german language Uncategorized

Practice German Pronunciation

How to pronounce German words
das Eichhörnchen – the squirrel / Image via Pixabay

The problem

One of the biggest problem for many German learners is to find someone to speak to. And as soon as you have an opportunity and show the slightest weakness in your pronunciation, they usually instantly switch to talking English with you. So it is very important to work on your speech.

Plan B: Practise pronunciation on your own with courses

The best option is to hire a native German, not necessarily a tutor, whom you hire to converse and to correct your pronunciation. But at times, money is short or there’s simply no native speaker available. In these cases, you need a plan B.

While quite a few software-  / web-based German courses come with some sort of voice recognition, these are either quite costly and would make a tutor seem priceworthy (Rosetta Stone) or simply do not work at all (Duolingo). But luckily there is the app store that holds high quality software for small prices like the Nemo German App here. Or you might give our German pronunciation course with 12 short and comprehensive videos a try.

The benefits of Nemo German

While the vocabulary is put together rather randomly, at least organized in categories but not consistently like e.g. in form of an ongoing story, the audio-studio that is integrated is sweet.

It will presented flash cards to you with content that you have selected before.

You then have the option to record what you see and after that compare it to a native speaker. Unfortunately you do not hear the native speaker BEFORE you record your own version but only AFTER you have already read out loud what was written on that flash card. But after you have recorded it once, you have the option to re-record it and get a better grip on how well you have done as now you have got a real sandwich.

Listen to these samples from the app to get an impression of the sandwich-technique:

German version: Wo ist das Badezimmer?


Greek version: Stin iyiá mas!

Why this app is helpful

Comparing your own voice to that of a native speaker is crucial for developing a feeling for the melody and pronunciation of German sentences and words. This process should be as smooth as it can be and Nemo German does the best job so far.


I definitely will make sure that that feature comes into the ultimate German learning app that I am still working on. Until then, why don’t you play around with Nemo German and practice your pronunciation every now and then. Five to ten minutes two to three times per day will have an amazing effect on how Germans will understand you. And maybe soon they will stop switching to English when you speak to them. Regarding your regular German training, rather continue with your usual course material or book that you have been working on as the app unfortunately doesn’t offer consistent context.

Viel Erfolg

german language Uncategorized

Struggle No Longer

Struggling with German? Here's some advice.
das Reh – the deer / Image via Pixabay

I quite often come across the following situation and would like to share with you how I approach this problem. May you benefit from it.
On 07/23/14 4:37 AM, D. wrote:


Dear Michael,

My name is D. We met at [that company] when I assisted to a couple of classes that you gave there. You probably not remember me, but I was the Spanish of the company and when i couldn’t pronounce, you told me it was about my face muscles. I deeply regret not have taken advantage from the chance gave me at the time to enjoy your classes at the place of work and for free. I get in touch with you because I need to speak german, and when I posted on facebook that I was looking for someone to teach me, 3 different people told me to get in touch with you.

Here is some background.  I lived in Berlin for 8 years. I work here as HR and I didn’t die so far… so I guess I can understand some german. But it’s a bit all over the place. I went to classes in several schools but they didn’t help me much. Also, I work all day, so I don’t have all the time but also, I don’t want to go to courses that seem to go on for ages to go from A1. to A1., I am a bit in the rush to get results in the short term.

I speak Spanish, and learned English, and some French and Italian by spending time with native speakers… with German it’s just impossible.  For all that, your course seems to be the perfect solution, but as I’m not total beginner… I don’t know if I apply. Also, to be honest… I don’t have that kind of money.

Could you maybe offer any alternative to the full course? If not, as an expert, could you give me some guidance on how to fix my issue that is becoming a big professional problem?

Thanks a lot!!!



On 07/23/14 6:39 AM, Michael Schmitz wrote:


Dear D.,

I do remember you 😉 I never forget faces, just names. Your case is not that easy and I would love to talk to you in person these days about your possibilities. That hour will be for free. I do not want to sell my course to you as as you wrote you can not afford it and I do not offer any discount. But I can give you very good advice in your best interest. Call me if you are interested in such a conversation and we will arrange a time and place.

Just one thought beforehand: the fact that you are struggling with German despite your obviously good language learning skills hints at a psychological issue with your stay here in Germany. I might be wrong, yet I have seen quite a few such cases and there is not much a teacher can do unless you address this issue professionally. Any lesson you take would be a waste of time and money, no matter how cheap as your subconscious will always fight against you.

So what I would recommend you is to write a letter to a good friend in which you explain her/him why you want to learn German and what great things you can do with it. And why you love to be in Germany esp. in Berlin.

Write without censorship for at least 30 mins. Should the flow of thoughts stop, don’t get up, keep sitting in front of that paper until the next wave of words comes. You can of course write longer. After that first draft, take a break. In the evening or morning read it again and reduce the letter by 50% and see what is left. If you like you can send that letter later to me. There’s no need to send it to a friend but also no problem in doing so.

You see I have a slightly different approach. In any case I wish you success and hope to hear from you.



On July 31, 2014 10:19 AM, D. wrote:


Dear Michael…

Sorry it took me so long to answer you. I’m super grateful that you took the time to answer me in such detailed way and giving me your full attention and contact details.

