How to Become Fluent
How to learn a language with Netflix? Why should I have a learning plan? What are the best language learning apps? Which online dictionaries should I use? How can I sound like a native? Which 4 skills should I work on? What are the most common mistakes German learners make?
In this guidance, you will find not only answers to these questions but also many motivational, encouraging thoughts and tons of practical tips from Attila, a German teacher with 25 years of experience.
What will you find in the book?
→ Relevant, up-to-date and useful content.
→ More than 450 clickable links.
→ 15 printable PDF worksheets with grammar and vocabulary exercises.
→ Plenty of fun yet effective (and free!) methods and tools.
→ A flexible learning plan.
About The Book
“This eBook will not teach you – it will help you learn!”
PART ONE rather refers to language learning in general. You’ll find here numerous tips and hints to general approaches. The topics are as follows: typical troubles with learning languages, what is fluency, the most important element of the right mindset and the four skills in learning languages.
In PART TWO we will start with fifteen good reasons to learn German, then you will get specific tips about learning the German language are mentioned for self-learning and/or additional exercises to private classes or private tutoring. You will learn about specific books, dictionaries, YouTube channels, social media platforms, apps, podcasts, movies, series, songs, language courses, language exchange services. You will also get hints how to sound like a native.
In PART THREE, you will find fifteen high-quality learning materials in PDF format which I’ve created during my work as a German teacher. Each and every one of them has been used, tested and improved several times. At the very end of the book, you will find some examples for a learning plan, the conclusion, the acknowledgments and the afterword.
Table of content
- Your Pain
- What Is Fluency?
- Why Learn German? 15 Good Reasons
- Which 4 Skills Should You Improve?
6. Books and Dictionaries
7. Youtube Channels
8. Social Media Platforms
9. Apps and Websites
10. Music and Podcasts
11. Movies and Series
12. Private Lessons, Group Classes and Language Exchange
13. Offline Sources and Methods
14. 5 More Tips for Boosting Your Skills
15. How to Sound Like a Native
16. The 25 Most Common Mistakes
18. My Learning Plan
CHAPTER 1: YOUR PAIN
This chapter is about your pain. I am not talking about the pain in your neck or back – I am talking about your pain while learning a foreign language. Have you ever had the following thoughts on your journey of learning German (or any other language)?
- “My grammar is not good.”
- “My vocabulary is not good enough to express myself properly; I speak like a child.”
- “I understand much more than I can speak.”
- “I am stressed because of making mistakes, both in grammar and vocabulary.”
- “I am stressed while speaking to a native speaker.”
- “I am even stressed when I meet someone from my own country speaking the same foreign language.”
- “Why is this language so damned complicated? So many things don’t make sense!”
- “Somehow, I’m not getting any further. I’m stuck.”
If you’ve had at least one of these issues, then you are holding the right book in your hands. Don’t expect quick solutions to the problems above though – it all depends on your invested time, the methods and tools you use and your mindset. With the right mindset (CHAPTER 4 in this book) and the right methods and tools (PART TWO in this book) it is absolutely realistic to overcome ALL these pains and fears and also to overcome demotivation. Additionally, if you have a great teacher, consider yourself lucky, but learning a foreign language and enjoying success is 100% your business and your responsibility.
In the next few pages, I will give you some tips for every problem listed above that may help you to ease the pain, at least by a little bit:
- “My grammar is not good”
Honestly, most people don’t really care about grammar. It is much more important that you have the communication skills and tools to communicate with others, not to mention your friendliness and positive attitude. I quote a good friend of mine who is an excellent German teacher: “It’s much more important to be nice, to smile and to be responsive than adjective declension.” After speaking many times with native speakers, you will realise that people don’t have this problem: this problem exists in your head and you are the only one who can make it go and instead speak without being afraid to make mistakes. What bad things can happen? Saying Das war eine tolle Abenteuer! instead of the correct version Das war ein tolles Abenteuer! does not make you less intelligent or less likeable. It only shows that you made a mistake, but at least you made an effort by using new vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong, I like grammar, all the structures and patterns, it’s like a little bit of mathematics. And from a certain level (let’s say C1), it is actually to be expected that the language used is grammatically flawless. Grammar also can be important for different reasons: 1) you work in certain roles like a translator, a customer service executive or a sales person; 2) your own expectations towards yourself are high and you would like to speak the foreign language as well as possible. There is nothing wrong with that. What I’m trying to say is that in case you still have problems with the grammar on your B1-B2 level, it’s ok, nobody will bite you and you have all the possibilities to grow.
- “My vocabulary is not enough to express myself properly: I speak like a child”
Have you ever felt this? Usually you are funny, intelligent and a nice conversation partner, but now you are sitting with your friends, your new family or with colleagues, and people think for sure that you are boring, stupid and you have no sense of humour just because you cannot express yourself in a way like you do in your native language or in a language you speak fluently. You understand almost everything they say. You would love to talk about your country, your family, your hobbies, your political views or about movies, wizards, pineapples, guitar strings or the best goulash recipes, but you cannot express yourself as eloquently as you want and as you can in other languages.
