading somewhere that people who watch foreign films with subtitles in their native language retain very little compared to (better) subtitles in the films language and (best) no subtitles.

Interesting and plausible. I wonder though if subtitles in whichever language might make learners more likely to watch more of the films in the first place. My experience of trying to read novels when I was trying to get good at German, and after that, French, was that it was ultimately rewarding but hard work, sometimes so hard (Collette especially! Marie Darriuesecq, Siegfried Lenz and Anne Tyler (in German) take a bow) that it could take the fun out of it and make me reluctant to pick up the next one. 

At the time when I had to live and work in German and then French (passing over the earlier regrettable episode in Danish), reading novels is what I mainly did in my spare time, so that was one of my yardsticks for learning a foreign language partly as I didn't have a television, let alone the internet in all that time so couldn't easily watch films, subtitles or not. 

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