My first reaction to your email was pure shock, to be honest. Even if, (or maybe exactly because os that) I studied Psychology, I never give myself the benefit of the doubt and I just decided I was too lazy or german was too difficult for me.

Then when thinking a bit about it, I realised I always think about german language in very negative terms, and in fact I think of it as a wall I have to climb, more than a tool that will help me be more successful.

I can imagine that’s what the exercise you explained to me is about.

I have to admit I haven’t start writing this email but I already start thinking about how it will go more or less, and that already has help a bit on the negativity I have towards the language.

I’m now about to start writing this letter, but before I wanted to let you know that you have already helped me more than any other german teacher or basically anybody did regarding this subject, and for that I’m also very grateful.

You’ll here from me again soon,


german language Uncategorized

A Vivid Discussion About Duolingo

Is Duolingo a worthy German learning app
die Eule – the owl / Image via Pixabay

Thank you for your responses to my duolingo review – I will gladly point out what I had in mind in my previous post. For those who are new to this discussion I have cited Filip’s arguments in italic before my replies. You can find Filip’s initial comment at the very bottom of this article.

Exercises? What am I Exercising Exactly?

You have a strong point here – I’m not sure what the purpose of that exercise is. It may or may not work on subconscious level, as Rosetta Stone people often claim, but one thing you neglected to mention here is how rare these exercises are. I haven’t seen a single one for a very long time and I’m fairly certain at this point that they are only present in the first couple of lessons, where the software assumes you don’t know a single word of German (again, whether learning the first words this way is valid or not, I can’t say). Instead, this is how these exercises look in most of the lessons: // The point of these is much more clear – it’s great to learn both gender and spelling of a word.

There are quite a few of these in the first lessons and they do not serve any purpose but maybe very gently leading the learner towards harder exercises by letting him or her experience a few little successes. While some might like that, I still consider this a waste of time and an insult to any intellect.

The kind of exercises you show here is a simple translation exercise. While those have their charm when used in limits, translating random sentences is highly inefficient as it opposes our mind’s desire for meaning. But I like the muscle-show below your screenshot 😉

That particular exercise that you show does not help you to „learn“ the gender and the spelling because it does not explain anything nor does it help you to connect it to your actual knowledge. It helps practicing it. But still out of any significant context.

Lost in Translation

This one is also mostly incorrect – Duolingo does not assume “is” is not an error. There are (to my knowledge) three types of “minor” errors that pass as “almost correct” – nouns not beginning with capital letter, lack of umlaut and typos. Typing “ist” as “is” counts as a typo and Duolingo reports it as such, with “almost correct”, as seen in the screenshot. //

Well, just because you have found an example where DL is working fine, that does not mean that there are no more mistakes in other places. And when I can not be sure that it is right in all cases, I will get confused or worse learn wrong structures. The problem I point out in my example is that DL is simply overcharged with pointing out two mistakes at the same time and ignores the more grave one as „is“ is wrong. But of course no software is perfect and I should give DL more credit here. Point taken. I also praised it for these little annotations.

Is this OK? Are these errors truly “minor”? Not really – and Duolingo treats them as regular errors, it marks them the same way it marks errors, it plays the error sound and the only real difference is that you don’t lose a heart (losing three forces you to start over). This is OK in my opinion – on many occasions I really did make a typo and Duolingo let it slide. If it didn’t, it would be frustrating to start over since I knew the correct answer, just mistyped it. Students shouldn’t be scolded for every error they make, but every error needs to be pointed out – which is exactly what Duolingo does.

No disagreement here and not my point.

That said, what you displayed in that screenshot appears to be a bug, since it failed to report all the minor errors (also, should three minor errors really pass as “almost correct”? I think not). As seen in the screenshot I supplied, it does not consider “is” instead of “ist” to be correct, but it lets it slide since it’s only off by one letter (BTW typo detection is way more strict than “off by one letter” – on many occasions I supplied the wrong answer which was only off by one letter, yet Duolingo did not report it as a typo).

The fact that this is obviously a bug does not refute my point. As a learner I don’t care if it is a bug or a concentration mistake or simply bad knowledge of the teacher. But you are right, if this is not too frequent as you say from your experience, there’s not much to argue about from my side. Yet it is important to be aware of the fact that there might be significant errors.

On Randomness

I agree with this one – there is very little context and I understand it would be easier to learn if there were a “story” of sorts, as language learning books usually make it. Still, many of the sentences make sense and Duolingo is highly tolerant if your translation is correct, but in completely different context than expected (using “woman” instead of “wife” as translation for Frau, for example) – simply because it’s aware no context is provided. I cannot say the same for many teachers I had (unpleasant) experience to learn from – they would often scold you if you missed the context, despite the fact the textbook wasn’t clear enough on what the context is.

Be careful: Just because there is worse, that does not mean „bad“ turns automatically into „good“. You actually fully prove my point. That a sentence has some context by nature is indisputable. But just rowing up non-connected sentences after another does not make them any more useful. Actually I would rather say that it is confusing as your brain will always try to make sense of what you do. Even if you do not experience this clearly, this approach is far more inferior than if you had a solid context, e.g. in form of a story.

