How To Learn German In Six Months (All By Yourself)
- Mille Larsen •12 mins read
How do you learn German in only six months?
How do you learn german in a few months?
So imagine that you just got a promotion. Great!
A nice raise, a company car and you are relocating to Germany. Exciting!
Your boss has finally given you a break!
He believes in you and in your skills to oversee the German market!
He believes that you're an ambitious and talented worker!
And he thinks you speak German!
Wait a minute?...
What if you were suddenly charged with the seemingly impossible task of becoming fluent in a foreign language like German in a short amount of time - like a few months? This would seem chilling to most people. Even if you'd study 8 ours a day, there's simply a limit to how quickly you can learn and consolidate new information to learn a new language. Yet you have great motivation in the form of a contract in front of you.
So let's say you negotiate a little and you end up getting 6 months to prepare yourself for this new life. You now have an end goal in sight.
But how do you learn German in six months?
Start by making a plan and setting goals
So you have 6 months to learn German? It's not impossible. But it certainly is not easy either! Having a deadline for when you need to speak the language is one thing. But it being after only six months of study? You've better be serious about it!
So now's the time to make a plan for how your next six months are going to to be. You need to know what the milestones will be in as you learn German. And you should set goals for them. You have to figure out how you'll reach those goals and milestones by getting the right study methods and programs laid out. And you need a plan B if something doesn't work. And maybe a plan C.
The milestones of learning German
In 6 months, you need go from being a complete beginner in German to reaching the advanced stage. The amount of ground you need to cover is quite bit. When you learn German, as well as any other language, you'll need to dedicate much more time on the advanced stage than you would as a beginner and an intermediate student. How much? Ideally you'd spend, perhaps, two years studying advanced German material. But you don't have two years, you've got 6 months, and you need to start at the beginning!
So out of the 6 months, let's say you four weeks to finish your beginner's material and move on to intermediate stuff. Actually, let's make that two weeks. You don't have any time to waste.
After those two weeks, you'll be tired. Your brain will be filled with German phrases and you'll probably be rather confused. Don't worry, you're all right. The real stress is yet to come. Now you need to attack the intermediary stuff. This is more difficult and there will be more material to cover. You get six weeks for this.
This leaves you with only four months to finally reach the stage in which you can call yourself fluent in German. You sure you want to do this?
Beginner German - A1 and A2
So let's start with your first two weeks of learning German. The first week you'll spend on the A1 stage and the second you'll be doing A2. (If you don't know, A1 and A2 are the "beginner" stages of the international CEFR-ratings for languages.)
What you need to archive in the first week is to recognize and use very simple greetings and every-day phrases. You need to be able to understand very slow, spoken German using a very simple vocabulary. And you need to be able to read the same kind of thing. Try taking this online placement test to see if you have succeeded.
The second week, you need to study at a A2 level. This means that you need to understand sentences about the most common topics like your family, your job, how to order a loaf of bred at the baker's and so on. You also need to start being able to describe what you see. If things are under, above, behind or beneath one another. After that week, you're no longer a beginner!
What you should study in the beginning phase
So what needs to be done, in order to get that far? I recommend that you do several things at once. Get a beginner's German course like Assimil German. Work at it for at least one and a half hours a day. Assimil books roughly have 100 lessons, and I recoomend that you do 2/3 of the book in the beginning stage. That's around five new lessons a day! Fore more info on how I study with Assimil, check out my Assimil French review. You need to do around 5 times as much work as I recommend in that article, however.
But there's more! When studying language, it's most effective to do several things in the same time. Seeing what you already learned in another context shortly after is something that is extremely effective while trying to force-feed yourself a language.
In addition to Assimil, I recommend that you do another beginner's course at the same time. Since Assimil is a very dialogue-based course with very few grammar explanations, try picking something that's on the other end of the scale, like Teach Yourself German. With this course, you can spend a little less time per day - like half an hour to an hour. If you do Assimil in the morning, do Teach yourself in the evening. And you don't have to move forward as quickly as Assimil. Count on completely finishing the Teach Yourself book in the beginner and following intermediate stage. (A total of two months).
Study with Glossika German for the next six months.
Oh but that's not all. While starting out on German, I want you to start doing one last course, namely Glossika German. Glossika is a program that offers an enormous amount of sentences that you study and revise daily. The idea is that you learn Grammar, syntax and pronunciation from getting used to hearing (and repeating out loud) the words in a sentence. Glossika's intelligent spaced repetition system also ingeniously helps remind you of sentences at just the right moment before you were going to forget it.
You'll be using Glossika every day for the next six months. In the beginning, do 20 new sentences each day and be sure to do all the repetitions! I recommend that you spread out your Glossika study sessions throughout the day. Do several small sessions of 10 minutes each at different times of the day. Read more about Glossika.
When your two weeks is up, it's very important to look back at your plan. Have your goals so far been met? And if not, you're going to get it much harder in the next phase.
