Learn German Easily
Created by Lucas Kern
How to learn German in less than 1 year [and why it works]
Do you want to learn German easily?
Then here is a proven method that will help you learn German in less than a year.
It is called the TPRS method.
But before we proceed, I would like to say that this is no magic bullet.
There is no magic bullet !!! …
This blog article was written by Martin Mbae.
He writes about his experience learning German and how he managed to learn to speak German fluently.
Listen carefully to what he has to say and learn from his experiences.
There is no magic bullet…
You will have to put in the work, and you will need to be patient.
Let me give you 2 examples to explain what I mean:
I had a friend who went to study in Germany. At the time she was a B1 level student so she was well conversant with the structure. But it took her close to a year to start speaking fluently.
Another friend also went to Germany to play football. He was straight from high school and knew no German. It took him close to 2 years to speak fluently.
Are we getting somewhere here?
But maybe my friends are the slow types…
Well, according to the American Foreign Service Institute (FSI), it will take an English speaker approximately 30 weeks to reach ‘Professional Working Proficiency’ in German.
And the German school in Berlin states that it takes 8 weeks at 20 lessons per week just to get from beginner to elementary level.
Personally, I had been learning German for 2 years before I came across the TPRS method, and after 5 months of using Lucas’ method I made more progress in speaking than I had for the 2 years I was learning using other methods.
While I may not be able to show you the classes and CDs I bought, I can show you a screenshot of an App I used in the past before I started making real progress.
As you can see I’ve been at this for a while now and what I’m saying is from experience and a lot of testing.
That’s why I want to show you a method that will make your learning quicker and take away the pain of frustration.
But before we dive in let me tell you something interesting. Keep reading, because your entire learning process is dependent on this:
How the brain works when you are learning a new language
It takes repetition to overcome this resistance until eventually the brain stores the new information in the long term memory.
Then, and only then, can you be fluent.
The reason I’m telling you this is:
1. To help you understand why it will take time
2. To give you perspective into what you are up against
Now that you know this, let me tell you why you shouldn’t bother learning structure, because that’s where you really get stuck.
The problem with learning structure
The thing with learning structure is that it will take you too long to understand it, and you will be very frustrated while at it.
Apparently, even Mark Twain, one of the most prolific writers of all time had a problem with German structure:
“Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that’s the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.”
~ Mark Twain
It will take you a long time to learn German using conventional methods!
And this is not because you are weak. And it’s not because you aren’t putting in the work.
That’s not it.
You will take really long because every time you learn German, the language structure will be stored in the working memory (short-term memory).
Which means that the next time you want to create a sentence you will have to remember what you read.
If you try to construct a German sentence without creating the structure in your head first, you will use the structure of a language that you’re familiar with, because that’s what is in your long-term memory. The German structure that you had ‘stored’ is gone because it was in the working memory.
Think of computer RAM.
What do you find still stored in the RAM after a reboot?
Now that’s exactly where you store German structure when you read it.
In your RAM.
You think you’ve gotten it only to start all over again the next time.
Every single time…
And since you are human you will start to lose patience.
You will start skipping lessons.
You will practice less.
Then eventually you will wonder why you got started.
That was my experience for a long time.
And then I came across the TPRS method, and my learning success drastically improved.
Without breaking a sweat.
Without intense German classes.
Without putting in extra hours.
And this is the method that will make you fluent in less than a year, even as an absolute beginner.
Why use the TPRS method to learn German?
Lucas Kern, German language teacher to international students refers to this as the story-telling method.
The TPRS method (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) starts by introducing new words and using them in a sentence (see sample lesson below).
The next part involves questions with answers, which you follow along with audio files.
The trick is that you don’t have to understand every single word because your brain can easily fill in the blanks if you understand the meaning based on context.
The TPRS method is designed so that the brain fills in the blanks while sending and receiving information.
This is very effective for storing the information, because the brain was involved in finding meaning for that word.
And that word was put within a context, which is a sentence, so the brain learns the word and how it fits within a wider context (structure).
This way, after several repetitions, the information is stored not in the working but long-term memory.