And why would you want to get away with „woman“ when you should have learned „wife“? There is a significant difference here and „my woman“ might be perceived differently than „my wife“ by many. I assume that you are referring to translations into your mother tongue. In this case, yes, the difference does not matter as you get the idea. But when that error is not corrected when translating into the target language, then this is a crucial failure of the system.

Reden ist Silber…

I agree with this one as well. I had to disable voice recognition as it simply didn’t work for me.

Listen Well

I’m not a native speaker so I can’t actually comment on this one. However, I feel the need to point out you neglected to mention that every exercise like this also has the “turtle” option which reads it to you slowly which makes it quite easy to get in 99% cases. Therefore, I actually like the “fast” computer generated words – they make it more difficult and listening to native language speakers often feels like this to someone who learned the language from teachers who purposely pronounce words very clearly to make it easier for students.

You seem to have a „better than nothing“ attitude which I do not share, yet also do not object per se as that’s your choice and you most likely do fine seeing things like this. I simply like the approach: Do it right or don’t do it. And by „right“ I do not mean 100% perfectly. I am a strong proponent of the so called Pareto Principle without claiming scientific validity for it. 80% of the success derive from 20% of your effort.

While I love the turtle button myself and consider it very useful, I would like to compare the computer generated voices in DL with the experience of sitting in a classical concert while wearing a huge metal helmet if that makes any sense. Language strongly lives from the nuances in pronunciation and sentence melody. Computers can’t generate these yet and therefore rob the language of a very important emotional factor.

If you have watched HER, you might have felt that Scarlett Johansson’s voice was crucial for the feel of that movie. With a voice DL uses I doubt it would have gotten that much attention.

Sure, it might get you through the game here and also give you a solid enough idea of the sound but you also need to consider that we are highly imitative learners and might pick up some of these artificial sounds. I personally would prefer to sound as sexy as in my mother tongue in any language I speak.

Discuss with the Right People

This is a good point – very difficult to know whose advice to follow. Would be nice if Duolingo made some way of distinguishing between native speakers who can offer good advice and people who only *think* they can.

Grammar: The Ugly Stepchild

“No Instruction on how to Learn Anything Whatsoever” This is just plain incorrect – almost all lessons have explanations, and yes, grammar rules are explained and can easily be revised even when you complete the lessons. See screenshot. //

The title of this paragraph is misleading, I agree and understand your objection. Yet read the subtitle more carefully: No instruction on HOW TO LEARN whatsoever. As usual grammar is simply shown and explained in a lingo that is simply difficult to grasp for many. But they do not show you how to learn the Accusative. How do I in fact learn the Accusative prepositions? How do I learn the articles? In this example I can not even see when I need to use it. It simply says that „when the subject turns into an object“. That is surely a correct but at the same time an awful instruction. So I am not wrong at all. If you showed me a single instruction that actually showed me A WAY to get all those informations into my brain, I’d withdraw this point immediately. I haven’t come across one so far.

I was having trouble to find those grammar pieces before but I took another look and can now see and access them easily when I am working on a lesson. Yet I can not find a way to access them independently of the chapter that I am currently working nor did I find a way to search for certain topics at least with help of an index.

How to (not) proof Efficiency

I don’t agree with you completely, but I feel you made a strong point here (see below).

Finally, my opinion is not that Duolingo is perfect – it can never replace real life teachers and classes, not should it attempt to. It’s, however, a good product that actually can teach people the foundations of a new language they want to learn. From that point onwards, it will be easier for them to continue learning or, at the very least, have basic understanding of the language. It’s also very good at this – it learned me a lot and it’s, in my opinion, the best of its kind – so far. Looking forward to Yippiy though – and wishing you the best of luck. Even if I don’t end up using your product, having an alternative to Duolingo is great.

Thank you and please do never take any of my points personally, especially the next one: The problem is in general that our personal experience often seems to differ with the facts. I can strongly recommend this video as an introduction to skeptical thinking.

So, while what you have experienced might be absolutely true, I would always doubt it until I had examined your claim and also compared it with someone who has used a different approach and/or no approach at all. If then your results differ significantly from those others, I would take a deeper look into how you did that. As I do not have the time to evaluate DL to that extent, my assumptions are based on over 20 years of experience with efficient (language) learning and teaching and professional as personal research in exactly this field plus a deep interest and very analytical understanding of the human nature. That does not mean that I am never wrong yet I see a lot that others don’t. I am not selling any opinion here nor my courses unless I clearly state so. I share my experience and observations and knowledge which might be faulty. That’s why I invite anyone to challenge my observations and conclusions. This is how science works, or at least should do. And as DL itself claims to be more efficient than a semester at a high school, the burden of the proof lies with them. And as I have pointed out, they simply fail to do so.

One last thought: When we invest time or money into something we tend to look for the benefit of our doing. Sentences like: „At least I got this and that from it“ or „It wasn’t all bad“ serve mainly one function: to justify that we have most probably just wasted our time. We do not like to admit failure. And I do contribute a lot of DL success experiences with this phenomenon. And this is a provocative yet not unlikely assumption.

Plus of course you are right: there does not seem to be anything better out there. Although thinking about it, I would indeed consider Busuu or Rosetta Stone way better than DL because
they have a broader variety of exercises and also a more solid programming. But better than bad does not mean good.

