December 31, 2012
Hey all - I've been following this website for about a year now and have finally decided it's time I step up and start achieving my language goals. I'm a native English speaker with some lower-level abilities in conversational German. When I studied in Germany for a summer in 2005 (yes... "studied"...) I was able to get around speaking nothing but German and, especially after a few beers, have basic conversations with Germans in bars. That said, I can't confidently read a newspaper or even a children's book. I want to ultimately work in a German-speaking country and want to have a command of at least two other languages (one likely French, the other likely used in a developing economy like Russian or Mandarin). Bringing German up to fluency is the first step to tackling these other languages.
My goal: be able to read economic and sporting news in German on April 1, 2013.
Unfortunately, my time is extremely limited. Being able to learn a new language is hindered by:
- My job - I work up to 65 hours a week running a project management office at a major financial firm
- My family - I am married with two kids. My son is 2 years old and my daughter is 6 months old
- My schooling - I am in the middle of completing my Master of Business Administration, taking night and weekend classes
- My extracurricular activities - I also hold four leadership positions in community activities outside of work
Basically, I have no time to add new work. I also learned throughout high school and college that "studying" a language is completely ineffective for me. I need to find an immersion approach. I can't add new activities to my life, but I can replace as much as possible. But I want to prove that I (and other working professionals) can learn a new language quickly without shifting life's priorities. So here's my plan for immersion:
- Audio Courses - I spend about 1 hour and 15 minutes a day in the car traveling to and from work. I'll limit myself to only listening to German audio courses in the car (Pimsleur then Michel Thomas) or music per the next bullet
- Music - I happen to listen to listen to many German metal and Neue Deutsche Haert bands (Oomph!, Eisbrecher, Helrunar) so I will limit myself to listening to just those artists whose lyrics are in German
- News - I laugh with Germans saying that I can read Bild and generally know what's going on but Sueddeutsche Zeitung is basically Greek to me. I will now only receive my news from http://www.sueddeutsche.de (bye, bye, Wall Street Journal )
- Sports News - I love German soccer. I take time off work to watch World Cup and Euro Cup games. I also follow Bayern Muenchen and watch every Formula 1 qualifying session and race. I'll get all my sports news through German RSS feeds on my phone and through http://www.kicker.de
- TV and Movies - I watch several TV series with my wife, but when I am watching alone I'll just watch my favorite German movies (Vitus, der Untergang, Das Leben der Anderen) and kid's TV on the internet like kika.de
- Video Games - Video games are my release and way to get away, though some times I go weeks without playing them. I purchased the World of Warcraft EU client for 5 Euro and will, when I have time to play video games, only play World of Warcraft in German on servers with German speakers
- Cooking - I enjoy cooking quite a bit. When I look at new recipes, I'll only use German websites. I just made some excellent jaegerschnitzel tonight!
- Writing - I'll write progress updates here every two or three days. They will only be written in German
- Anki - I'll make heavy use of Anki, adding new words as I listen to music, read websites, and play video games
This will be my plan for at least the next month. At the beginning of February I'll assess my progress (in German ) and see if I need to change my course at all. Bis spaeter!
December 15, 2012
Hi, I am also learning German. Since your goal is a reading one, you should check out the Learning with Texts software which is available online at the website. I used it for a very short time and thought it was great, but then I switched to LingQ (which is in principle the same) because the dictionary is a lot faster (although it gives worse definitions).
I am interested in any advice you have to give me about computer games. I stopped playing them about 10 years ago and would like to get back into them as a fun way to learn some German, but I really know nothing about them. What kind of thing could you recommend? Something fun, but with lots of text and speaking.
January 7, 2013
id make more heavy use of anki, if you get it on your mobile phone (iphone etc) you can pull it out for just two minutes where that time would have just been wasted, eg, waiting for the elevator, waiting to cross the road, waiting for your computer to boot up. theres loads of time wasted that you can actively use
December 15, 2012
MogMan is right about Anki. I whip Anki out whenever I have a few spare minutes and rarely actually study flashcards when I am at home or at work, and sometimes I look on the stats at the end of the day and see that I have studied 300 cards that day. It helps that I use public transport to go to and from work.
December 31, 2012
So I was hoping to type this in German but I only have a couple quick minutes and want some of your feedback...
Things are going okay so far. I'm pushing through a lot of the Pimsleur and am now onto level II. I only learned a few words in Level I due to my previous learning.
I really have stepped up my use of Anki, as I found I was adding a lot more words. I really need to figure out a better way to learn words that aren't sticking. I know I have pretty bad short-term recall - any tips for improving my ability to pull up words in my brain?
I'm not getting much time to read, but the video games are actually working great. I can do a quick 30-minute session in World of Warcraft and come away with maybe 30 words, but they're all contextual. I remember where I just saw them, and when I get back in the game, I have to remember them again. I'm also forced to translate to understand objectives or understand game controls or spells.
I wish I was spending more time, but man it's hard! All the news I'm reading is German and all the TV / movies I'm watching on my own are in German but it's still not that much time. If only I were forced to reply to emails in German. Although if I did that I'd be working 80 hours a week, not 60
December 15, 2012
I also find that there are words in my Anki deck that I can never remember no matter how many times I try. Eventually I do remember them because eventually I will see or hear them in context and they will stick. Having used Anki heavily for a few months now, my only advice is that for words that you really cannot remember with Anki, just forget about them and move on. You could learn five new words in the time it takes to force this one into your head.
Now, when I am doing Anki and I have seen a word four or five times and still cannot get it, I usually just throw it ahead a few days and see if I can remember it then instead of letting it bog me down.
December 31, 2012
It has now been three weeks since I started this. Things are going okay (added about 500 words to my vocabulary), but here's what I've noticed:
- Pimsleur is useful for pronunciation and grammar / word order, but it's quite boring. It's perfect for just starting into a language, however, as it gives you a foundation from which to build.
- Anki is surprising me how useful it is. Adding words from the 1000 most common words list is difficult because you have no context and much of it is case-dependent.
- Video games are perfect! Being forced to pick up words so I understand what I need to do for a quest or what a spell is works extremely well. World of Warcraft doesn't require you play quickly, so I can do a lot of sitting around writing down words and adding them to Anki and not lose the game. My main concern is that I learn words like Tollwut (rabies). Not always exactly the most common words or helpful for fluency!
- I realized I need to work through my Lonely Planet phrasebook. I would like to see how much it benefits me to have the entire phrasebook in my vocabulary - even if I have the 3500 words in the dictionary, that gives me enough words (though not grammar) to be conversationally fluent.
- Reading news and watching movies, at the moment, isn't a big help. I still don't know enough words and there's just not enough there for me to grasp context yet. I retain words from the video games much better.
- I would like to find children's games in German that would help me build my language skills. I'll start searching for some.
I have always hated learning languages. I dropped my German major in college because the way we learned was horrid. I had no retention and my motivation was ruined. Now I'm excited to get through German and start with French later this spring since I'll be starting from scratch, where I can build a plan from the ground up!
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