How (not) to make German lessons fun

German Learners just wanna have fun

I am a pretty frequent visitor of my colleagues’ German lessons and youtube channels and everywhere, really: everywhere I see German tutors who try to make learning German fun. This is like bringing sand to the beach. Learning German is fun by nature and doesn’t need any additional fun. Actually I even think that too much fun while learning German can be harmful. And I have good reasons for my claim. 

True fun

Do you remember the last time, that you have learned something really good? I mean that moment when you realized that you had learned it right. That might have been a trick on a skateboard (Yo!), a guitar play that you have been practicing for weeks, the moment when you finally found that nasty bug in your program or simply how the German adjectives work (my German grammar course makes that a wonderful experience) Anything that you have learned will have caused you pleasure, right?

Now, what motivated you to practice, to try again and again until you finally got it right? Was it that someone promised you something for it? Might be. Or simply the eagerness to master it, to have achieved something on your own? Rather, right!?

There is only one kind of effective motivation

My point is, if you don’t feel an inner eagerness to master the German language, you are motivated by outside sources. Many learners say they want a better job, meaning more money, better standing in society. Others have a partner and feel obliged to learn his or her language.

Or they are forced to study by the German government in so called Integration classes. And many just want to learn a language because it would look good on them. Who doesn’t admire a person that speaks four or five languages, of course fluently.

Truth is, all of these outside motivators can surely push you a bit towards learning a language but rather sooner than later you need to find your love for what you do or you will simply burn out and try to get it over with as quickly as possible.

The results of your German learning depend on many factors but don’t you think that one who loves to learn German simply because she or he finds personal satisfaction in mastering it is more likely to produce better results than any German learner motivated by external factors?

Why are teachers trying to make German lessons fun then?

Groups are rather suboptimal

Groups are boring when either the teacher doesn’t show enthusiasm about his or her job or is simply incapable of teaching a group. Or when other students either slow things down or try to get the teacher’s attention and thereby stealing it from you. Or you might be a slow learner and simply be annoyed by being left behind. By the way: there’s nothing wrong with being slow. 

The group setting is an unfortunate one as we all learn in a different speed, have different interests -besides learning German- and also different skills. Throwing more than two closely related people into a group will always dilute the quality of teaching, and sometimes even two are too many. That’s the nature of any group. The frustration students experience in such a setting sooner or later has to be dealt with. And keeping students entertained during the many German lessons that they are forced to take at once  is a hard job. And in addition to that it is only covering the pain, not changing the cause of it. Its the student who brings in the motivation or not. As a teacher you can only add fuel to the fire. If there’s no fire, your fuel goes to waste. And by fire I mean at least a 9 out of 10 on the motivation scale. Sure, the students would sometimes have fun if the teacher is good at this but how is that exactly contributing to your German learning? 

What’s with private German tutors?

Most of the above applies to private tuition as well but as those taking it are usually highly motivated and willing to pay a lot of money, the fun factor is not as important. From what I have heard structure and connection are way more important. And it is much easier to connect to one person than to ten or even more.

German lessons: where’s the harm?

The harm lies in the misconception that German lessons have to be made fun due to the nature of the German language. It is the nature of the class and/or the non-enthusiasm or inability of the teacher to keep the students’ fires burning that needs to be coated with sugar. Though if the teacher is good at entertaining the class or student chances are high that the language becomes less important. To make a lesson more fun usually songs, games, group or partner-activities are used. I love songs but they don’t bring over the correct pronunciation. Games are just a waste of time as the few words or phrases that can be learned with them could be learned much faster with other techniques. Group and partner-activities mean listening to and practicing of faulty German as it is impossible for the teacher to correct all of the students during such an exercise and therefore the students are at risk to establish a wrong pronunciation and structure.

If that’s no harm in your eyes, you might be on the wrong blog. ^^ I know I am taking things pretty serious and it’s fine if you differ with me. But for me there is only one kind of German and that’s correct German.

You might have been expecting some tips and tricks on how to motivate your students or yourself. I am sorry to have deceived you a bit. In German you could now say: Ich bin enttäuscht. I am disappointed. But actually that means des-illusioned and that’s a good thing as you probably were under an illusion, the illusion that learning German needs to be spiced up.  But there are factors that help students to overcome a motivational low that I will talk about in another article this weekend. Stay tuned and thanks for bearing with me.

Have a good day and enjoy your German lessons slash learning.

Learning German is fun by nature if done right