That being sa(i)d and despite all differences in our perception and interpretation of our findings, I would like to thank you once again for sharing your points with me and your willingness to dispute on a very constructive level.

I wish you a lovely time and a lot of joy with everything you do.

Herzlichst Michael

Filip’s first comment that initiated this discussion

While reading your review, I saw some strong points, some questionable points and some points that were just plain wrong. But the ending explained everything – this review (“critical” in name only) is merely an attempt to market your own (expensive!) course and indiegogo campaign. While I think this is a cool marketing move, I strongly disagree with the idea of criticizing a free product to attract attention.

My initial reaction

Dear Filip, I understand how you come to your assumption. While of course I sell my services -for by the way half the price the local Goethe-Institute  would charge you- that does not mean that I am insincere in my blogging. If as you say things I have found criticizable in Duolingo are wrong I would highly appreciate if you could point them out so that I can review them and change them in case you are right. I am not sharing an opinion here. Everything I do is backed by science and practical experience of over 10.000hrs of teaching. Yet that does not mean I can not err and am happy to learn where I made a false claim or interpretation. Have a good evening.

german language Uncategorized

The Learning Styles Myth

Learning styles are nonsense
die Pupille / Image via Pixabay

You might as well ask your horoscope

Since I was into faster learning, I have heard of the theory of learner types and learning styles. No wonder as that theory is around since the seventies. It was Frederic Vester who spread this problematic idea with his book „Denken, lernen, vergessen.“ But in the beginning I was fascinated by the idea that we could optimize our learning by preparing the material we had to digest according to our individual genetic? preferences.

The website: Learning Styles Online is assuming seven learning styles. Depending on your source there are countless other styles out there. I quote:

  • Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

An Abundance of Randomness

This categorization seems pretty random to me as it gathers quite different styles under one roof. Visual, aural, physical are referring to mere sensory input while logical and verbal are cognitive ways of processing information. Social and solitary are rather two sides of the same medal and can be considered different behaviors at best.

It is pretty obvious that many „styles“ are overlapping. Verbal skills always require some sort of logic and system (e.g. grammar), and while writing (verbal) you need your hand (physical). Social and solitary are simply setting the framework for all other „styles“ and can therefore not be in the same category.

This kind of conflict is seen with all other categorizations of learning styles as well. And it shows the main problem of this approach: in real life those styles are not isolatable. That means that every learner applies several styles at all times. Now one might think that maybe one style is dominant. But how do you measure which one? There is a multitude of tests out there. None of which have been proven to be informative enough to come to a conclusion about which learning style dominates. 


Isolation would be good

Then if those styles are neither isolatable nor measurable, the question arises, why bother? In a class of at least 2 learners I would have to consider two -and most likely more- different learning styles.

But what if the topic and or the material doesn’t allow me to serve those styles or at least one of them? What if I have 20 students? Which learning style theory do I apply and according to which test do I segregate the students into fitting groups?

Even if I managed to segregate lets say five groups with similar learning traits it would mean an immense effort to prepare the room and the material for each lesson, not speaking of testing all those students.

All tests also heavily rely on the claims of the student about his or her approach. Studies have shown that the way a student perceives her or his learning is often opposed to what she or he actually applies. That means their results are highly unreliable.


You are a way more flexible learner than you might think

There are yet quite a few other points that are simply not conclusive that I would like to mention at least. Some studies show that students usually adapt to the learning situation. The psychological concept of neuro-plasticity supports this observation. What that means is that learning styles are not fixed for good. They are variable and can change with the appropriate effort and motivation. And if they can change it seems to make even more sense to let the student adapt to one teacher or setting than letting the teacher adapt to thousands of students.

Then there is evidence that our culture heavily influences the way we approach new information. Now if a Yemenite wants to learn German in Germany he will most likely have to adapt to the German teaching style or simply fail. Most classes here are filled with people from all over the world. How could any teacher pay regard to all those possibly different learning styles?


Some Science

By now you should have realized that the theory of learning types or styles is one big mess which I would never build any lesson on.

To cite that all popular wikipedia.

„Coffield’s team found that none of the most popular learning style theories had been adequately validated through independent research, leading to the conclusion that the idea of a learning cycle, the consistency of visual, auditory and kinesthetic preferences and the value of matching teaching and learning styles were all “highly questionable.”


Conclusion: Address all senses – You don’t have a choice anyhow

My lessons respectively instructions always include all possible skills: reading, listening, writing, speaking and above all: thinking under which I subsume among others analyzing and concluding. Each of us has certain strengths and weaknesses but I haven’t come across a student yet that couldn’t at least work sufficiently with all the tasks that I provided her or him with. I put emphasis on the strengths and try to strengthen the weak skills carefully.

In this article I have focussed a bit on learning with a tutor, yet I think that even when you learn on your own, the effort put into preparing learning material according to your assumed (!) dominant learning style stands in no relation to the assumed benefit over simply working with what’s there.

After all, opposed to what I often read, we are not that different from each other when it comes to learning. And that is only logical as we all use the same channels of perception and our thinking is, well, human. That means it most probably follows certain patterns that we all share.

