How to Understand German Faster

How to Understand German Faster

When you decide to learn German, you want to make a little bit of progress every day. But often, you don’t know how to make progress towards fluency.

There are lots of techniques and promises in the language learning world, and it feels like you have to spend years finding what delivers. What if you could cut the questions and simply focus on the best methods for learning German?

In today’s article, I will share with you three surprising facts from my new course How to Learn German Faster. These tips alone can save you hours, and I hope that you’ll be checking out the course reading to learn how to truly learn German much faster.

Vocabulary Works in Chunks, not Words

There is no way around learning vocabulary and it’s one of the most challenging tasks when learning any language. But when you understand the power of learning in context and in chunks, you will finally start putting words together so that they make sense.

This is why I recommend you throw out the classic wordlist. Instead, focus on learning your word in context. The German word “Bank” for example is best learnt as “bei einer Bank arbeiten” (work at a bank) and “auf einer Bank sitzen” (to sit on a bench), which helps you recall the correct meaning much quicker.

How to Understand German Faster

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There are great vocabulary tools out there, and in How to Learn German Faster I have included videos to guide you through the full technique and learn it step by step.

Understand German: the Difference Between Passive and Active Listening

Most German learners would like to have a conversation in German at one point but real life rarely provides us with ideal conditions for conversations. So instead, many learners focus on listening and understanding more. They spend hours with audio courses and radio shows, and wonder why progress won’t come. The trick here is that you have to know two types of listening:

Active Listening is more than just listening. This step requires your full focus, and you will need a text and its recording to work with it. In active listening, you are following every word, pronunciation, and sentence structure to grasp an audio piece’s full meaning.

Passive Listening describes those times when you are listening to a native speaker talking. This will familiarize you with the sounds of German and different kinds of German pronunciation, help you distinguish the words from each other and follow the language at natural speed. Focus on environments with natural atmosphere, so that means you should avoid the news and audiobooks.

Listening is Step 5 in the Learning Cycle, which is my biggest tip. Check out the free trial of any course of mine to try out this powerful way of learning German-video for a first insight.

Think About the Language Learning Cycle

At the heart of How to Learn German Faster, I am sharing the exact details of the German Learning Cycle, a simple and reliable system for learning faster and remembering better. If you usually sit down and try a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and feel like you’re not getting anywhere, the Learning Cycle is going to be exactly what you need.

You are going to learn exactly how to follow this cycle. There is a version for beginners and a special level for advanced learners, and my videos will show you exactly how to build this into your daily life. This course is based on the knowledge I share with private clients who regularly reach level B1 in just 3 months, and it is now available in the SmarterGerman shop.

Learning Essential German Vocabulary

Especially in the initial stages of learning a new language, focusing on basic vocabulary is the way to go before you actually practice speaking. There’s no avoiding this crucial aspect of language learning.

However, not all words carry the same weight. It is essential to prioritize words that offer the most utility in everyday conversations and that are relevant to your context and learning goals.

In the realm of language learning, the utility of a word is measured by its likelihood of being used in regular discourse. This is where word frequency lists come into play.

Achieving functional fluency doesn’t require an extensive vocabulary. The top 1,000 most common words account for approximately 80% of written German.

By concentrating on these high-frequency words initially, you can significantly enhance your understanding of the German language. Again, study these in context and try to learn them as language chunks for better understanding of their usage and better retention. This approach provides the most efficient way to acquire basic German vocabulary that proves essential in real-life situations.

Understanding German Language Basics

Here are also some essential German grammar rules that beginners should be aware of to be able to start speaking the language. German sentence structures may seem to adopt a somewhat disordered English grammar.

So, how can you determine the appropriate placement for nouns, adverbs, adjectives, and verbs. Contrary to what you might expect, German grammar is simpler than you may think.

Sentence Structure

Most of the time, German verbs come second in a sentence. The verb, representing an action, typically occupies the second position. Consider the following examples:

  • Ich liebe dich. (I love you.)
  • Wir leben dort. (We live there.)
  • Er studiert Medizin. (He studies medicine.)

These sentence structures bear a striking resemblance in both English and German. However, when constructing a question, the verb needs to be shifted to the first position:

  • Liebst du mich? (Do you love me?)
  • Lebt ihr dort? (Do you [plural] live there?)
  • Studiert er Medizin? (Does he study medicine?)

Although rules become a bit more intricate with double verbs, separable prefixes, conjunctions, and modal verbs, the positioning of verbs remains relatively straightforward.

Nouns are Capitalized in German

Always capitalize German nouns. If you observe, the word “Medizin” (medicine) in the last sentence example is capitalized. In German, all nouns (words denoting people, things, and places) are consistently capitalized. Here are additional examples:

  • Ich liebe den Sommer. (I love summer.)
  • Wir leben in dem Haus mit meiner Mutter. (We live in the house with my mother.)
  • Er studiert seit September mit seinem Bruder Medizin an der Universität. (He has been studying medicine with his brother at the university since September.)

