Is learning the German language a time-consuming process
Learning a language like German is an amazing process.
It’s great for your resume, is a fantastic way to meet new people and get to know a new culture, and it even provides many amazing benefits for your brain. There’s no doubt that learning German is definitely worth it, but the truth is that our busy lives leave little time to learn a language. And let’s face it: whether it be for an upcoming skiing trip in Switzerland or a business trip to Berlin, you want to be fluent in German as fast as possible.
So how long will it take to learn German?
This is usually one of the German learner’s first questions. Unfortunately, however, there’s no easy way to answer it. Learning a language is a complex process that’s different for each individual based on several factors. Let’s take a look at these different factors and how they impact how fast you learn German:
- Your Previous Language Learning Experiences
- The German Language Itself
- Your Learning Methods
- The Time You Dedicate to Learning
- Your Attitude and Motivation
1. Your Language Learning Experiences
Do you already speak a foreign language? Were you raised bilingual? If so, you may save yourself some time as you learn German.
Bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language, as several linguistic studies have proven. This is because they are naturally more accustomed to being exposed to different languages. After all, fluency and skills in one language help fluency and skills in another.
One of the first steps to learning German is learning a little bit about what makes up the language and the unique linguistic of it. If you already have experience studying foreign grammar, memorizing vocabulary, listening to different sounds, and looking at different letters, your mind knows what to expect when faced with a new language. There aren’t as many surprises and language learning becomes easier and faster.
2. The German Language Itself
German may looks “Greek” to you, but many languages are actually more similar than they are different. Learning a language that is similar to your native language can save you time when learning the alphabet, pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
As a general rule, languages that have similar roots are easier and take less time to learn. For those of you whose native language is English, you’re in luck.
Believe it or not, English speakers already know some German words even before they start studying them. Almost all European languages share many words with English thanks to their shared roots, history, and evolution. These words, known as cognates, make learning German much easier for people who speak a language with similar roots to English.
3. Your Learning Methods
How you learn German also plays an important role in how fast you learn. If your language learning is limited to a classroom setting, then it will probably take you a little longer to learn.
However, if you’re also exposed to German outside of classes, then you can cut down the time needed to learn it. Reading, listening to the radio or eBooks, writing, speaking, watching movies, and traveling to a German-speaking country can all help to speed up your learning process.
4. The Time You Dedicate to Learning
How long it takes you to learn German also depends on how much time you plan to dedicate to learning it. This could be daily, weekly, or monthly.
Learners who are willing to dedicate an hour a day to language learning–whether that be by studying grammar, memorizing vocabulary, watching a movie, or reading a book–learn significantly faster than those who just attend a weekly class.
5. Your Attitude and Motivation
Your attitude and motivation also play a big role in how fast you learn German. You’ll be more open to learning if you approach it with a positive attitude and see it as a fun and fascinating opportunity to broaden your horizons (and sound like a native when you order a beer). Then, you’ll be more motivated to study and learn as much as possible.
It’s no secret that staying motivated is key to learning a new language. There have been so many studies proving the importance of motivation in language learning. Staying motivated is the number one reason why many people have language success, and also the number one reason why some give up.
Remind yourself why you want to learn German, how it will improve your life and everything good that can come from learning it. This can help you to stay motivated and, therefore, speed up the time necessary to learn it.
The U.S. Foreign Service Institute Timeline
According to the FSI, the closer a language is to your native language, the faster you will learn that language. They divided their findings into five basic language groups based on the languages’ similarity to English, which determined how long it took learners to reach general professional proficiency or higher.
Fortunately for German learners, this language can be found in the second language group:
The FSI classifies German as a language similar to English. Getting to an upper-intermediate fluency level, therefore, requires 30 weeks (750 hours) of training.
Keep in mind, however, that the quality of your study is more important than the quantity. Immersion experiences and daily practice can significantly speed up your learning.
Common European Framework Guided Learning Hours
Realistic estimates in the field of linguistics look at the number of hours you really need to learn a language like German. The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages, for example, uses the “Guided Learning Hours” framework to measure the amount of classroom time total needed to reach a B2 (high intermediate) level. It assumes that for every one hour of classroom time, learners will spend two hours of independent study time. In the end, this equates to a total of between 1,000 and 1,200 hours.
Scenario and the time needed to have an intermediate level of German:
- One 3-hour German course per week for 8 weeks, plus a weekly homework assignment (1 hour), plus the independent practice of any type (2 hours).
Three courses per year. You will need between 25-30 courses. With three courses per year, it may take you between 8.3-10 years to reach an intermediate level.
- One year of German in school (4 hours per week + 2 hours of homework + 2 hours of independent practice X 12 weeks X 2 semesters).
Between 5-6.25 years to reach an intermediate level.
- Dedicated independent study (1 hour per day).
Approximately 3 years to achieve an intermediate level of German.
- Total, active immersion (8 hours per day).
Approximately 3 months to have an intermediate level of German.
This calculation neglects so many factors, however, and still is an overestimate of how long it could take you to learn German.
That’s where the next, more realistic study comes in.
Many beginner-level language students have the misconception that German is an almost impossible language to learn. Seemingly endless compound words and the concept of noun genders are often enough to scare people off learning German for good.
However, German actually isn’t nearly as hard to learn as you might think.
One of the main reasons German isn’t all that hard to learn is that German and English originate from the same language families and share more similarities than you probably realize.
Both German and English are Indo-European languages that stem from the Germanic family of languages.
About 40% of German vocabulary is similar to English vocabulary, which is good news for native English speakers!
Pronunciation is also more straightforward than you might think and grammar is easy to pick up thanks to easily recognizable patterns. Along with a few tips and tricks, you can learn German in no time at all.
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