There are plenty of German learning resources available. Some are really great, but others don’t focus on teaching you what’s really important slowing down your learning progress. At Languages on Fire, we endeavor to make your studying most efficient so you can get your desired results. So here are our favorite ways of learning German for the upper levels, from a low B1 and higher. You can use these too if you’re a beginner, but we recommend you focus more on acquiring the fundamentals first. If you’re not at a B1 level yet, check out our German course here. It will help you master the fundamentals of German in no time and teach you the 1000 most common German words so you can talk about a number of different topics. But how can you continue after you’ve completed that course? Here’s our recommendations:
1. Make your own Anki cards
The further you progress with your German, the more you should focus on speaking, watching videos and reading. But don’t neglect your vocabulary. You’ll want to continuously expand it so you can retain the new words you encounter. Anki is arguably the best vocabulary tool out there and making your own cards will be essential. Create flashcards for all the new words which seem important to you. You can also put sentences on your cards but stick to essential ones. Remember that the longer the sentence is, the more time you’ll need to remember it. Don’t create too many cards. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 % of your studying time on vocabulary. Some words, you’ll just have to let pass.
2. Watching movies or TV series in German
Watching movies or TV series for learning languages is, at the same time, efficient and entertaining. The important thing is to choose either German subtitles or no subtitles at all. If you use English subtitles, you won’t have to actively process what you are hearing. You’ll still catch a few words here and there but that’s about it. German subtitles are the much better option and you’ll probably still be able to understand enough of the movie. Of course, the best option is to watch without subtitles, which will greatly benefit your listening comprehension skills. If you decide on this, it’s helpful to go through the movie’s transcript right after you are finished watching, to look for parts you didn’t understand. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a useful collection of German transcripts online. Another possibility would be watching the material twice, once with subtitles and once without. However, this may not be feasible for a three-hour movie. A TV series would be more suitable for this purpose.
This doesn’t mean you have to watch German-made TV series or movies. Just re-watch your personal favorites, but this time in German. You’ll already know what’s going on and you’ll be able to focus all your attention on the language. If you use Netflix and there’s no German dub available in your country, you can use a VPN to get around this. There are also plenty of great German movies as well: You can find a list of them on IMDB.
3. YouTube videos
The benefits of watching YouTube videos in German are the same as with movies or TV series. The advantage here is that they’re shorter so you’ll always be able to find some time to watch one or two. Most German YouTubers don’t offer subtitles but there a few channels dedicated to learning German. Our favorite, by far, is EasyGerman. Their interviews of people on the streets are very interesting and they have German and English subtitles. Try to first understand as much as possible without looking at them. Then watch a second time, reading the subtitles, so you can pick up whatever you missed.
4. Speak as much German as possible
No learning resource in the world can substitute actually speaking a language. You’ll have to actively use German in order to master it. Making mistakes is the quickest way to learn. If you have the luxury of living in Germany, practice whenever possible. If this isn’t the case, no worries – there are other options available to you. We definitely recommend an online German teacher. That way, you can speak German on a regular basis and your mistakes will be corrected, making your progress much quicker. Italki is a great online learning platform, with many native speakers teachers and affordable prices. Just pick a teacher you like and schedule a lesson. Your teacher can also correct texts you write in German. For example, writing a diary is a great way to practice. You might also want to look for a German tandem partner on platforms like HelloTalk. However, while tandems are a great way to make new friends, in most cases, a private teacher will be better for your progress. Your tandem partner might not correct your mistakes or encourage you to speak German all the time. Plus, you’ll need to spend time teaching him or her your own language.
5. Reading in German
When it comes to reading, it’s important you enjoy the material. As with movies or TV series, it’s a great idea to re-read your favorite books in German. If you like reading the news, try doing it in German. Once you feel confident enough, definitely give German literature a try. It’s vast, unique and many of the great German literary works are included under world literature. Try to understand as much as possible from the context and don’t look up too many words. Here, you’ll find some suggestions about what to read.
6. Listening to German songs
A huge advantage of using songs for learning German is that you can listen to them over and over again without getting bored. And repetition is key for successful language learning. Make your own German playlist. There are many wonderful German songs to choose from. On this site, there’s a good overview. Alternatively, just google “German songs” and you’ll find some more suggestions.