However, pronouns are never capitalized unless they initiate a sentence.

Word Order of Adverbs

German adverbs follow a sequence of “time, manner, and place.” Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, conveying information about how, when, how often, or where something occurs. For instance, in the sentence “Er studiert seit September mit seinem Bruder Medizin an der Universität,” the word order for adverbs in German differs slightly from English.


German nouns have grammatical gender—masculine, feminine, and neuter. Learning the gender of a word is crucial, as German employs three different cases:

  • Masculine – Der Mann
  • Feminine – Die Mutter
  • Neuter – Das Haus

The German Case System

The articles (a/an/the in English) change based on whether a word is the subject, direct object, indirect object, or possessive object. Understanding the cases—nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive—helps clarify sentence structure. Again, here are some examples:

  • Nominative (subject): Der Lehrer unterrichtet die Schüler. (The teacher teaches the students.)
  • Accusative (direct object): Ich sehe den Film. (I see the movie.)
  • Dative (indirect object): Er gibt dem Kind einen Ball. (He gives the child a ball.)
  • Genitive (possessive): Das ist das Auto meines Vaters. (That is my father’s car.)

Note that some prepositions in German take the accusative case, others the dative case, and some can take either, depending on the sentence context.

Noun Genders And Cases Determine Adjective Endings

In addition to selecting from three genders, you must consider adjective endings in German. Depending on the case, specific rules guide which ending is appropriate for the preceding adjective.

Forming German Plurals

Unlike English, forming plurals in German involves various endings, such as -e, -er, -en, -n, and -s. Some examples include:

  • Das Tier – die Tiere (The animal – the animals)
  • Der Mann – die Männer (The man – the men)
  • Das Wort – die Wörter (The word – the words)

Exceptions and word-specific variations exist, requiring familiarity through immersion in the language.

Learn Modal Verbs to Express More with Minimal Conjugations

Let’s be honest, the multitude of declensions and conjugations in German can be quite daunting. Verbs undergo changes based on case, tense, grammatical person, and number. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?

Instead of grappling with the exhaustive task of learning all forms for every verb, especially for the challenging imperfect or simple past, consider focusing on mastering the conjugation of just seven words. These seven words can empower you to express a wide range of ideas. Intrigued? Here they are:

  • können (can)
  • wollen (want)
  • sollen (should)
  • dürfen (may/be allowed to)
  • müssen (must)
  • mögen (like)

When used in a sentence, these modal verbs take the position of the main verb. The main verb, in turn, shifts to the end of the sentence in its infinitive form.

Here’s the formula in action:

Subject + Verb + Object→Subject + Modal Verb + Object + Verb (infinitive)Subject + Verb + Object→Subject + Modal Verb + Object + Verb (infinitive)

Why is this method advantageous for learning the German language quickly? Because it allows you to construct a multitude of sentences using various verbs without having to memorize the conjugation of each one.

Once you’ve memorized how to conjugate the modal verbs, all you need is the infinitive form of the other verb. Consider these two sentences as examples:

  1. Ich gehe nach Hause. (I am going home.)
  2. Ich will nach Hause gehen. (I want to go home.)

In the first sentence, “gehen” is conjugated, while in the second sentence, “gehen” appears in its infinitive form. Although the two sentences aren’t identical, the intention is clearly conveyed, and any native German speaker will understand your meaning.

How English and German Relate to Each Other

Understanding the relationship between German and English (or any other language that happens to be your mother tongue) can significantly accelerate your learning process as you study German. While the two languages share similarities, they also exhibit differences in origins, cognates, and false friends.

Germanic Roots

Both English and German belong to the Germanic language family, sharing a common linguistic ancestry. Recognizing this shared origin can help you identify familiar patterns and structures.


English and German share a considerable number of cognates—words that have similar meanings and often similar spellings. Identifying cognates can provide a shortcut to expanding your German vocabulary. For instance, “Information” in English is “Information” in German.

False Friends:

While cognates can be helpful, be cautious of false friends—words that look similar but have different meanings. For example, “Gift” in English means a “present,” but in German, it means “poison.” Being aware of such false friends prevents misunderstandings.

Understanding these linguistic connections between English and German not only facilitates vocabulary acquisition but also enhances your overall comprehension and communication skills. Embrace the similarities, navigate the differences, and use the linguistic bridge between the two languages to your advantage as you embark on your fast-track journey to learning German.