That’s how you will learn to speak German, because you are working with and not against your brain!
This method truly works because it is supported by biological and physical laws.
And it is by the same principles that kids learn how to speak.
Here is a TPRS sample lesson
Please note: This is an intermediate/advanced level lesson, the first few lessons start out much easier.
Click the play button
|der Unfall (singular) |
/ die Unfälle (plural)
|Fast alle Unfälle in Deutschland beginnen mit: “Schau mal, was ich kann…“ oder “Halt mal mein Bier…“ 🍺||Almost all accidents in Germany start with: “Look what I can do…“ or “Hold my Beer…“|
|der Aushilfslehrer / die Aushilfslehrer||the substitute teacher|
|Aushilfslehrer: “Lässt euch euer normaler Lehrer denn so etwas machen?“ – Schüler: “Ja, na klar.“ 👨🎓||Substitute teacher: “Does your normal teacher let you do that?“ Students: “Yeah, of course.“|
|die Persönlichkeit / die Persönlichkeiten||the personality|
|Ich habe mehrere Persönlichkeiten und keine von denen mag dich.||I have multiple personalities and none of them like you.|
|die Verallgemeinerung / |
|Alle Verallgemeinerungen sind falsch, so auch diese!||All generalizations are false, including this one!|
|das Nashorn / |
|Einhörner 🦄 gibt es wirklich, nur sind sie fett und wir nennen sie Nashörner. 🦏||Unicorns are real, they are just fat and we call them rhinos.|
|die Fähigkeit / die Fähigkeiten||the ability|
|Sarkasmus ist die Fähigkeit, Idioten zu beleidigen, ohne dass sie es merken. 🤣||Sarcasm is the ability to insult idiots without them realizing it.|
|die Biene / die Bienen||the bee|
|Dieser Moment, wenn du mit einmal Karatebewegungen kennst, wenn eine Biene vorbeifliegt. 🐝||That moment when you instantly have karate moves when a bee flies by.|
/ die Unfälle (plural)
Fast alle Unfälle in Deutschland beginnen mit: “Schau mal, was ich kann…“ oder “Halt mal mein Bier…“ 🍺
Almost all accidents in Germany start with: “Look what I can do…“ or “Hold my Beer…“
der Aushilfslehrer /
the substitute teacher
Aushilfslehrer: “Lässt euch euer normaler Lehrer denn so etwas machen?“ – Schüler: “Ja, na klar.“ 👨🎓
Substitute teacher: “Does your normal teacher let you do that?“ Students: “Yeah, of course.“
die Persönlichkeit /
Ich habe mehrere Persönlichkeiten und keine
von denen mag dich.
I have multiple personalities and none of them like you.
die Verallgemeinerung /
Alle Verallgemeinerungen sind falsch, so auch diese!
All generalizations are false, including this one!
/ die Nashörner
Einhörner 🦄 gibt es wirklich, nur sind sie fett und wir nennen sie Nashörner. 🦏
Unicorns are real, they are just fat and we call them rhinos.
die Fähigkeit /
Sarkasmus ist die Fähigkeit, Idioten zu beleidigen, ohne dass sie es merken. 🤣
Sarcasm is the ability to insult idiots without them realizing it.
die Biene /
Dieser Moment, wenn du mit einmal Karatebewegungen kennst, wenn eine Biene vorbeifliegt. 🐝
That moment when you instantly have karate moves when a bee flies by.
And now the Question and Answer Technique (a special exercise for your brain)
Don’t worry if you don’t understand every little word in the following part. If you have practiced with the first part above you should be able to understand about 80%.
Try to guess the remaining 20%.
Click the play button
Mit welchen Worten beginnen in Deutschland fast alle Unfälle?
„Schau mal, was ich kann…“ oder
„Halt mal mein Bier.“ 🍺
In welchem Land?
In Deutschland passieren diese Unfälle.
Ist der Aushilfslehrer etwas verzweifelt (desperate) ?
Oh ja, er ist verzweifelt.
Der Aushilfslehrer ist verzweifelt.
Difficult to pronounce – I know
Wer ist verzweifelt?
