Fun ways to learn German: should it be fun?

Thank you all for participating in my little survey. Below are the results of about 500 answers. Below the image, you’ll find how scientists answer the question and why you should be skeptical when someone tries to sell you fun ways to learn German.

Click image to vote yourself

Interesting was also to see that most of those who pledged for “fun” also took the “easy path” in the ( newsletter. I have a very critical view on all those “Learn German with fun” approaches. I understand that it is necessary to entertain learners when the content is dry and possibly difficult. But the German language itself is amazingly beautiful and learning something new is incredibly motivating by nature. There’s no need to add any more “fun” to it.

Honestly spoken, I’d say that it is the school setting that makes it necessary to entertain German learners despite their initially strong motivation. You can compare it with normal schools for children and teenagers and the question arises whether language schools are actually doing the German language a “Bärendienst” (lit.: bear service, disservice). The talk by Sir Ken Robinson at the bottom of this post dives a bit deeper into this topic.

Is learning German with fun desirable?
der Gummistiefel / – / Image from Pixabay

They say: “The best way to learn German is to fall in love with a German.” I read this like: when your motivation is right, the circumstances are “zweitrangig” (secondary). I’d simply remove the article “a” from this statement: “The best way to learn German is to fall in love with German.” I’m in love with my own language because I have understood it to a degree that reveals its full beauty to me. And I’m happy to share my insights with you so that you can, too, one day fall in love with it or if you are already infatuated keep this feeling alive forever.

Last but not least I’d like to recommend Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning to you if you got a few hours to spare and if you are interested in learning German for a longer period of time. If you are an educator of any kind, this book is a must. It provides a solid and understandable overview of relevant studies about learning efficiently. I have read hundreds of books and articles over the last years and this one sums it all up.

3 responses to “Fun ways to learn German: should it be fun?”

  1. Aller Anfang ist schwer, aber aller Anfang ist oft langweilig. Ich verstehe die Versuche, das Sprachlernen unterhaltsam zu machen. Vielleicht wäre es besser, sich die Sprachpädagogik interessant zu wandeln. Das Lernen kann eine gute Herausforderung sein, aber auch eine packende Aufgabe. z.B. habe ich mich das Deutsch (das ich kann!) selbst beigebracht, oft mit dem Lesen der Nachrichten in den Online Zeitungen. OK. Aber häufig las ich die Boulevardzeitungen, die viele Reportagen über die doofe Liebesgeschichten von faden Promis erzählten, die eigentlich mir viel Spaß gemacht hatten. Also diese Geschichten waren unterhaltsam, aber auch nicht einfach zu lesen. Am Ende habe ich eine Mischung gefunden, daß das Deutsch Lernen nicht rein unterhaltsam, nicht rein schwierig, aber auch nicht langweilig gemacht hat. Ich mache für mich das Lernen immer interessant, was bedeutet, daß es unterhalsam sein könnte, aber nicht immer. Ach! Es ist nicht einfach zu beschreiben.

  2. I wonder if there is a typo in the above, where you say that ‘most of those who pledged for “fun” also took the “easy path”‘ – looking at the figures suggests that many of those who said they wanted easy and fun did actually work through the German text. Even if everyone who took the shortcut had said “fun” that would still only be about 46% of them (131 out of 285); most, like me, must have decided that doing it the hard way could be interesting anyway.

  3. I agree that motivation is everything, and the great “fun” in the process is watching as a great country morphs from black and white (before learning German) to full, vibrant color (after one learns German).

    Learning the language is like coming out of the darkness. That is fun enough.

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