You can focus on real learning now.

german language how to learn german grammar Uncategorized

Do not Color German Articles

Learning German articles with colors
der Buntstift – the colored pencil / Image via Pixabay

Often at times I have come across students that used three different colors to mark the different genders of German. What colors they used does not really matter. While colors are excellent to show and clarify certain structures of any language, and also provenly has the potential to enhance your memory retention in certain contexts (read this overview here), I do not consider them helpful for learning the German gender. Here is why I think you shouldn’t color German articles:


Colors are abstract

All by themselves colors are not much easier to remember than the article itself. As they only have to serve as temporary help, that might not be too problematic. Yet, how exactly do you remember that the horse was yellow and not red after a day or a week? If you only had a few words to learn, that might still be possible but as you have to study ~25 words per day or 125 words per week (weekends are off), of these 1/3 or 40 words might be nouns. I know there are learners and teachers out there who would swear on this technique and sure some have a better memory for colors than others. Some even smell colors. But those are rather the exception.

But don’t take my word for granted. Proof me wrong and I’ll update this article with your results: take a list of forty nouns and learn their gender by applying red for masculine, blue for feminine and yellow for neuter or any other color or order you like. Then review them after a seven days and let us know how many you still remember.

Please note: The research mentioned in the beginning focusses on the use of colors as an overall cognitive enhancement of learning tasks and not on the very specific task of individually associating isolated words with colors. That’s why I say that colors are great to show certain structures of any language.


Better means Good, right?

Well, it is still better than if I learned them without any technique right? Well, yes & no. Just because one bad technique is slightly better than another bad technique that does not mean that it is a good technique, right?

The problem I see here is that by applying the color technique you might miss out another one that is far more efficient than this one. The substitution technique which you might have come across before. This is the technique where you replace the masculine gender with the image of a lion e.g. You can find that technique explained in detail in my A1 video courses.


It’s highly impractical

…if you actually try to colorize your nouns. Those students -and even teachers- I have come across that were using this technique actually colored the articles and/or nouns with different crayons. That means that each time they wanted to write a masculine noun they picked up the red crayon and wrote that word in red. And when the next noun was feminine they picked up a blue one. That is a colossal waste of time and very likely causes a loss of concentration. Some students had those fancy ball pens with different colors all in one, still…

The cost-benefit ratio of such a technique would let any economist shiver. If colors are your thing and you’ve got to do it then do it on the go, meaning, color German articles in your mind, not on paper. That would be way more reasonable.


If all good things are three…

bad things might be as well, too. The research shows that the benefit from using colors might be due to the fact that learners simply focus their attention onto the colored information. That undistracted attention is highly beneficial for learning anything seems indisputable to me. Yet if your attention is attracted by a different color every seventh word in a text or word you learn which also has no other information than the gender of a German noun, then no, I do not think that you are making good use of colors as it takes your focus away from the overall meaning of the information that you are trying to remember. And that is actually worse than if you were not using any color.

Do you think that I am overcritical and that as long as learners are d’accord with their doing, I should let them work any way they want? Hell, no. Wrong learning techniques are wrong, no matter if learners like them or not. Of course I would not take their crayons away or consistently nag them for working like this. In the end it is the learners’ choice if they prefer to learn German efficiently or rather colorfully.

Now go out and study some beautifully grey but efficient German.
Viel Erfolg

german language german online courses Uncategorized

Changing the way we Learn German

The idea German learning app - coming 2018
das Logo / Image by Ray Noland


The idea to create an app that makes a German learner’s life easier is already a few years old. But it always felt as if that was just not enough. An app often offers a very limited range of services. A few months ago then this idea developed into my vision of Yippiy, an online German learning platform that shall on near day replace German group courses at language schools.

Imagine being able to learn German from wherever you are and whenever it suits you. No more travelling, no more distractions. Learning at exactly your very own speed.

The first thing people say when they hear this idea: Doesn’t something like this already exist? It does not. There are language learning platforms, sure. But they surely do not replace a group course with human tuition. Take a look at my Duolingo analysis here.

Yippiy is Different

out of many reasons. Let me focus on three core ideas that (will) make Yippiy outstanding:

  1. Understanding
  2. Consistent Context
  3. Autonomy


Yippiy will make sure that you understand everything that you come across while learning German by instructing and relating to English. Only then you will be able to connect the new information (e.g. German grammar & words) to your vast knowledge and experience. And English is an immense resource for any German learner. Not instructing you in English is ignorant.

Consistent Context

That context matters is nothing new and widely known. Yet, one could as well say, one needs to eat to live. Sure, a lousily prepared meal will get you through this life for many years but you will surely not be looking forward to your next lunch. The same applies for context delivered by textbooks or actual language learning platforms / apps. Their contexts are at best an agglomeration of possibly relevant topics but never are consistent. There was one such try to make more sense of all this but it failed. „Die Suche” a gorgeously developed and produced story for German learners was simply not suitable for group tuition. Yippiy picks up this idea and eliminates its weak spots so that you are able to learn German the most efficient way possible. From the first day to the last you will be guided through a criminal story that makes you want to learn more every single day. All exercises will refer to this story and enhance your experience greatly. Stories have been used for teaching for thousands of years, just look at any religion. They are still using this powerful technique. Stories are perfect tools for your purpose: to learn German the most efficient way possible.


