Learning German in one year
September 10, 2007 8:01 AM   Subscribe

I have one year (actually about 11 months and 20 days) to learn German from almost scratch. Help!

I made a sizeable monetary bet that by the end of next August I will be fluent in German. I will be tested on my fluency only verbally for 1 hour (on all sorts of subjects including current politics, economics etc.) How should I approach learning German for the next year? I live in the U.S. and going to live in Germany in the next six months is out of the question but afterwards I will be moving there.

So before I go, I have six months to utilize here. I've researched the Goethe Institut and other German schools in Washington DC area, but the problem is that due to heavy work travel I would be missing at least half the course. I cannot afford private one-on-one lessons (apparently the going rate is $60-80/hour) and my plan of attack so far is:

1) find a good book/audio/computer German course
2) try to find exchange students in DC area who would charge approx. $25-30/hour of conversation - try to find any German language German conversation/cultural groups in the area
3) watch a lot of German movies

Now, I am looking for recommendations regarding 1), information or advice on 2) and the list of your favorite 3). Also, if you have any additional advice/comments/ideas on learning German, feel free to pass them along

Danke schoen!
posted by barrakuda to Education (30 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I'm learning spanish now using love Rosetta Stone and I love their method...It's expensive but I say go for it.
posted by milestogo at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2007

Unless your friend has a very loose definition of fluent, I can almost guarantee you'll lose this bet.

That said, I would recommend Pimsleur - I'd go with 2 lessons a day - one in the morning, and one in the evening.

At the same time you'll need to buy a textbook and a workbook. If no one else provides a recommendation - I can find the ones I used in class. Also, make lots of flashcards and carry them with you at all times (be sure to memorize articles!).
posted by matkline at 8:21 AM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: There is a freely available copy of the Foreign Services Institute German course Here. The owner of this web site has collected a lot of FSI courses, which are not actually under copyright since they were produced by the US government. The FSI courses are very well thought of. Also, if you are interested in Swahili, Mandarin, Cantonese, Swedish or Hungarian, they are all there.

There is a note somewhere in the web site Kuro5hin (note the numeral 5) about how someone learned French in 1 year from a standing start to a level at which he could qualify as fluent in Quebec. I can't find it right now. This guy used the FSI French course as a base.

There is also a blog called All Japanese All the Time which tells you how you can invent an inversion program on your own. You want German, not Japanese, but the principles can be applied, or so I am told. Somwhere on the blog below someone applied these principles to learning Latin as a spoken language, which some success.

The web site Here!! has enough content to side track you until you lose your bet. The people there are so motivated to learn languages it's scary. If you ask on their forum you will almost certainly get more information than you can use.

Boncxansu, as we say in Esperantujo.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 8:25 AM on September 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

Pimsleur ought not be your prime reference, but it's a good use of commute time. This has been available in mp3 form too.
posted by gregoreo at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2007

I recommend to get some audio books (in German) of books you already know in English (you can listen to them on your commute). Also a quick start is watching tv shows aimed at children (not the Teletubbies). You can also get DVDs with German synchronization and even subtitles (English or German) to train.
posted by m.openmind at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2007

Drown yourself in the language. Watch German television online [possible on the ARD and ZDF websites]. Listen to German radio only. Look for a German forum, like metafilter, and participate there, actively.
posted by ijsbrand at 8:33 AM on September 10, 2007

I've said this elsewhere, but the Pimsleur audio lessons are absolutely the best available. Disclaimer: my mother helps make them. I've used the French series and had a nice working vobaulary and grammar after French III, which is the third month of the program. You listen and talk out loud for a half-hour each day and it builds your speaking ability situationally and cumulatively. It's not fluency but it gives you a very solid foundation. As regards matkline's suggestion to do two lessons a day: Pimsleur recommends against this, so you could try it, but if it gets to be too much, you should back off a little and just do one a day. I tried sometimes doing French lessons twice a day and I don't know if it was all that more efficient, since I also ended confused and overwhelmed and had to repeat some lessons; all in all I might've ended up a week or two ahead of schedule.

I would wait a while with the German movies until you can understand a little already, otherwise you'll just frustrate yourself. It helps to watch movies with subtitles in the same language, so that you can see what you're hearing. Sonnenallee is a good German movie.
posted by creasy boy at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: When you get far enough to be able to read a little, plays are easier than novels, since they're mostly written in the simple present. Max Frisch is a good German (or maybe Swiss) playwright. If you're eventually looking for Novels, Hesse writes with a relatively simple German; his novels were the first I read in German, and I hate Hesse.
posted by creasy boy at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2007

And when you live there: get a German girlfriend or boyfriend, or preferably both, so that you end up having to speak German when you're tired, going to sleep and waking up. Go out to the bars a lot so you speak German when you're drunk. The more you speak it in a fuzzy, sub-optimal mental state, the more it really sinks in. Smoke weed with some Germans and try to explain to them what you're thinking.

Where in Germany are you moving to?
posted by creasy boy at 8:46 AM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: Have you looked at the Beeb ?
posted by Webbster at 8:48 AM on September 10, 2007

Also one last thing: occasionally when you're walking around going whatever you do, stop and ask yourself what exactly you're doing and how you would say it in German (e.g. "Ich fahre jetzt Auto"; "ich suche meine Brille" etc.).
posted by creasy boy at 8:48 AM on September 10, 2007

Change your operating system's default language to German.

Change your browsers' default pages to German.

Sign up for German email alerts at Google News on a subject you find interesting.

Label everything in your house in German, with Post-Its or taped-on index cards. Everything! The floor, even. The ceiling. Light bulbs. Outlets. Cords, cables, and leads. Things in the silverware drawer.

