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How to best learn German as an international talent

Learning German is perceived as a major challenge by many internationals, which is why the first steps to learning the language often take a lot of effort.

But acquiring the German language has a big number of advantages: For one, having German skills can result in more professional opportunities on the German job market, since most job offers come with some form German requirement. You also feel more confident socializing with the locals, which can help you build a social network.

In the European Union, German is the most widely spoken mother tongue and the official language in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg, as well as in Liechtenstein. So having German skills can be a great motivation to exchange fluently with the locals when traveling in these countries.

As there are many more benefits to learning German, we summarized the main steps you should take when learning the language.

Los geht’s!

How to best learn German as an international talent

Be aware there is not the one perfect way to learn German. How you learn languages ​​depends a lot on your circumstances – how much time you have, whether you already live in Germany, and also what your mother tongue is. That’s why these steps are only intended as a rough guide, and you need to find your path and strategies that work for you.

Step 1: Define your goals

The first step is to find out what your goal behind learning German is. Having a goal in mind helps you to be more motivated when learning a new language, even if it’s challenging at times. Your goal could be:

  • I want to take on a role as software engineer in a German-speaking IT company next year and would like to acquire B1 German language skills for this position.
  • I would like to travel to German-speaking countries this year and am acquiring A2 German skills so that I can speak fluently with the locals.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the alphabet 

A good way to start learning German is to familiarize yourself with the alphabet, as there are some differences to the English alphabet. But if you’re already familiar with the Roman alphabet, it’s not that difficult.

An easy and memorable way that also focuses on pronunciation is to listen to the ABC song. While listening, try and focus on the pronunciation.

Step 3: Practice the most important words and phrases

In the interest of embedding your knowledge of the German alphabet and the pronunciation of the letters directly in a context, it is helpful to learn a few important words and sentences immediately. It is best to start with greetings such as “Hallo” und “Tschüss” and practice introducing yourself “Hallo, mein Name ist …”.

There are helpful lists on the internet that have already pre-selected which sentences are important.

Step 4: Study basic grammar & sentence structure

Now it really gets down to business. German grammar and sentence structure can be a big but doable challenge. Fortunately, there are really well-prepared ways and tools to learn German grammar. Try to reflect on your past learning experiences: How do you learn best?

  • Do you like to learn digitally and gamified via an app? Then check out the various language apps in the app store and find the one that fits your needs. We recommend: babble, busuu, learngerman.dw.com
  • Are you more of a classic learning type and like to learn with text books? There are well-prepared alternatives such as this series, for example.
  • If you have difficulties structuring your learning units yourself, a face-to-face language course can also be a good option. There, you usually have a professionally trained language teacher who can give you individual feedback and structure the learning units for you. In these kinds of courses, you can also really benefit from the group dialogues and practice your speech.

Step 5: Create a study plan 

When you have found your method, create a study plan. In order to see success as quickly as possible, you should study regularly. Of course, in a perfect world where no one is too busy, setting aside an hour a day to study would be ideal. Unfortunately, this is of course not possible for everyone. However, try to plan in as much time as possible. Realistically, at least 20 minutes a day to actively learn the new language.

Step 6: Build a mini Germany around you

To experience and secure learning success, you can transform your living environment into a mini Germany. For example, you could watch movies and series in German, listen to German music or read German books. Here, it is particularly useful to consume media in German that you have already seen/heard in your native language or in English. This makes it easier to understand the plot and to better embed vocabulary in your memory. You can also integrate the German language into your everyday tasks, for example, by writing your shopping list or to-do list in German. Particularly important: Try to speak as much as possible – talk to your colleagues or set up a study group in which you regularly practice dialogue

Summary: How to best learn German as an international talent

In this article, we discussed the 6 steps you can take to best learn German as an international.

The secret to getting ahead is getting started – start with step one and work your way up.

And always remember: It is ok to make mistakes.

Du schaffst das!

Picture of Laura Villafuerte

Laura Villafuerte

HR expert & Career Coach

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