You speak like a child.
You know what I’m talking about, right? No need to worry; it’s a very common problem and it describes exactly the feeling back in the days I had with my friends when they spoke English and I did not so well back then, or when we moved to Poland and I was sitting with my new family at the table.
You have to be patient with yourself and make yourself aware of the fact that the language learning process has something very encouraging – your level will never become worse, in fact, it’s always getting better. Every. Day. If you have your goal, your plan, your tools and your motivation, maybe you are sitting now like a lame duck with people around you, but picture yourself talking 6 months later, “I’ll speak much more because I’m not afraid of making mistakes, because – thanks to effective and fun methods – the network of my grammar, vocabulary and cultural knowledge is so much better now. I may not speak perfectly, with the right accent, but I speak. I have won!“
Let me tell you a story. I loved to play with LEGO as a child. These small plastic bricks from Denmark have always fascinated me. There were so many options, so many different possibilities to create something new, something interesting, something beautiful. I played with my LEGO bricks for hours and the time would fly by. I was in my own world. I built shapes in different colours and those shapes became animals, people or buildings: I played only with the bricks I liked and I always built figures and things I enjoyed. Ok, I had to learn how to build a house and I used a prepared plan for this. But at the point I didn’t need guidance or help, I created things on my own and progressed very quickly.
Can you see what I’m getting at? Learning languages is very similar to playing with LEGO. At the beginning you have a few bricks in a few colours (some grammar structures, a little vocabulary and some pieces of the culture) and you have to work with it (you “cook” with what you have). You need some guidance at the beginning, but you can already play with 20-30 bricks very well, you can build a table, a simple house, maybe a garden – you are creating simple sentences and expressing yourself in a simple but effective way. Please use your “bricks” and don’t run to the shop to buy new ones (learning hundreds of words and grammar rules) or put Playmobil figures into your LEGO building (that would be using English words while speaking German, ugh!). Just stick to your “bricks”, your words, phrases, and grammar structures and use them accordingly. Vary them in as many ways as possible. Taste them like wine. Manipulate them – create sentences, statements, and questions. Speak out loud. Did you know that there are 915 million ways to connect six 2×4 LEGO bricks with each other? Aha, you don’t believe me. No problem, check it out in this short article.
It’s amazing how much you can express with a very limited vocabulary. First, be sure how to change the words in a correct way – verbs (conjugation), nouns, adjectives and numerals (declension) – build a simple but concrete-hard structure in the language. It’s like starting to cook with simple ingredients and basic recipes, and after a while you’ll be 100% sure how to do things. After that, you can expand your repertoire. I wouldn’t start by buying 100 different ingredients and trying 100 different recipes – start with scrambled eggs; start with simplicity and build a solid and secure basis. You can create even long sentences with very simple basic elements: Es sieht sehr gut aus und es ist bestimmt sehr lecker. Ich möchte jetzt nicht essen, danke, ich habe keinen Hunger. Vielleicht später. As you see, no Nebensatz (subordinate clause), no past forms, only one modal verb. Simple short phrases, one after the other.
I cannot stress this enough – practice your German with simple elements and get more and more complex with time. Use things you’ve learnt in different contexts. As an example, think of noch (in English “yet” or “still”) – Ich bin noch nicht 80 Jahre alt or Ich bin noch zu Hause, ich fahre später; manipulate the sentences and substitute elements – Du bist noch nicht 70 Jahre alt; Er ist noch nicht 50 Jahre alt, oder?; Sind deine Eltern noch jung? or Bist du noch zu Hause?; Er ist noch im Büro; Mein Bruder ist noch in Schweden. Speak the sentences out loud, or better still, “think” out loud. Play with the language. Say them 2-3 times. That’s how you build connections between the words and expressions in your “language network”. That’s how you build connections between the neurons in your brain. Fun fact: the word LEGO is an acronym from Danish leg godt (play well). So, play well with the language – it will pay off.
You know that every week you’ll get some new bricks, new forms and shapes, figures and animals – your repertoire is getting bigger and bigger and there are more and more connections between the bricks and figures (words, phrases and structures) and couple of months later you can create a beautiful castle (or spaceship or zoo, whatever you like) in different colours, with a lot of people, animals, with a large garden with flowers etc. In the case of language learning, this castle would be a nice two- or three-hour conversation with people in a foreign language about different topics or watching a movie with or without subtitles, i.e., having a beautiful, inspiring, successful and emotional experience. And this is your goal, right?
Now I play Duplo (the small child version of LEGO) with my daughter and I really enjoy this kind of time-travel.
- “I understand much more than I can speak”
It’s a common phenomenon and you are not the only one. On the contrary, most language learners have passive/receptive skills (reading, listening) that are stronger than their active/productive skills (writing, speaking). I’ll talk about this topic in CHAPTER 5 in this book in detail.
- “I am stressed because of making mistakes”
I’m talking about grammatical, vocabulary or cultural adequacy mistakes, e.g., saying Grüß Gott! in North-Germany. Don’t do it. Never. It’s like screaming “Howdy!” in a fancy café in New York.
