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I want to learn German: The top 10 rules for German learners

in my job I receive quite a few emails asking “I want to learn German. Where do I start?” Here therefore my top 10 “rules” for anyone who would like to get started learning German efficiently.

Top 10 (Grammar) Rules for Beginners of German

1. I want to Learn German Articles

You might have heard that the biggest challenge for German learners is to learn the gender of German nouns. That’s the der, die, das problem. Not many German tutors know that there are two very simple yet powerful techniques that makes learning German articles a breeze. You can learn one of these techniques more in this short video of mine:

And the other one, the article association technique or as I call it “The Superhero Technique” in any free trial of my German online courses which you can get to here. Or you simply work with my free app, available for iOS and Android which will teach you that technique in just a few minutes on the go. That app is  called the German Articles Buster.

2. I want to learn German sentence order

a) “Ich liebe dich” (i.e. 1-VERB-3) for normal sentences and W-questions e.g. “Wo bist du?”
b) VERB-SUBJECT-REST for yes/no-questions e.g. “Kommst du heute Abend? or orders e.g. “Komm sofort hierher!”
c) VERB at the end for German dependent clauses e.g. “Weil ich keine Zeit HABE.”

This will take quite some time though and is not that easy to master on one’s own which is why I have created proper online German courses which you can try for free here to support you with this over a longer period of time.

3. I want to learn German Cases

The German cases are actually pretty logical. It takes some time to get a nice grip on them but there’s no reason to be scared of them at all. I explain the logic behind the cases in this German online class of which you’ll find many more in my German online courses for self learners:

4. I want to Learn German Tenses

That’s lovely and the good news is that you only need to master two German tenses until half through German level B2 CEFR:
a) The Präsens tense for present & future events and
b) the Perfekt tense for the past.
I’m not kidding. We got 6 tenses in total but those two suffice. Here are all of them with an example just for fun:

Plusquamperfekt: Ich hatte zu viel gearbeitet.
Perfekt: Ich habe zu viel gearbeitet.
Präteritum: Ich arbeitete zu viel.
Präsens: Ich arbeite zu viel.
Futur I: Ich werde zu viel arbeiten.
Futur II: Ich werde zu viel gearbeitet haben.

5. I want to Learn German Irregular Verbs

No worries. It will only take 3-4 hours and you are done for years to come IF you use my free app The Irregular Verbs Wizard that is.
And if you like drills, the following app might entertain you for a while: German Verb Conjugations – Meister der Konjugation.

6. I want to Learn German Politeness

Höflichkeit ist eine Zier, doch weiter kommt man ohne ihr. (=Politeness is an adornment, but one gets further without it.) Despite this little limmerick, it can’t harm to be polite to Germans. And to ask for things politely or express your wishes you will need the Konjunktiv II which is very simple.
Use the right conjugation of “würden” (=would) with the infinitive:
Ich würde gerne einen Kaffee bestellen.
I would “like” a coffee to order.

The forms of “würden” are:

ich würde
du würdest
es würde
wir würden
ihr würdet
sie würden.

Clear, right?

7. I want to Learn German Vocabulary quickly

To do so, stay away from lists with random German words on it. No matter whether those are the 500 most used German words or not. If you learn them out of any context, you are wasting your time. That’s why in my online courses you’ll learn German words quickly with help of detective stories (A1-B1) or with short articles about the German culture, politics or society (B2, C1). All my online German courses have a built in vocab tool which helps you to focus on those words that you don’t know yet. That approach will save you precious time and is a lot more fun that learning long and boring lists of the most frequent German words.

8. I want to Learn how to Read German Books

You can’t just read German books like that, not even with a dictionary. I mean you could but it would be very frustrating if you don’t know how to read it. That’s why I have created over 150 videos that teach you how to read German without having to look up a single word. Here’s an example from my B1 course.

But that’s of course not all. You will of course also read by yourself and I’ll guide you through it, step by step.

