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5 tricks for learning German

Know-how: learning a foreign language can really be fun. There are many tricks for making quick progress, without boring cramming.

© Daniel Ernst/fotolia - Language

Germany. Learning German isn’t easy: the grammatical gender, the plural, the declensions all sometimes bring the language learner to the verge of despair. But some German words sound so funny that some people can’t get enough of them. Paul, for example. The Australian is having a lot of fun learning the language of his forefathers: “A ‘Schlauberger’ [a slyboots], a clever mountain? That’s funny!” He never used to be keen about foreign languages. It was only after meeting Silvia from Germany in the Australian outback that his interest in the dative was aroused. Since then, he has been sucking up German words such as “Schmetterling” (butterfly), “Schabernack” (prank) and “Schnürsenkel” (shoelace) like a sponge. Love motivates.

In addition to love, there are many tricks that make learning German not only fun, but also simpler. Five alternatives to memorising vocabulary.


Motivation is the driving force behind learning a foreign language. Britta Hufeisen, head of the language centre at the Technical University of Darmstadt, is convinced of this. Learning foreign languages requires no special talent, she says. The brains of all healthy people are designed for several languages. You only really have to want to learn them.

With feeling!

Will is as important as feeling. Combined with emotion, vocabulary finds its way better into the long-term memory. This, in short, is what the neuroscientist and Nobel laureate Eric Kandel has proven with his research on sea snails. Their brain cells were increased by electrical impulses. Thus the implication is that, when you learn something, you build better new synapses in the brain. Synapses are the connections that make it possible to steadily extend the brain structure like a social network. So – off to the Oktoberfest and feel on the Ferris wheel the meaning of “hoch, höher, am höchsten” (high, higher, highest)!

Virtual trips

If a trip is not possible at present, you can at least contemplate one in future, in accordance with the saying “Anticipation is the greatest joy”. On their websites, travel agents invite you on virtual trips to the Black Forest or Lake Constance. There is no more colourful way of experiencing the “Funktionsverbgefüge” (light verb structures) “in Erfahrung bringen” (to learn, to find out; literally: “to bring into experience”) and “Entschluss fassen” (to take a decision).


Equally positive is the effect of music. Boning up on irregular verbs while listening to Mozart – it’s worth a try. Perhaps the adjectives “unzertrennlich” (inseparable) and “unsterblich” (undying) are graven forever into the memory when you have heard them sung by Helene Fischer while dancing to her hit Atemlos (Breathless).


And in general, movement: knee bends also make you breathless and your heart pump more oxygen, down to the roots of your hair. If while doing them you learn the German words for the parts of the body, the next day you will remember at least the terms for calf (Wade) and thigh (Oberschenkel)

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