Der Aushilfslehrer ist verzweifelt.
Habe ich mehrere Persönlichkeiten?
Genau, ich habe mehrere Persönlichkeiten.
Und mag dich eine dieser Persönlichkeiten?
Keine dieser Persönlichkeiten mag dich.
Ich habe mehrere Persönlichkeiten, aber keine von denen mag dich (just kidding).
Sind alle Verallgemeinerungen falsch oder richtig?
Alle Verallgemeinerungen sind falsch.
Alle Verallgemeinerungen sind falsch, so auch diese.
Denk mal für einen Moment darüber nach (Think about it for a moment)
Gibt es Einhörner wirklich?
Ja, natürlich gibt es Einhörner. 🦄
Einhörner gibt es wirklich.
Sind Einhörner schlank?
Nein, sie sind nicht schlank.
Sie sind fett.
Sie sind ziemlich fett und wir nennen sie auch nicht Einhörner.
Wie nennen wir sie dann?
Wir nennen sie Nashörner.
Bemerken Idioten immer, wenn man sie beleidigt?
Nein, nicht immer.
Idioten merken es nicht immer, wenn man sie beleidigt.
Wie nennt man die Fähigkeit, Idioten zu beleidigen, ohne dass sie es merken?
Die Fähigkeit, Idioten zu beleidigen, ohne dass sie es merken, nennt man Sarkasmus.
Was kennst du mit einmal, wenn eine Biene vorbeifliegt?
Wenn eine Biene vorbeifliegt, kennst du auf einmal Karatebewegungen.
Wenn was vorbeifliegt?
Eine Biene. 🐝
Wenn eine Biene vorbeifliegt, kennst du auf einmal (mit einmal) Karatebewegungen.
Why you should combine Lucas‘ TPRS method with at least one more method
According to Lucas the TPRS method is very suitable for learning to speak fluently. It helps to develop a feeling for the German language in a very natural way.
You will learn to think in German and that is very important when speaking because when you speak, you don’t have time to think about grammar rules.
Lucas always says:
„The question and answer technique is the key to fluency!“
When you answer out loud, it is like a simulated conversation but much more effective.
A real partner wouldn’t correct every little mistake you make and so a wrong structure, pronunciation and word order would be stored in your brain.
It is really hard to get rid of these mistakes once they are in your long term memory. That’s why people often need many years to learn to speak German correctly.
With the Question and Answer Technique you answer out loud and even if you make a mistake it doesn’t matter because you will hear the correct answer right after your answer.
After some repetitions you will answer correctly and this version will be stored in your long-term memory.
This saves a lot of learning time and a lot of money too that they would spend otherwise over the years in languages classes.
But what if …
… you not only want to speak fluently, but also want to read novels or specialist books in German?
Then you need a large vocabulary.
So, in order to learn German completely, you should combine Lucas‘ method with one or two other methods, depending on what your goal is.
If you want to expand your vocabulary extremely, I recommend trying LingQ.
LingQ seems a bit confusing at first, but that’s because it has so many useful features and it takes a while to get used to this program. But it is by far the best program for adding thousands of words to your vocabulary.
You can just click on unfamiliar words while reading and get a translation instantly. There is a huge selection of (audio) texts available.
Drifting away with your thoughts
After some time of study, it will feel as if you are not making any progress, and it will become more difficult to stay focused.
This is normal, and even after my 2 years of learning I still drift.
However, I realized something interesting with the passing of time, and if I would draw a graph, it would look like this:
Zone A – when you start learning
Zone B – when you understand effectiveness of the TPRS method
Zone C – when you start learning structure naturally
My graphical representation may be overly simplified, but what I want you to understand is that since the brain works on a reward system, you drift less the more you enjoy the benefit of true learning.
I am in a moment going to show you how to avoid drifting even in the initial phases, but first let’s look at a challenge every beginner faces.
The biggest challenge beginners face when learning German
The problem with beginners is that they want to see very quick progress.
Think of when you start hitting the gym. How long do you expect to work out before you see results?
And how long is it before you actually see the results?