I love mistakes. I guess you are surprised. Let me explain. I can learn the most from the mistakes I made and recognised by myself or from somebody who made me aware of those mistakes. Mistakes show us that you can develop and development is always great. You may now think, “Thanks for the advice, but I don’t like mistakes. I want to speak fluently!” Well, speaking fluently requires you to make thousands of mistakes. Think about how you learned to drive a car. Of course, you participated in a course about the rules, but later you learned it by doing it. You had an instructor, but you did the main job; he or she only guided you (assuming you had a good instructor).
When I started learning how to drive I was terrified of doing so many things at the same time: putting the indicator on, checking the mirrors, checking the signs, keeping an eye out for pedestrians and other cars, changing gear. Oh my God, I’m never going to learn those things, it’s just too complicated! After give or take thirty hours of systematic and concentrated exercise, I passed the exam, and I was very proud of it. Yee-haw, I can drive!
No, I could not drive, but I had solid basics to develop myself and after a couple of months (I drove a little bit every day), I noticed that the things I needed to do worked automatically! Things like checking the mirrors, the signs, the pedestrians, the other cars, changing gear and even listening to music at the same time – they went quite smoothly, they became a routine where I didn’t need to think about each and every small action.
This is the same goal we would like to achieve when learning a language; you don’t need to think about every small grammar rule, the words should come automatically and you should have a solid knowledge about the culture. This all means that you speak a foreign language fluently. It must become an automatism, just like driving a car. Now, I enjoy driving because I can do it and I don’t need to consciously think about the rules anymore – the rules have become a habit. Maybe I am not the best driver on this planet, but I enjoy the process and I am good enough not to hit people or lamp posts every day. Don’t think too much about your mistakes, just learn from them. Focus on what you already can do and speak to people, express your thoughts, feelings and questions.
MORE IN THE EBOOK!
AVAILABLE BY THE END OF MARCH 2022.
What My Readers Say
This is a great book with many fascinating ways to view and learn German, taken from a wealth of experience. It’s a book that addresses the crucial question of how to learn in our hyper-connected world with media on demand & screens everywhere. The author gives us a lot of orientation here, many many tips and encouragement to get over that ‘intermediate plateau’. Highly recommended!
Peter James (Verified Purchase)
Sprachen lernen macht Spaß?! Jein – irgendwann kommt man an den Punkt, wo man frustriert ist und das Gefühl hat, auf der Stelle zu treten. Aber keine Sorge, das ist normal und selbst mir als Deutschlehrerin in der Erwachsenenbildung geht es genauso, wenn ich Menschen in den B/C-Stufen unterrichten muss. Wie kann ich helfen, wenn jeder seine individuelle Baustelle hat. In “Learning German” habe ich einen super Ratgeber gefunden und ich kann dieses Buch nur weiterempfehlen – an Schüler*innen und Kollege*innen! Gute Tipps, prima Links – Sprachen lernen für den modernen Unterricht. Leider gibt es nur die E-Book-Version. Aber da merkt man mal wieder, dass ich oldschool bin.
Hirschel (Verified Purchase)
Do you struggle to learn German? Have you been/Are you getting demotivated? Have you been trying different resources on the internet? Have you tried having lessons with a teacher? Nothing helps? Nothing will help unless you help yourself and to help yourself you need to read this book! There is no similar book to this one as it describes different areas starting from psychological approach to language learning eg how to overcome fear of speaking, the description of how a person learns a foreign language and the mechanisms eg. passive skills come first but also it provides useful links. Last but not least, does it in a funny way, which makes it enjoyable and quick read. I love this book because it is very practical, there are many examples and tips that are of great value as they are very professional and real-life based. I have watched many you tube video and read a couple of books on how to learn German but all of them were either too theoretical or not very helpful as the advice was vague and impractical. That is why, I say this e-book is the one and only of a kind. It is a must have as you get loads of great tips & tricks to learn German which you can apply also for learning other languages. I guarantee, you will come back to it several times!
ewelina (Verified Purchase)
I really can recommend this fabulous, encouraging book!!! It’s really useful, has so much excellent examples and links it’s a pleasure to work with it and really helps you through this damn intermediate level! Thank you Attila Rettig for your encouraging book full of empathy and practical help!
Dirk Hansen (Verified Purchase)
About the author
Attila has been teaching the German language for 25 years in 3 different countries. During that time, he has learned about the characteristics and specifics of the German language at least as much as the students he taught. He worked for language schools, large international companies, and public organizations. Attila founded his own language school in 2014 in which he still actively works.
My motto at work: nice atmosphere does not exclude effectiveness. For me it’s important that my students feel well and they improve their language skills. It’s like a perfect gift: nicely packed hiding values inside.”
How to Become Fluent
A compact eBook aboout learning German and learning languages in general. In this guidance, you will find many encouraging thoughts such as tons of practical tips from a German teacher with 25 years of experience. Recommended to B1 students and above.