Of course being able to learn German from home and at any time of the day already provides you with a huge amount of autonomy. But that is not enough. Yippiy wants you to be your own master or mistress. It will teach you amazingly simple learning techniques that you can apply for many other topics later on in your German learning process. It will provide you with a learning cycle that is as powerful for A1 learners as for B2 learners and that offers you a solid and well thought through working structure. Like this you will always exactly know where you have left off your learning and where you have to continue. No searching around for topics or exercises, just clear focus. There is so much more that I will put into Yippiy. I have taught and learned for more than 10.000h in the last 20 years and done my research by reading almost any available book out there on learning and teaching. All this experience is what you will get when you learn German with Yippiy. And you will feel the difference.

Would you Support an Idea that will Change the World?

If you like this vision of mine, of making German learning simpler, more structured and at the same time more efficient, I would like to ask you for your support. I currently run a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise 40.000€ that I still need to pay the programming team of Omitsis. UPDATE: Yippiy will most likely not exist as a standalone project as I have met Donatas and Claudio from BliuBliu who have changed my view on things significantly. What they are working on is promising and makes my plans to develop a German learning app simply redundant. So I will invest my energy into the development of the most efficient German Online Course ever and let the pros do their work so that we our joint powers will provide you with an incredibly smooth and efficient German learning experience. This is the most crucial step at the moment and although I will do everything in my power to get by all the money Yippiy requires, it will most likely take me quite a few years to come up with such an amount. I do not want any money lender in this project as Yippiy is pure and excellent in its core. Anyone with only making money in mind would spoil this idea. I’d rather work another ten years on saving the funds myself. Thank you for reading this far. I wish you success with your German. Herzlichst Michael Schmitz

UPDATE: Yippiy will most likely not exist as a standalone project as I have met Donatas and Claudio from BliuBliu who have changed my view on things significantly. What they are working on is promising and makes my plans to develop a German learning app simply redundant. So I will invest my energy into the development of the most efficient German Online Course ever and let the pros do their work so that we our joint powers will provide you with an incredibly smooth and efficient German learning experience.

This is the most crucial step at the moment and although I will do everything in my power to get by all the money Yippiy requires, it will most likely take me quite a few years to come up with such an amount. I do not want any money lender in this project as Yippiy is pure and excellent in its core. Anyone with only making money in mind would spoil this idea. I’d rather work another ten years on saving the funds myself.

german language Uncategorized

German B1 exam in 14 Days – The Results

German B1 exam
der Vierzehnte – the fourteenth / Image via Pixabay


German B1 exam in 14 days?

Yesterday I picked up Ewelina’s German B1 exam results. They felt sorry for having Ewelina missed the exam by 10 points. I smiled as I knew that she had achieved something incredible nevertheless as she had only learned German for 14 days of which 4 days she couldn’t work fully or even at all and had only had 30h of instruction. See her reaction to the results when I showed them to her in this video:

Let me explain the results of the test to you that you see above (click here to see Ewelina’s certificate). To pass you need to pass two individually tested parts: a written and an oral exam. To pass each part you have to achieve a certain minimum amount of points. (click here to see the rule in original)

Ewelina has reached 125,5 points in the written part but would have needed 135 points to pass that part. The “Sprachbausteine” which is a really tough exercise for anyone taking that exam and the writing which we calculated to be the weakest part were the only parts where she failed. Her reading skills (60%) and listening skills (73%) were more than sufficient and the oral exam she passed also with an overall score of 84%. If she took the German B1 exam again she wouldn’t have to redo the oral part.

Even calculating all her points together she would have passed that exam if it wasn’t for that rule above. One needs at least 180 of 300 points to pass and Ewelina had an overall score of 188,5.

You judge these results for yourself. I can just pull my hat for Ewelina’s commitment and achievement. I haven’t seen anything like this in over 14 years in the job. Chapeau, Ewelina.

As I can only assume what would have been if Ewelina hadn’t become sick during the project and after having analyzed with her the weak spots of the project I can assure you that if you bring the right motivation and skill with you, passing the German B1 exam from scratch in just 14 days is possible if you do it the right way.

Of course we are both aware that passing an exam is not the same as really being eloquent on that level. Ewelina stated in the first follow-up video after the exam that she felt confident about being at A2 and not yet sure about her B1 skills. But it certainly surprised her that she was better than she had thought. By now she surely would pass the German B1 exam with ease and feels a lot more confident about her German.

Personally, I have learned a lot from these 14 days that I could already integrate into my daily work so that from my point of view, these results just put the cherry on the cake. I am amazed and will now focus on creating my German learning platform.

I want to thank you, Ewelina for participating this fully despite all hindrances and for performing splendidly. It was a challenge and we have mastered it well. Dziekuje Ci.

And my warmest regards to you, dear blog reader and German learner, who has followed us on this exciting and challenging journey. I hope that our work has given you confidence in your task to learn German. You see it is not as difficult as it might seem. Admittedly, only few will ever learn German in 14 days but it is possible and even if you manage to reach B1 in three to six months, it is all in all a huge achievement.

I wish you all viel Erfolg with your German B1 exam and wish you all the strenght and discipline you need to win this challenge.