Use German-language Google when searching the Internet.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:48 AM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have also heard good things about Rosetta Stone but I have never tried them.
Read children's books; read them out loud. Find children's songs you can sing to yourself.
Read German blogs about topics you are interested in. Comment on them in German.
Force yourself to write in German. Keep a diary in German, just about your daily life; that will force you to learn words for regular things.
Watch German-language TV with German subtitles.
Speak German out loud to yourself as you go about your day.
Listen to German podcasts.
Maybe a local college near you has a German club or a German lunch table you could join.
posted by bluebird at 8:52 AM on September 10, 2007

Unless you are a language savant, or have lots and lots of spare time, I would start saving to pay off the bet.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2007

nth-ing Pimsleur to get started.
They are available at both DC and Montgomery County libraries (and probably others). Excellent to do in the car while stuck in traffic.
posted by MtDewd at 11:04 AM on September 10, 2007

Response by poster: thanks to all so far.

to all the skeptics (looking at you matkline and A Long and Troublesome Lameness) - I will win this bet! (wanna bet? :) but seriously, I am not a native English speaker; I have a higher than average aptitude for foreign languages, so far, I speak four fluently.

@milestogo, matkline, gregoreo, creasy: it would help if you could qualify what makes Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur particularily effective in language instruction.

@creasyboy: already have a german boyfriend, i will be joining him in dusseldorf sometime in march next year
posted by barrakuda at 11:17 AM on September 10, 2007

For one thing, force your boyfriend to speak to you in German and German only. Having a German-speaking significant other is a huge advantage.
posted by bijou at 11:38 AM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: 1.) About PIMSLEUR ... I would normally endorse it heartily, but their German tapes are really pretty bad. I'm not sure what it is.

2.) You SHOULD avail yourself to Deutsche-Welle's various offerings. In particular, Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten. This is simply the daily news repeated at a slower pace. All the vocab is there -- and they offer transcripts along with the mp3s.
posted by RavinDave at 12:24 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pimsleur: OK, I only did a little bit of the German one so I can't really say if it's bad or good. I did the Spanish, and everyone I know who has used Pimsleur has loved them (though that's just Spanish, Russian + the German).

What worked for me in Pimsleur is that you are not just parroting words. There seems to be two parts to the learning process in these tapes. One is a repetition of the new word or phrase at time intervals that the good Doctor believes is most conducive to memory, so it sticks in your head. The second is more important to me- an anticipation of what needs to be said. It is like you are conversing with the guy on the tape, not just repeating what he says.
One kind of example is that, say, you just learned the word 'lunch' and you already have learned the phrase 'I would like...'. The guy on the tape says 'how do you think you would say "I would like lunch"?' and gives you a little time to answer. Here is a phrase you may have never heard and yet the answer comes to you.

YMMV, but it really worked for me, and I thought I was not teachable.
posted by MtDewd at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2007

I have a friend who took a Berlitz course online before she moved to Germany recently, and it seems to have helped (although I'm not sure if she's fluent or not).
posted by echo0720 at 12:53 PM on September 10, 2007

And hey, she moved to Germany to be near her German boyfriend too
posted by echo0720 at 12:54 PM on September 10, 2007

I should also say that in finishing the Pimsleur series (I think it's six parts- I, II and III each with a A & B section) you will not be 'fluent', but you will have a very good base to do the other things you plan.
posted by MtDewd at 12:54 PM on September 10, 2007

Goethe Institute and whatever else you can get your hands on this year. And hire a private tutor to read newspapers and talk with you.

Then, in June, get your ass to Middlebury.
posted by felix betachat at 3:30 PM on September 10, 2007

Sorry, regarding the money issue, for a tutor, advertise on College campuses. Specify that you want a native speaker, that you're willing to pay cash, and what you can afford. I'm guessing that, for some German grad student, $25/hour would be more than reasonable.

If you decide to go the Middlebury route (it really is the best program out there), see if you can get financial aid for the program. I'm guessing that if you stand to lose a lot of money in a bet, taking out an academic loan for $6k isn't such a big deal.
posted by felix betachat at 3:36 PM on September 10, 2007

I did Rosetta Stone + a good English-German dictionary + online news + movies and I had a decent knowledge of German within a few months before I moved there.
posted by atomly at 4:24 PM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: You might Google for a local "stammtisch" - a group that gets together regularly to speak German.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 6:20 PM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: There's a skype forum for people who want to find others to practice a foreign language with here. I'm sure you could find a native speaker interested in helping.
posted by flod logic at 6:55 PM on September 10, 2007

rosetta stone's whole pitch is that they will immerse you in german. They use no english at all. At first this is confusing, but I have found that I picked up words and phrases (even grammar) quicker than I expected to. For example, they will never explain to you "Hund means Dog" but rather they will show you a picture of a dog and display/say "Hund." Over and over. and over.

They claim this better represents the way you learn your first language: no one translates anything for you, you just assosiate words with things.
posted by milestogo at 7:15 PM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: I love Rosetta stone. milestogo explains why. There is no English, right from the start, you're thrown into the German.

There's a really good demo on the Rosetta stone website. Just using that was fun for a few days.

Rosetta Stone offers an online subscription, which is significantly cheaper than buying the software. $159.95 for six months of German. And that includes all 3 levels, so as far as you can go in six months.
posted by Danila at 8:28 PM on September 10, 2007

If you have a spare room, find a German who will trade free or reduced rent for daily German lessons and constant on-the-spot correction of your conversational German errors. You could do German stuff together (newspaper, movies, television, music, etc.) and then talk about them.
posted by pracowity at 12:47 AM on September 11, 2007

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