Hacking my way into German (and other) language(s)

Deutsch Lernen

Everyone of us has always wanted to learn a new language, be it Spanish to impress someone, Italian to sound both funny and ghetto, French because you’re sensual or German because it’s awesome for cursing and sounding serious. Mine was the latter. German, not cursing (of course it’s a great feature, still). 
Some of my reasons could be credited to 1- visiting Germany and realizing that it sucks not being able to speak the country’s language; 2- reading the biography of Albert Einstein and realizing that German was the language of modern sciences; and 3- I am a father of an adorable two year old who cries with gurgling sounds whom we were set to give him more linguistic options by the time he’s old enough to pick one (or more) for the longer run. The importance of multi-lingualism from a very early age became so obvious after reading “The World Until Yesterday
But of course, as human beings we tend to give ourselves completely logical reasons to why we can’t do it right now. And when we start, we realize how creative our minds can be by noticing the new even more logical reasons why we won’t make it. Until I ran into Scott Young and Vat Jaiswal’s talk in TEDxEastisdePrep and according to these two brilliant gentlemen, you can learn any language in three months! This is my story.

Over the course of about 12 months, I was able to reach a relatively good level of German language by studying average of only 30 mins/day and about 60 mins/day of practice.

Here’s how the story unfolded:

  • Getting a good understanding of German phonetics and how it is different from the language(s) I speak. A quick search on Youtube.
  • Understanding the general rules of spelling and pronunciation in German was essential. Youtube, plus general web search put me on track. The good news is these rules are so consistent and with almost no exceptions; once you know them, you will be able to pronounce any German word you see for the first time. Example “German for English Speakers” “German Grammar
  • The Duolingo journey. A gamified mobile app that helps people learn language; I started using Dulingo’s Deutsche-from-English path. [ongoing]
  • Google translate was my study pal; it helps with, obviously, translation, pronunciation, and constructing a phrase. [ongoing]
  • Nursery rhymes. Yes, “Mary had a little lamb”, “itcy pitcy spider”, “Bingo”, “Old Macdonald”, “Twinkel Twinkle” and more; their counterparts in German are not exact translations, but they have the same melody and general meaning. These were like essential drills for developing the tongue and ear for German language. HooplaKids Deutsch channel has a great repository.
  • Duolingo again. This time I went through the Deutsche-from-Arabic (mother-tongue) path; and I was able to jump through the sections by passing the test-out exams. This helped me link German to the other language I know.
  • Extra. A TV series, it is the German mini “Friends” TV show specifically designed to teach the language. It is fun and very useful to see and hear how people actually speak in German informally. This was recommended by Sherif Amr.
  • Podcast. Deutsche Welle audio tutor , a set of 100 podcasts, a podcast per conversation topic of language grammar where a person says a phrase in English, then its translation is spoken in German twice. Perfect for developing patterns and general sense of the language.
  • The famous Michel Thomas course. This was recommended by a friend, Moe ; starting this course at this stage of language is a great experience for me; not sure how progress would have changed had I started earlier with this course.
  • Following Twitter German tweeps and bots. News twitter accounts helps continuously practice reading German. Example Deutsche Welle.
  • I came across Deutsche.info an online platform for learning German.
  • Easy German, a great Youtube channel with short episodes about interesting topics.

And this should be the main things I did to learn a new language, it’s not much, but it’s ongoing with continuous improvements. But no matter what language you’re studying or why, the same tools would apply, keep in mind the great TEDxTalk and you’ll really enjoy the journey and find it much easier with your goals set, because deliberate practice is awesome. Of course continuous practice is the cornerstone of learning.

Note: special thanks for Ahmed Shamy AKA OJ for reviewing, and improving this story.

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