How to Speak German

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How to Speak German

If you’ve avoided learning how to speak in German because you thought it was too difficult, you’re probably suffering from some misconceptions about the language. Figuring out how to pronounce German words is a little tricky and some gendered vocabulary can be difficult to remember. But you’ll discover that the best way to learn to speak German is to take cues from the parts of the language that are intuitive, where the grammar and phrases closely resemble English.

Learning to speak German doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment, either. Those that have studied how to speak German for beginners agree that lots of practice reading, writing, and pronouncing German is certainly helpful. But you can still get benefits from lessons that get you speaking German phrases in just a few minutes each day, coupled with immersive experiences that build a solid foundation in the language.

As a trusted language learning software, Rosetta Stone has spent 25 years designing a program that really works. You’ll learn the foundations of the German language, taught in a specific order that builds toward a better understanding of how to speak German. Using Rosetta Stone’s award-winning mobile app and software, you can engage with a bite-sized, practical method that gets you speaking German from the very first lesson.

How to Speak German for Beginners

First, let’s tackle one of the most common misconceptions beginning language learners have about speaking German. While German may have some exceptionally long words (Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften comes to mind), and some tricky pronunciations (Eichhörnchen is a good example), it’s still relatively straightforward to learn to speak in German. That’s because German is part of a family of languages called Germanic languages.

German is one of several Germanic languages still spoken in Europe alongside English, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. When the Romans first journeyed into northern Europe, they called the area Germania. To this day, you can see the geographic and historical differences reflected in the languages spoken across Europe. To the north, Germanic languages dominate while in the south, the Romance languages are more prominent.

Today’s German language is referred to as Hochdeutsch, translated as “High German”, and it’s the second most spoken Germanic language and the most widely used language among native speakers in Europe. German dialects are divided into two groups- High German and Low German. High German dialects are spoken in places like Bavaria and Austria while Low German are spoken in the eastern Netherlands and in northern Germany. Over 78 million people in Europe speak German as native language.

How to Speak and Pronounce German Words

While pronouncing German words may be difficult at first, you’ll notice something interesting as you begin to speak German. Many of the German phrases sound quite similar to English. For instance, “I have” in German is Ich habe which seems remarkably close to English. There are many, many examples of this not only in German vocabulary but also in the way the two languages are structured.

Sometimes German grammar can be confusing for English-speaking learners. For example, German articles (meaning "a" and "the") change based on where they appear in a sentence and on what prepositions are used with them. It’s best, however, to learn these kinds of German words in context and through speaking German as part of your daily language learning practice.

One of the other things that is helpful to those beginning to speak in German is the consistent spelling. You won’t find many unfamiliar sounds or letters. You will notice some German words have funny little dots above them (ä, ö, ü). Those are called Umlauts and they signal special vowel sounds. Some sound like English vowels but other pronunciations are a little harder to master. The best way to figure out how to make the correct sounds is to practice and get feedback from native speakers.

Worried about how to start speaking German as a beginner? Rosetta Stone is here to help with practical, immersive lessons that combine writing, reading, and speaking in German. From your very first lesson, you’ll begin learning not just basic vocabulary but also how to speak German words. TruAccent®, Rosetta Stone’s patented speech recognition technology, listens and compares your accent to native speakers so you learn how to pronounce German words and phrases quickly and accurately.

Lady on a street sidewalk asking a man for a restaurant recommendation
Learn how to say, "Could you recommend a local restaurant?" in German.

The Best Way to Learn to Speak German

The best way to learn to speak German is to invest the time and immerse yourself in the language. As with most worthwhile endeavors, there aren’t any real shortcuts. There are several factors, however, that will influence how quickly you’ll learn German, including how long and how often you practice.

But it’s also true that the method you choose and the way in which the program is built can have a significant effect on whether you learn to speak German fluently. That’s why Rosetta Stone encourages teaching foundational concepts first, packing each lesson with practical exercises that get you speaking German and working on your pronunciation consistently.

In addition to learning German through Rosetta Stone’s software, you can also bring the language with you in bite-sized lessons that fit in your back pocket via the mobile app. This approach to learning German anywhere can let you increase the frequency and length of your practice time. You can also use a few of the following methods to accelerate your understanding of German and start speaking the language.

1: Focus on connectors.
Connecting words in German are fairly important and you can start to string together complex ideas if you know the basic structure and phrases of German vocabulary. For instance, you may be commenting on whether or not something is too hot or too cold at the dinner table. If you only know the words for “no” (nein) and cold (kalt), it may be a bit difficult to get your idea across. But once you learn the word for unfortunately (leider), you can begin to construct a more comprehensive response like “Unfortunately, it’s too cold.”
Leider ist es zu kalt.