Michael Schmitz


Find out more about German B1 exam in 14 days

German learning material

German grammar video course B2

German grammar course online A1 – B1

If you have missed the project or would like to review it from the beginning to the end, go to this playlist on my youtube channel. You will find all videos that we have made during the project in order.

german language Uncategorized

Learn German with Songs


Yesterday I have come across a nice article and video about a hip hop band for kids. To learn German with songs can be pretty efficient. Check it out here.

Below you will find the lyrics. The (c) is of course by Deine Freunde resp. their label.

The vocab you can practice on memrise here.


How to learn German with songs – Workflow

  1. Listen to it once to see if you like the groove.
  2. Study the vocab on memrise until you get a good grip of the vocab
    (btw: You’ll find my translation at the end of this article.)
  3. Read the lyrics below and mark still unknown words
  4. Look those up if you consider them important
  5. Listen to the song while reading the lyrics as often as you like
  6. Listen only and try to understand the song.


I will guide you through the grammar of this song, so that it can actually help you to improve your German.


Deine Freunde – Schokolade


Yeah — Das ist ein Lied über etwas,

  • das irritates many German learners as it looks like the neuter article das. But it more than often means this.
  • über shouldn’t cause you much trouble as it smoothly translates into about. There are not many other translations for über -just above– but you should be careful with translating other prepositions as they often do not make that much sense.

was ich ganz oft haben möchte,

  • was is not what as you might think but that. It is a relative pronoun that is used to refer to alles, etwas, vieles or other indefinite amounts. And if you take a look at the song line before you will find etwas. As it is a relative pronoun which always initiates a side clause it pushes the conjugated verb möchte to the end of the sentence.
  • ganz translates literally into totally which just doesn’t make much sense here. It is also used to intensify the meaning of the following word -here: oft- what you could translate as very often.

aber immer nur von einer Person bekomme.

  • bekomme is at the end of this sentence as it is the same kind of side clause as the last one. In German as in English we tend to omit repetitions. So instead of singing was twice the second was is left out as it is redundant.  
  • von is used because bekommen requires it when you want to say from whom you get something. Search for verbs with prepositions to find out more.

Ich esse jeden Tag Obst, mal weniger, mal mehr.

  • jeden Tag is Accusative. A rule of thumb when talking about time is: information about time without a preposition always uses the Accusative, like above and information about time with a (two-way) preposition almost always uses the Dative. Take a look at these examples:
    I    Nächstes Jahr fliege ich nach Berlin.       <— no prepositions —> Accusative
    II   Im nächsten Jahr fliege ich nach Berlin. <— preposition —> Dative
    III  BUT: Ich fliege für ein Jahr nach Berlin.  <— für is an Accusative preposition and leaves you no choice regarding the case.
  • Obst (n, always singular) best translates into fruits and is as in English mostly used without its article: Eat more fruits. >> Iss mehr Obst.
    The phenomenon of the invisible article is called null-article. To an extent of ~95% the German articles behave like the English ones. So intuitively you will make correct use of it right away.
  • mal mehr, mal weniger is a nice way to say at times more, at other times less and as in English with mal… mal you have to use the Komparativ, which -as its name gives away- is used when you compare things with each other.

Bei uns zu Hause ist der Obstteller niemals leer.

  • zu Hause, also: zuhause, is a nasty little exception. I recommend that you learn it as a fixed expression in the following combinations:
    Ich bin/bleibe zu Hause.               —> I am/stay at home.
    Ich gehe/komme nach Hause.     —> I go/come home.
    Ich komme von zu Hause.            —> I come from home.
  •  Note that bei uns zu Hause can not be separated [Ich zu bin Hause, ich von komme zu Hause] and therefore takes position I [one] in the sentence which is followed by the verb ist on position II which is the standard position for German verbs.
  • niemals is a stronger form of nie. Both mean never. It seems to be used here for vocal or rhythmic reasons.

Und Mama sagt: Iss die Äpfel und Bananen,

  • und always takes position 0. It does that with these four other little words: aber denn sondern oder. Together they build the initialism: ADUSO which can be used as a powerful mnemonic for these conjunctions: ADUSO is a l0ser.
  • iss is the imperative of essen for a person you are familiar with. The imperative is build with help of the du-form of the verb —> du isst which is then stripped off the „person“: du + st ending resulting in iss! Here the -st is not totally stripped off as the stem of essen contains two s and therefore keeps it.
  • There is no article die with Bananen as it is the same as for Äpfel and can therefore be omitted.

Birnen, Mandarinen und den ganzen anderen Kram.

  • ganzen & anderen are two adjectives. No matter how many adjectives you put in a row they will all have the same ending, -en in this example.

Und dann erzählt sie mir, wie wichtig Vitamine sind und sagt:

  • dann takes position I
  • erzählen is a verb that can take up to two objects. Even when it doesn’t make use of all two objects, the thing being told is always in the Accusative while the person it is being told to will always be in the DativeWhenever you come across a verb with two objects, you will always only find one Accusative object and one Dative object. There are three exceptions: lehren, nennen, kosten which are insignificant if you are a beginner.
  • wie is intiating a so called Objektsatz, which is another form of a side clause, hence the verb goes to the end of that sentence. You could replace the wie with a dass but be aware that some elements of the sentence might change their position: , dass Vitamine wichtig sind.

