'To speak another language is to posess another soul'
March 8, 2010 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I am looking to help a friend who has just started learning German and am looking for the hive mind for inspired suggestions.

He is currently residing in Australia and feeling a bit isolated from the world at the moment. He has recently taken up learning German and is planning to move to Germany at the end of the year. Are language tuition books useful or are audiobooks more appropiate in this instance? To those who have sucessfully managed a second language any ideas would be much appreciated.
posted by numberstation to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm also learning German at the moment. I'm finding the Michel Thomas course to be pretty good. Deutche Welle also have some excellent material, including podcasts. At least initially I think it's really helpful to have audio books/lessons to help with pronunciation. Exposure to German language media in general would also be a great help (e.g. I've got a fair bit out of watching German language films, with English subtitles).

Deutche Welle have a podcast with the news read fairly slowly in German. I'm still working my way up to being able to understand this but it could be very useful for getting to grips with comprehension.
posted by jonesor at 6:56 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

He might enjoy this German radio program produced in Australia. I came across it as a podcast:

I am a big fan of Podcasts in general. Since he's just starting, a good one might be Slow German, which covers a broad range of fun topics.

The Mission Berlin series might also be enjoyable, depending on his learning style.
posted by beyond_pink at 7:05 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hmmm. It's been a long time since I was an absolute beginner in German. Here's my thoughts

There's a lot of grammar and it's important that he doesn't avoid that. He should learn everything in his beginner's book. It'll help him puzzle out the more difficult sentences. Also, German constructs its sentences differently from the way English does. It's pretty important that he doesn't think these differences are stupid (I know that sounds silly, but quite a few people do build up some hostility towards the language they're learning because of this sort of thing).

Deutsche Welle's slow german is pretty good listening practice. But if it were me, I'd jump right into using the real news. The Tagesschau has a podcast that I regularly listen to. It'll be easier if he's been reading real German newspapers and magazines. I'd use focus for this. The articles are fairly short and the language is not too difficult.

When I started re-learning German after a decade-long break, I got myself some DVDs from amazon.de. All films and series that I knew well - Dr. House, Rom, Batman, Aliens, Heroes. It's quite entertaining watching a series you know the plot of and finding out for yourself how Germans curse or what those little filler words like "well" or "I see" are in German. Also, with drama you'll eventually get a handle on those modal particles - the fiddly little words like 'mal', 'ja', 'schon' that appear seemingly without reason in the middle of German sentences.

I would watch actual German drama but (i) I'm not really familiar with anything that I know will be good and (ii) I suspect that rather a lot of it blows.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 7:26 AM on March 8, 2010

Oh and get him to use anki to create, manage and practice with huge decks of German flashcards. That'll make sure there's no back slipping in his memory.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 7:29 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are all sorts of German movies, art exhibits, language classes, and cultural events at the Goethe Institute in Australia. Check it out!
posted by aquafortis at 9:36 AM on March 8, 2010

My husband and I recently found a German tutor through Craigslist to help us as we learn and I highly recommend it, as you have some one who can help you in areas where you are struggling, particularly with pronunciation, which I had a lot of trouble with before when I was mainly reading and listening. I am slowly improving.
posted by chiefthe at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2010

There is a German conversation class available here for $30 for six months. That's in Canberra. There will be other classes like it in other main cities.

It can be a bit jump-in-at-the-deep-end, but combined with a more structured grammatical basics class is a good fast track to speaking German better, quickly.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2010

I wish I'd learned the articles when I memorized my German vocab so that when it came time to apply whether they were masculine or feminine or neuter, it would hve been second nature.
posted by lemniskate at 10:43 AM on March 8, 2010

A meta-answer, not specifically about German but about language-learning: I would suggest he give this web site a read and at least consider the ideas presented, seriously: http://antimoon.com/. I feel very strongly that this is The Right Way (tm) to learn a language (that is, surrounding yourself with it and attempting to learn via materials aimed towards those who actually use the language on a day-to-day basis...in this case, Germans). I'm using the method with Japanese, which I picked up via this guy's site...he started by reading the antimoon folks' site first.

To be clear, I'm not fluent (yet). But I have done all 90 lessons of Pimsleur's Comprehensive Japanese language series, and it was about six months ago that I finished, and I can say positively that using one of those language lesson packages probably just doesn't work. I think that, now, it was basically a waste of my time that I could have been spending doing sentences a la antimoon. Maybe the Michel Thomas series, which jonesor mentioned, is amazingly awesome and kicks Pimsleur's butt...but I really doubt it. Actually, Pimsleur uses a pretty solid spaced repetition method--the same thing SRS software like Anki is based on--which really does work. But at the end of 90 Pimsleur lessons, I had, you know, decent tourist's Japanese. Tourist's Japanese != fluency or anything even close to it. Fluency, to me, means you can pick up some random book and read it and enjoy it, or walk into a random business and spend money without worrying about making the staff figure out what you are trying to buy, or answer a friend's questions about the trip you took to California last year or movie you saw last week...etc.

I can also say that, in contrast, about eight months to a year into the "faux immersion" process (and, most importantly, using the Anki SRS for sentences and Kanji, and yes, I overlapped Pimsleur and beginning the antimoon/AJATT method), and doing it in a relatively aggressive way (but not as aggressive as Khatz of AJATT fame), my Japanese language comprehension is pretty awesome for having spent such a small time on it. It is significantly better than where I was at the end of Pimsleur. I mean, hell, I can read (many) kid's books now. That's something. I couldn't read a bit after being done with Pimsleur.

So, short version, my take is: immersion or as close as you can get to it = good. Expensive language tapes / lessons = a waste of money. Along those lines I would avoid a class, but something that provided an all-German environment (like what MuffinMan was describing) would be good. But, I really think it's FIRST all input, input, input...

Of course, if he's moving to Germany soon, well, that's the best way. He needs to make sure and get out there when he does move and interact with the surrounding environment as much as possible. He'll be fluent quickly.
posted by dubitable at 2:12 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Um, yeah, and what I_pity_the_fool said, which is more or less the method the antimoon guys lay out: native materials, all the way. For the record, Veoh is a great resource for Japanese language materials; maybe it has good German stuff too?
posted by dubitable at 2:16 PM on March 8, 2010

Pimsleur language learning audiobooks were really very helpful in getting my Italian off to a good start. German I learned in full immersion from the start, and that's definitely your best bet, but the Pimsleur series is really quite good, and it allowed me to advance faster in Italian when I finally got a chance to learn it in full immersion. Check them out!

PS: Nothing will take the place of being forced to speak it, and he will have a hard time finding programs that intense in Australia. Once he moves to Germany, he should definitely take courses THERE, and he should try to make German friends and refuse speaking English as much as possible. It's entirely possible to live in Germany (or Austria, where I'm living now) and never get much better with your German, because it's easy to make friends with English speakers and never really practice German in the quantities that one needs to get better. So suggest to him that he be smart with his choices once he's there.
posted by sdis at 10:07 AM on March 9, 2010

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