2: Studying hacks.
There are a few methods of time management, studying, and note taking that suggest breaking down learning into specific smaller intervals of time or spacing words in a certain way can accelerate understanding. Spaced repetition, sometimes referred to as SRS, can help with vocabulary acquisition and involves spacing out recall into consistent intervals. It usually works best in conjunction with a few other learning techniques, like the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro method suggests breaking work or learning into 25-minute intervals, with short breaks of 3-5 minutes to allow your brain to catalog your memories and assist with better recall.

3: Memory tricks.
There are a host of memory tricks that can assist you with learning how to speak in German. One of the most popular techniques is mnemonics, where you can break down a larger set of vocabulary into an easier to remember acronym or a word association. For example, those who are learning to speak German as beginners sometimes struggle with gendered nouns. It can be difficult to understand the rhyme or reason behind assigning some nouns female genders while others have male identifiers and still others have a third type of identifier called neuter. To keep it straight in your head, you could image that all your male gendered nouns are red, female gendered nouns remained blue, and the neuter nouns were yellow as you visualized them. This gives your brain an easier way to recall the correct gender for each noun.

4: Start speaking right away.
Practicing speaking in German from your very first lesson enables even beginners to feel more confident with German pronunciations. Whether you’re trying to acquire vocabulary, practical phrases, or a deeper understanding of sentence structure, speaking German daily and getting feedback on your pronunciation is an invaluable way to accelerate your language learning.

Next Steps in How to Speak in German

Picking up a few German phrases and words is helpful, but to really learn how to speak German with confidence, you’ll want to take some next steps in your language learning journey. From immersion techniques to good old-fashioned practice, Rosetta Stone can help you read, write, and speak German.

Rosetta Stone’s approach combines learning vocabulary with practical, real-world situations that build towards a greater contextual understanding of key German phrases. Rosetta Stone will also help you hone pronunciation, comparing your accent to that of native speakers for a more authentic language learning experience.

Immerse Yourself in Speaking German

Immersion is about more than just practicing and speaking German every day. Stream German movies like Das Boot with the subtitles off or bounce along to German heavy metal from Rammstein when you’re in the car. If you’re extra ambitious, you can even change the voice-command settings on your phone or Alexa to speak to you in German. Reading in German is also an excellent way for more advanced learners to immerse themselves in the language. You can begin with a simple children’s tale like Emil Und Die Detektive (Emil and the Detective) by Erich Kästner and work your way towards more complicated tales as your learning progresses.

Get good at modal verbs

There are six modal verbs in German and while they have some irregular conjugations, learning these verbs can give you a good handle on basic German sentence structures. Modal verbs are usually used to describe the relationship to a second verb. The six German modal verbs are:

  • dürfen: allowed
  • können: can
  • mögen: to like
  • müssen: have to
  • sollen: should
  • wollen: want

Once you learn these modal verbs and how to properly conjugate them in a sentence, you can speak and understand German phrases like the following with confidence.

Ich möchte gern ein Bier trinken.
I would like to drink a beer.

Practice makes perfect

There’s no substitute for practice when learning some of the trickier elements of speaking German. Gendered nouns, modal verbs and more will eventually become a force of habit the more often you practice and the more frequently you speak. One of the things you can do to accelerate your learning is to practice with another language learner. Rosetta Stone allows learners to connect, chat, practice, and ask each other questions through a community available online.

Benefits of Speaking German

German is the second most widely spoken language in Europe

If you’re traveling Europe and you want to learn just one language, German is a good first choice. 16% of Europeans say German is their first language, and it’s the official language not only of Germany but also Austria and Liechtenstein. German is also an official co-language in Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.

Learning to speak German can be important for business

Germany is the powerhouse of the European Union for a reason. They have a strong manufacturing sector coupled with being the leaders in the European automotive and aviation industries.

Speaking German is beneficial for scientists and inventors

German is the second most widely used scientific language and Germany has a long history of invention and a strong presence in engineering, environmental science, and medical fields. In fact, throughout the early 1900s, German was widely seen as the primary scientific language and only began to lose dominance in the aftermath of World War I.

Learning to speak German can pay off

Those who are bilingual earn more than those who are not, but let’s translate that into actual value for those who speak German. A study of salaries in the United States for those who speak a second language found that German had one of the highest rates of salary increase at 3.8% in comparison to what non-bilingual counterparts earned.

Learn how to speak German with Rosetta Stone.

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