Yes, you read that right. German is easy. I have just written a detailed guide that explains, in detail, why.
I took the “hardest” grammar and vocabulary points and presented them in a different way that focuses on efficiency in speaking the language as quickly as possible. You can read more about the Why German is Easy guide here.
The guide includes an e-book in three formats (ePub for iPads/Sony Reader etc., basic printable version that wastes as little paper as possible, and the computer screen readable PDF) and many extra files to help explain this and help beginner to intermediate German learners currently struggling with the language. I’ll be adding more content later as free updates. You can download the table of contents and an example chapter of the e-book for free before deciding if you want the full version. Read more about it here.
Any language is easy: it all depends on attitude and focus
About a year ago I wrote a post about why Czech isn’t as hard as you think. To this day it is still one of the most popular posts on this blog and many people have told me that my suggestions have helped them immensely with their Czech.
Now I’m taking it a step further and instead of just saying that German isn’t as hard as you think, I’m boldly claiming that German is easy and this time have explained it in much more depth. Give me enough time and I can gladly explain to you how any language is easy. There is no such thing as the hardest language in the world.
This isn’t because I was bitten by a radioactive multilingual spider. I’m not a genius. If languages came “naturally” to me, then I would have aced German the first time round during my five years of German schooling. Instead, I got a C as my final grade and couldn’t even order a train ticket in German when I visited Munich a few years ago.
Despite that, in just three months of my second attempt, I passed four out of five sections of Goethe Institut’s Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung (German mastery exam). What I changed in my approach to learning the language is something everyone could implement: I stopped telling myself how hard German was and started focusing on the positive. Being a positive filter made the language easy for me.
This isn’t fooling yourself with empty mantras or willing the universe to make it easy for you. There are very logical and systematic ways of looking at a language to make sure that you keep this positive feedback loop up and make swift progress in the language.
The “hard” fallacy
This approach also works extremely well to argue that a language is hard. Although that argument has no benefits at all, unless demotivating people is how you get your kicks.
In fact, someone could counter my book with a list of reasons German or any language is hard, and they already have! You can find this in almost every academic language course in the world.
Most technical courses I have come across are nothing more than lists of differences between English and the target language. These grammar points are different and those words of vocabulary are different. It seems like the most logical thing to do – English does it this way, German does it that way. Of course it’s different – that’s why it’s another language, right?
The problem with this approach is that it usually focuses on nothing but the differences. What about the patterns? What about the many similarities? At best these are nothing more than minor after-thoughts in courses. I focus on these patterns within the grammar and vocabulary and that gives me a huge short-cut to speaking the language quicker.
This is something that many other successful language learners do too! I managed to interview Stu Jay Raj for 55 minutes as part of the latest update to the Language Hacking Guide, and he had the following to say when I asked him about languages being hard:
Go in there and say this is the most unbelievably easy, logical and systematic language that I could ever learn – no matter what language it is, and your brain will make it so. And you’ll start finding finding patterns that native speakers do naturally.
Finding the patterns and making mistakes
To see what I mean, download the free chapter of Why German is easy and see how I explain my way of looking at German word plurals. It was suggested to me in school that I simply learn the plural of the word each time I learn a new word, as well as its gender, irregular declensions etc. This is a grossly inefficient way to learn a language, especially if you want to speak it soon.
You would be intimidated and not ever say the word in particular contexts (plural, different case, not sure of its gender etc.), because you haven’t learned that particular word’s special properties yet. This makes a language even more intimidating when you realise the mountain of vocabulary waiting to be learned and how your work is increasing exponentially with what you have to do for every single word. It’s better to find the patterns that work most of the time, and make mistakes in the remaining infrequent cases.
What I did with plurals was find the patterns, learn these, see what the majority situations are, and then guess if I wasn’t sure. This has never hindered my communication in the language. When I get more confident then I can come back to these points and tidy them up so that I am speaking more correctly. At that stage it is much easier because you will be used to the language so much more.
But focusing on perfection in the beginner to intermediate stages of learning a language is a huge mistake. Even natives don’t speak perfectly – and you would indeed have to be a genius to speak with no mistakes throughout your entire learning process. Some rules and vocabulary take a few tries to sink in. The only way to get there is by practice and this involves practising even when you are still making mistakes.
Accepting that mistakes are inevitable and not being too intimidated by that has been a key factor to my success in all languages. I still cannot say fully correct sentences in my current Hungarian mission, and yet I am communicating in the language already because I’m not afraid to make mistakes. Later I’ll be communicating at a much more impressive level, but only because I accepted that this mistake-heavy part of learning is a necessary stage to pass through. I embrace making mistakes as a fun and necessary part of the language learning journey.
If this new guide sells well, then I will gladly make ones for other languages (including Hungarian at the end of this mission).
Keep in mind that sales from the Language Hacking Guide and now Why German is easy are helping to support me and give me the time needed to focus on helping many other people learn their languages. In September I’ll be very active on this blog with many interesting new posts! Your support is always appreciated!!
Let me know your thoughts below about making mistakes and finding patterns in languages, and what you thought of Why German is easy guide! Also, don’t forget to share this on Facebook and twitter Thanks!
Enter your email in the top right of the site to subscribe to the Language Hacking League e-mail list for way more tips sent directly to your inbox!
If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
Comments: If you liked this post or have anything to say, please leave a comment! I love reading them
Just keep in mind that I’ll delete any rude, trolling, spammy, irrelevant or way off-topic comments. Also, use your REAL name, not a brand or business one, and don’t link to your site in the comments unless it’s relevant to this post.
If you have a general language learning question, please ask it in the forums. Otherwise please use the search tool on the right for any other question not related to this post.
- How to start learning Italian (video) (Very similar post)
- Having fun at Esperanto events (Very similar post)
- Combining learning languages with your hobbies: My first video in Czech! (Very similar post)
- Why Czech isn't as hard to learn as you think (Very similar post)
- How to speak Portuguese as if you were from Rio (Very similar post)
- How to speak French like a Quebecker - Le québécois en 10 leçons (RANDOM - Very similar post)