Look at this excerpt from US News Health:
In a perfect world, weight loss, or, more specifically, fat loss, would be instantaneous. But that’s not how the human body works.
Instead, everything from your hormones to neurologic system and signals adapt to every little change in your diet and exercise routine.
Why I’m I saying this?
Because it’s the same in learning German. And when it takes too long, you start to get weary.
Learning everyday ceases to be fun.
It becomes a chore.
And because the brain works to conserve energy, it sends signals to the body to deprive energy needed for learning and divert it to a less intense activity.
Otherwise why do you ‘feel’ like watching a quick video first and then get back to your lesson? After all, the video is just 3 minutes, isn’t it?
Only to find yourself down to six videos half an hour later, and because time is up you put off the lesson until the next day.
And if you have a daily checklist like me, it will probably look like this by the end of the week:
|Mon 6th Apr||✅|
|Tue 7th Apr||❌|
|Wed 8th Apr||✅|
|Thur 9th Apr||❌|
|Fri 10th Apr||❌|
|Sat 11th Apr||✅|
|Sun 12th Apr||✅|
Do you relate?
Then keep reading and I’ll show you how to avoid drifting as I promised earlier.
How to avoid drifting
Lucas suggests that you will learn better when engaged in a physical activity rather than when sitting or lying on the bed.
As such, he encourages you to practice with his audio files:
- When driving
- When walking
- When in the bus
- When working out
In my experience, however, all these activities come up short in one way or another, and the reason goes back to the brain, which I will explain below.
The problem with the above activities
In all the above activities, your brain is processing complex information from your environment at the same time, and as a result, most words will pass under the radar. But while sitting in the bus can help, you really can’t utter the answers out loud.
Am I then advocating that you should practice your German lessons while sitting in a silent place?
Certainly not, at least according to what Lucas advises.
So which activity should you leverage for your German learning?
Think of how many minutes you spend washing, chopping, grating, frying and waiting for food to cook?
What if you could simultaneously listen to your audio files and practice your German lessons?
The effectiveness of cooking as an activity to practice learning German is that you cannot avoid it.
You cannot forget it.
And you cannot skip it…
You can skip a workout.
You may not be able to practice when walking in a group. And it may not work while driving because you have passengers or just prefer the radio.
But if you start practicing when cooking, you will win every time.
Finally, don’t make this mistake
Remember the graph we looked at earlier?
Now after you have been learning for a while, you will start to develop the structure.
And you will be able to speak words that are familiar to you quite well.
However, speaking is a very dynamic occurrence, and a conversation can take any direction. This is particularly evident when you have certain expectations for certain questions, but the respondent says something else.
For example, in my early years I always knew the answer to ‘Wie geht’s?’ was ‘Mir geht’s gut!’
And that was always my expectation, to the point that my brain stored that in the long term memory and expected no other response.
Until I spoke to a new friend.
‘Gut, danke!’ , she replied.
And it took me some seconds to find my balance and get back in the conversation.
This is not because these were new words to me, no.
And it’s not because I didn’t know how to use them, because in a given context I would have used them just right.
The thing is I wanted to say it right – according to the book.
I didn’t want to make mistakes. So, I had to think of the words I was about to say. Even though I had to think less and less the more I used the TPRS method, I always wanted to ensure that I got it right so even if I had a sentence forming naturally in my head I would try to inspect it before I spoke.
And that’s another mistake you will probably make or are making, and it could take you really long to be fluent as a result.
But don’t worry.
I came across this advice from Marianna Pascal, an English language expert and I’m sure you will find it useful. In fact if you are an English speaker you will be able to relate very well with the funny examples.
This video is about English, but the statements are true no matter what language you learn.
If you are using the TPRS method and are constantly drifting or are about to give up I encourage you to find an activity that works for you and run your learning simultaneously because I have learnt more in 5 months than I did in 2 years of conventional ‘reading and writing’.
If you are however not familiar with the TPRS method or are using a different approach you may try the TPRS method and see if it will help you.
And don’t forget to share this information. You never know who is struggling out there and you could help.
Success rate after 6-8 months
Years in the business
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