A big mistake new language learners make is sticking to one method of study. You may feel you need to go out and buy the most expensive textbook or online course and focus your attention only on that.
Restrict yourself to one learning method, and you run the risk of getting bored. This can lead you to hit a wall, become disheartened and possibly even throw in the towel.
Did you know that you can study German while cooking dinner? Or, that a game of Scrabble can be more effective than an hour’s worth of textbook study?
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to learn a language and it certainly doesn’t have to be boring.
Here are ten German games and exercises you can use to build your German language knowledge and have some fun along the way.
1. Watch Your Favourite TV shows With German Subtitles.
You’re stuck between feeling you should study and wanting to relax. Give yourself a break and put on a TV show you know and love… with German subtitles. Websites such as TVsubtitles.net allow you to download the subtitles for English speaking shows.
You can even go one step further and find dubbed versions. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything that is being said. Knowing the gist is enough for when you are first starting out.
If you really want to challenge yourself, ditch the English/American TV shows for German movies and television series. Watching German films will give you an insight into the informal language and culture of native speakers. This will help you pick up everyday slang that you are less likely to learn from textbooks.
Watching movies is a great way to learn a language – as long as you approach them the right way.
2. Put Post-its on Items Around the House
Write the German translations of words on Post-its and stick them on your belongings. Place them on clothing, appliances and the items in your cupboards and drawers. You can learn the German translations for the contents of your fridge, while contemplating what to have for dinner!
Don’t forget to write down the German articles along with the nouns (der, die and das in the normative form and ein or eine for ‘a’ or ‘an’). This will help to avoid gender confusion in the future.
There are plenty of opportunities to get creative when using this method. If you are struggling to remember the word for green, write “grün” on a Post-it and stick it on a pot plant.
When you are next trying to recall the German word for that colour, you will mentally link the word to the plant. The Post-it will act as a visual prompt and aid you in remembering it.
3. Cook Your Meals Using German Recipes
Why not impress your family and friends by learning how to make Sauerkraut or Strudel?
One of the most effective ways to become fluent in a foreign language is to live it. This is best achieved when you immerse as many aspects of your life into the culture of the language you are learning. What better way is there to experience a culture than through food?
Buy a German cookbook, or look up German recipes online. Follow the directions as well as you’re able, using your phrasebook or the Internet to decipher words you don’t know. You can translate your own recipes to further extend your knowledge base. For example, transcribe your recipe for pumpkin soup into German. Use this as a reference point the next time you’re craving something warm on a chilly winter’s evening!
This works as an excellent rewards-based system – you improve your knowledge of the language and culture, plus you get a meal at the end!
4. Use Music to Extend Your Vocabulary and Knowledge of German Culture
Listening to German songs is a great way to immerse yourself in German when you’re driving, cooking or doing DIY.
Ballads are a good place to start, as they’re slow and easy to follow. Look up Phillipp Poisel and Tim Bendzko, who sing ballads in German. If you’re a fan of rap or hip-hop, I would suggest Peter Foxx or Fettes Brott. They’re a little more upbeat and fun!
German radio stations can be streamed off the Internet, and are a good way to discover new songs that match your tastes.
Once you have amassed a compilation of songs, start to sing along to the songs that you like. Write down the words you know or recognise, as you listen to the music. Look up the lyrics and try to translate them. New words can be added to your vocab list. Language learning via music is an excellent way to commit new phrases to memory.
Over time, you may learn the lyrics well enough to add to your collection of tunes to sing in the shower!
5. Get in Touch With Your Inner Child
Picture books work well as a resource for memorising new words and phrases.
As you’re reading, sound out the words as a child would and use the pictures to take a guess at what the sentence translates to. Dual-language books are handy in that you don’t have to spend time translating the sentences – you can instead focus on committing the new phrases to memory.
You don’t have to stop at books. If you’re anything like me. chances are you grew up watching Disney movies. You will intrinsically know many aspects of the films – from the plot, to song lyrics, even down to individual lines, off by heart. Disney movies are a great resource in language learning, due to their familiarity and the quality of the films. As Disney is renowned worldwide, the dubbed versions are of the highest quality. Unlike a lot of animated movies, time has been taken to translate the dialogue and the lyrics of their most famous songs.
6. Get Creative With Your German Phrases
Constantly referring to your phrasebook to learn how to ask directions or order food can become a real bore. Get a little creative and search the pages to find the most outrageous phrases your book contains.
This exercise is at its most amusing when the phrase does not translate word for word into English.
For example, did you know ‘mein Magen hängt in den Kniekehlen’ is the German equivalent for “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse,” and translates literally to “my stomach is hanging at my kneecaps”?
This serves as an interesting and amusing insight into German culture. Committing these phrases to memory might win you points with native speakers – and broadens your vocabulary.
7. Find New Uses For Your Old Board Games
Wipe the dust off your board games and start putting them to good use! Use the pieces from Scrabble to structure German words. Or coerce a friend into playing a round, after banning English from the game.
Cards Against Humanity is known as being “a party game for horrible people”. The aim of the game is to pair innocent questions with the most disgusting or horrendous answer available in your stack of cards.
This card game is fairly new, having been around for only the last four years. There are plenty of English speaking versions, from American to Australian. Unfortunately, the company is yet to release a German edition of the game. What you can do is create your own pack, via a PDF on their website. Alternatively, download a German version and follow the instructions to create your own copy of the game.
If you’ve gone for total immersion in your quest for fluency and live in a German speaking country, Cards Against Humanity would be a real hit at your next house party. If not, this is another way you can gain insight into words and phrases that would definitely be missing from your phrasebook.
8. Change All Your Electronic Devices to German Language
This is a simple hack to expand your vocabulary. Your computer, tablet or smartphone is a device you use everyday, so the interface should already be familiar. Changing your computer’s operating system to German is another way you can immerse yourself in the language, wherever you live.
What are Your Favourite German Games and Exercises?
These are just some of the ways in which you can shake up your language learning, to make it more entertaining. If you have any more suggestions or ideas, please share them in the comments.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.