9. I want to Practice speaking German on your own or with a language exchange partner

If you say I want to learn German you got to  find a German language exchange partner
Yes, I want to learn German

In my German online classes for self learners you’ll learn a cuople of very powerful techniques that will allow you to practice speaking German on your own. You don’t need to pay a German tutor to practice speaking German anymore. I know it sounds crazy to many learners at first and don’t believe a word I write. Just try it in any first lesson of my online German courses. I offer free trial lessons for each level here. Just pick your level and click the button that says “Free Trial”. The technique you are looking for is called “Preaching”. Later in my courses you’ll get to know the “Presentation Technique” and the “Listen and Repeat” exercises. I’ll also soon add one more speaking exercise, the NIcely TEmpered MAssive REpetition Exercise or short: NITEMARE. Those will be similar to the approach that Glossika or Speechling apply, just a lot simpler and more fun as you’ll learn sentences that’ll blow your German friends or German mother in law away.

In addition to these powerful exercises you can try out a language exchange or so called Tandem partner. Those are not easy to manage which is why we offer a special course that will train you for this occasion: The Tandem Training. It costs a few bucks but will save you many hours of preciouse life time and also frustration. Your German language exchange partner will thank you for preparing SmarterGerman style.

10. I want to enjoy learning German

You started out with saying “I want to learn German” and that’s why it is crucial that you also enjoy what you are doing. That mainly means that you should connect German to the things you love to do most as then it will not feel like work. It’ll still be an awful lot of work, but it won’t feel like it.I know the last four points are not actually grammar rules but they are rules of highly efficient German learning. I hope that these tips will help you getting started. There is much more to the German language and learning it but this will cover quite a lot of your path to your aim of proficiency. And if you are thinking about taking your German learning to the next level, you might want to take a look at my online German courses which you can easily access via the menu on top of this page.

Bonus Tip: I want to pass the German B1 Exam

If you take any exam it’s always good to know what’s expected of you. You can google for free B1 German exams and also watch a few Youtube videos on that topic or you take a look at my B1 Exam Preparation Course which summarizes over 30 years of experience in taking and hacking language exams. I have never failed any exam. The worst grade I ever got was a 5 in Religion in elementary school and that didn’t do me any harm (at least not until judgement day).

10 responses to “I want to learn German: The top 10 rules for German learners”

  1. I disagree with only one of these things: that the only two tenses needed until late B2 are the Präsens and the Perfekt. It’s nearly impossible to read anything of real interest (including, for example, news articles) without at least a basic knowledge of the Präteritum. Therefore I’d recommend learning that as soon as possible after mastering the first two tenses.

    • That surely is true, Charlotte, yet there isn’t much reading on such level until you have passed B1. Then much of the Präteritum is easily recognizable, like e.g. machte, hörte, sagte and even some irregular forms are not that hard once you have looked them up once: sah, kam, nahm, ging (after you have learned gegangen for the Perfekt). The Präteritum just needs to be recognized unless you want to write a novel which is rather a rare occurrence.Plus: by using the method I recommend you will learn the Präteritum literally on the go with learning the irregular past participles.

  2. That’s very useful! When I first started learning German, what put me off was the conjugation/declination – I found it way too complicated compared to languages such as French or Spanish. On the other hand, the point you make about only having to know two tenses to start with makes it seem like a really easy language 🙂

    • German is not much more complicated than most other languages. It all depends on how it is instructed and how much effort one puts in intelligent repetition. Especially when compared to Polish, German is pure Kindergarten 😉 Have a nice start into the new week. Pozdrawiam.

  3. Hallo, Michael,
    What do you think of Anki instead of Memrise? I was getting used to Anki when I had to give up my German for lack of time. Now I was going to start using it again, although Anki is not very intuitive and it takes a few minutes to build a new flaschcard, so before I choose I would like to know why you prefer Memrise.
    Thanks,
    Helena

    • Hi Helena,
      Anki is less beautiful and way to loaded with possibilities. It’s like taking your Rolls Royce to go to the store around the corner when a bike would do the job. The main argument though is that memrise is simpler to use, quicker, free for iOS and Android (Anki costs sth like 20 or even 30 EUR for iOS) and that I have already created a efficiently designed vocab-course on memrise which I won’t create for Anki (nor should you waste time on that).
      Gerne
      Micchael

  4. I wish I spent more time taking German classes during my high school years! I remember when I was 16 I went to an intensive language summer camp in Heidelberg, it was very fun but I learned 0 grammar. The main issues were the grammar (specially the verbs) and lack of personal motivation. I should try again piking up some elementary German with online courses soon!

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