Continuing on with the intermediate stage - B1 and B2
You have six weeks to complete the intermediate levels. Let's say you get two and a half week for B1 and three and a half week for B2.
When studying B1, you need to be able to understand the kind of dialogue you'd be having as a tourist in Germany. Imagine asking for directions and understanding the reply. You also need to be able to talk about things that interests you and to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings to a certain degree. You need to get there in 2,5 weeks.
As for B2, also called the "upper intermediate stage". This is where you need to be able to understand text that is more or less complicated. You need to be able to figure out what the main viewpoints are in any article you'd be reading in German. In the upper intermediate stage, you should also be able to write at a decent level and get your point across through writing. You get 3,5 weeks for that.
Reading German texts
So B1 and B2 are clearly significantly more complicated that the beginning stages of learning German. In the first week, I'd like you to finish your Assimil. With that out of the way, and with Teach Yourself and Glossika on the side, there's plenty of time each day to proceed to reading and writing. Here's what you must do:
Spend 45 minutes a day reading. Reading is one of the absolutely best ways of learning new vocabulary. The idea is that you learn words and concepts through the context, so ideally, you shouldn't look things up in a dictionary, but rather figure them out from the text. The linguist Stephen Krashen is the man behind "The input hypothesis". Krashen describes his ideas as "I+1", which basically means "German you understand, only slightly more difficult". If you were to read texts only slightly above your level, you'd be able to read your way to a huge vocabulary eventually with his method.
But you don't have the time for that! There are strategies that you can utilize for learning German through reading. My favorite is LingQ.
LingQ is an app that helps you read texts in several languages. It has a built-in dictionary that helps you look up words instantaneously and save them for later. It then gradually tracks your vocabulary as it grows. I've used LingQ with great success for both French and Arabic. Read more about LingQ.
Writing and speaking daily with a tutor.
You're also going to start writing and speaking every day. I recommend that you find not one, but two German tutors on Italki. You need them to be really good teachers and as ambitious about your goal as you are. I recommend that you pick two people that seem different. Once young, another older, a man and a woman. And most importantly - if you're not happy with them, or if they somehow don't fit with your learning approach, don't hesitate to change tutor! It's not personal, but you'll be paying them. And you don't have any time to waste!
Do half an hour of conversation with each tutor every day! And write a text for them to correct after each discussion. The text could consist of around 300-500 words and discuss the same topics as the two of you has in the conversation.
There's also the possibility of finding a language exchange partner, but it might be difficult to find someone as dedicated as you are. And they'll expect you to help them out with the language they're learning in exchange for helping you. You don't have the time for that!
At this point you should also try to fit German into all aspects of your daily schedule. Try being creative with how you can use the language, and use dead time to study German during the day.
It's been six weeks of daily studies with Glossika, reading with LingQ, speaking and writing with your tutors. You should be finished with Teach Yourself by now, by the way! And now it's time to take another placement test. Because you're moving on to the advanced stage!
The advanced stage - C1 and C2.
Are you still motivated for the raise and the company car in Germany? Because you're only half way in. You're at the upper intermediate stage of German, but to become professionally proficient, you need the advanced stage.
Of the coming three months, you should spend one on C1 and two on C2.
The goal after your first month studying advanced German should be to understand long, complicated sentences and "read through the lines". Be able to express yourself in a spontaneous way without difficulty. And be able to write long, complicated texts in correct German.
The next two months, you'll need to become almost perfectly fluent in german to get to the C2 level. You'll have to understand almost everything you read and hear. To really understand the subtleties of complicated German texts and to almost speak like a German.
So how do you learn advanced German in three months?
At this point, you should be at the advanced stage with Glossika. Keep on studying with Glossika. The aim is to reach 50.000 or 75.000 reps after the complete 6 months. Keep on reading gradually more complicated texts with LingQ. Read an hour a day at least and chose texts with around 20% unknown words. Don't stay too long with material that's too easy!
As for your tutors. Hopefully by now, you've found the tutors you want to stick with! I want you to keep doing what you did at the intermediate stage, but write longer essays of at least 1000 words each day. One for each tutor. And make sure to use the new words you come upon when reading through LingQ. Make good use of your time and take charge of your learning routine. Don't let your tutors run off on a tangent or get too absorbed in something that's not helpful to you.
At this point, you should ask the tutors for an assessment once every month. Are you where you should be at this point in your studies? Also try making friends with Germans and make casual conversations with the throughout the day. How does it feel. Are you getting there?
As you get closer and closer to the six month mark, you can start focusing more on reading articles related to your professional field in German in order to gain the vocabulary that you're going to be using very soon.
At the end of all of this, it's possible that you're still somewhere between C1 and C2. Don't worry about it, it'll do. Learning a language normally takes a lifetime, but you'll be proficient enough to work and live in Germany. The rest will come later!