Explore German Culture

Understanding a language goes beyond mastering grammar and vocabulary; it involves delving into the culture that shapes its expressions. Here are some cultural aspects that can significantly enhance your language-learning experience:

Explore German Cuisine:

German cuisine offers a diverse array of dishes, from Bratwurst and Sauerkraut to an array of baked goods and bread varieties, reflecting the country’s culinary heritage. Engage with German cuisine by following online cooking tutorials to recreate authentic dishes in your own kitchen. This not only introduces you to delicious flavors but also helps you learn new words and improve listening comprehension.

Discover German Music:

Immerse yourself in Germany’s rich musical tapestry, ranging from classical compositions to modern electronic beats. Music lyrics provide insights into German values, societal issues, and slang words. Explore famous German composers and contemporary musicians through online platforms to identify cultural nuances and values embedded in the songs.

Engage with German Art:

German art reflects the nation’s cultural depth, from historical masterpieces to contemporary expressions. Embark on virtual tours of German art museums and galleries through online platforms, exploring various artistic movements and styles. Let the beauty of German art inspire your learning experience and deepen your connection to the cultural influences that shape the nation.

Connect with German People:

Language exchange programs offer a unique opportunity to enhance language skills and forge connections with native German speakers. Join online language exchange platforms to engage in conversations to gain insights into German culture, customs, and daily life. Speak German with native speakers and try to build meaningful connections, since that allows you to experience the warmth and hospitality of the German people.

Attend German Cultural Events:

Experience traditional German festivals and sports events in Germany or virtually, such as Oktoberfest and Bundesliga. Participate in online activities, live streams, and virtual tours to connect with fellow learners and deepen your understanding of the culture of the German-speaking world.

Explore German History:

Gain a deeper understanding of Germany’s rich cultural heritage by exploring its complex history. Delve into online resources, documentaries, and historical websites to learn about influential periods and figures that shaped the nation.

Read German Literature:

Immerse yourself in the world of German literature by exploring works of renowned authors, both classic and contemporary. Engage in online book clubs to share insights and interpretations, gaining a unique perspective on Germany’s historical context and societal values.

Play German Board Games:

Discover the immersive world of German board games to infuse cultural exploration with fun. Games like “Carcassonne” and “Labyrinth” provide insights into German geography, history, and traditions, offering an enjoyable yet educational experience.

Watch German Movies and TV Shows:

Immerse yourself in German cinema and television to enrich your language learning experience. Explore a variety of movies and TV shows, both classic and contemporary, to understand themes, customs, and values within the German population.

Engage in Cultural Discussions:

Actively participate in cultural discussions on social media and online communities to expand your knowledge of German customs, traditions, and societal values. Exploring local culture is an integral part of language learning and offers a deeper understanding that goes beyond linguistic aspects.

Want a resource to learn about German culture? Come check out our blog!

FAQs about easy ways to understand and speak German

Here are some of the questions people ask about learning spoken German.

How to learn German ASAP?

To learn German as quickly as possible, immerse yourself in the language by practicing daily, using language learning apps, watching German movies or TV shows with German subtitles, and finding language exchange partners. Consistency and real-life exposure will accelerate your learning.

How to begin learning German?

Start by learning basic German greetings, common phrases, and the alphabet. Use language learning apps, online courses, and beginner-friendly textbooks. Practice listening and speaking from day one, and gradually build your vocabulary and grammar skills.

How can I memorize German words fast?

Use flashcards, mnemonic devices, and repetition to memorize German vocabulary efficiently. Create associations between German words and images, practice with language apps that employ spaced repetition, and try to use newly learned words in sentences to reinforce your memory.

How long does it take to understand native German speakers?

The time it takes to understand native speakers varies, but regular practice, exposure, and immersion can expedite the process. Listen to German podcasts and YouTube videos, watch movies, and talk to a native German speaker whenever you have the chance and you will be able to improve your listening comprehension and speaking skills over time.

Is German difficult to learn?

The difficulty of learning German depends on your native language and previous language learning experience. While German has complex grammar rules and sentence structure, consistent practice and exposure can make the learning process manageable. Motivation and immersion play crucial roles in overcoming challenges.

What is the verb for understand in German?

The verb for “understand” in German is “verstehen.” To use it in a sentence, you can say, “Ich verstehe” which translates to “I understand.” Practice incorporating this verb into everyday conversations to reinforce your language skills.

Summing Up: How to Understand German Faster

Embark on a thrilling journey of learning German fast with Michael Schmitz’s expert guidance. Uncover time-saving tips and accelerated learning methods that pave the way for efficient language acquisition.

Beyond linguistic prowess, this course opens doors for those aspiring to live and work in Germany. Navigate the intricacies of German grammar rules, understand the learning cycle, and explore cultural nuances.

Equip yourself not just with language skills but the tools to learn faster, save time, and seamlessly integrate into the Germany or any other German-speaking country. Come check out our courses today!