Komm, iss deinen Teller auf, sei ein liebes Kind.

  • sei is the imperative of sein <— to be. It is an irregular form.

Und ich bin lieb und der Liebste, den es gibt.

  • der Liebste is the superlative of lieb <— lovely which also could be built with am: “Pizza esse ich am liebsten.”
  • Persons can only be described with der/das or die Liebste.
  • den is initiating a relative side clause relating/referring to der Liebste pushing the verb to the end.

Aber wenn ich aufgegessen hab, dann sing ich dieses Lied:

  • wenn is initiating a side clause pushing the auxiliary verb hab to the end. The denn is initiating
  • hab is the abbreviation of habe. The apostrophe often signals that an e has been left out. Words are usually written fully in official correspondence.


Obst und lecker Gemüse, ja, das macht mich groß und stark.

  • lecker is a „unflektiert attributiv used adjective“. That simply means that it doesn’t take an ending although it usually does. Lecker is pretty alone with this behavior, so I recommend that you simply keep it in mind as an exception.
  • das is a Demonstrativpronomen here. Those are almost identical with the Relativpronomen and either refer to something that you have just mentioned or that you are about to mention immediately afterwards:

1)     see above. Referring to Obst und Gemüse

2)     Nun reden wir über das, was ich möchte. <— followed by a relative clause

Denn heute möcht’ ich zu Oma fahren,

  • denn is part of the ADUSO-gang and therefore on position 0.
  • möcht’ fahren – the apostrophe should be clear now. Modal verbs always require an infinitive at the end of the same sentence.

die gibt mir, was ich mag.

  • die – Demonstrativpronomen
  • was – Relativpronomen

Oma gibt mir Schokolade. Yeah

Lecker Schokolade

  • lecker: see a few lines above

Oma holt mir Naschi aus dem Schrank

  • woher requires aus or von which are Dative prepositions: Woher holt Oma mir Naschi? Aus dem Schrank.
  • holen is a verb that can take up to two objects: think of the two most important elements of that sentence. Is it:

1) Oma holt Naschi or      [Oma gets the sweets]

2) Oma holt mir?                [Oma gets me]

I guess you figured that 1) is the combination we are looking for. Oma is the person doing the action, hence it’s the subject. which is always NominativeNaschi is the thing she’s getting, so that is the so called direct object which is always Accusative. Then what’s left is the mir. The mir is the receiver of the direct object and is usually a person. Grammatically that person stands in the Dative and is called the indirect object.

  • Please note that aus dem Schrank is neither a direct object nor an indirect object. Some call it prepositional object as it begins with a preposition [aus].
  •  The standard order in a sentence with two objects (excl. prepositional ones) is DADA —> Dative Accusative (I added the DA a second time to make it more memorable).

Sie hat da so ‘ne Schublade, voller Schokolade,

  • da so `ne = da so eine; the apostrophe can also shorten the beginning of a word. The so functions as a demonstrative pronoun [=such] and is used rather in colloquial language.
  •  voller? is a preposition followed by the Genitive, which is not visible here. You could see it if I added an adjective to the above:
  • voller süßer Schokolade <— as Schokolade is (f), the adjective süß gets the (f) Genitive ending –er.

voll, so wie im Schlaraffenland     

  • so wie is a comparison of two features that are „identical“. One example: Er ist (genau)so groß wie ich. <— He is as big as me.

Ich will Schokolade.

Ich will so gerne Schokolade.

Ich will Schokolade.

Aber wisst Ihr, was ich jeden Tag ess`?

  • was signals an indirect question in which the verb is placed at the end. The question in direct form would be: „ Was ess’ ich jeden Tag?“ with the verb on position II. 

Ich esse jeden Tag Gemüse, mal weniger, mal mehr.

Bei uns zu Hause ist Gemüse wirklich niemals leer.


Papa sagt:  Iss die Gurken und Tomaten,

von mir aus ausm Supermarkt,

  • An alternative to von mir aus (for all I care) is meinetwegen.
  • ausm —> this is a pretty common colloquial contraction that you shouldn’t write in official letters/mails/exams.

am liebsten ausm Garten.

Und dann erzählt er mir, wie wichtig Vitamine sind.

  • wie begins an Ojektsatz (see above)

Iss dein Gemüse auf, komm, sei ein liebes Kind.

Und ich bin lieb und der Liebste, den es gibt.

Und wenn ich aufgegessen hab, dann sing ich dieses Lied:



Schoko-Schoko-lade-lade  Schal-la la-la la-la la, la.


Click here for another way to learn German embedded in music: German phrases.


Full transcription & Translation


Yeah — Das ist ein Lied über etwas,
Yeah — This is a song about something,

was ich ganz oft haben möchte,
that I would like to have very often,

aber immer nur von einer Person bekomme.
but always only get from one person.

Ich esse jeden Tag Obst, mal weniger, mal mehr.
I eat fruits every day, sometimes less, sometimes more.

Bei uns zu Hause ist der Obstteller niemals leer.
At our place the fruit plate is never empty.

Und Mama sagt: “Iss die Äpfel und Bananen,
And mum says: “Eat the apples and bananas,

Birnen, Mandarinen und den ganzen anderen Kram.”
pears, mandarins and all the other stuff.”

Und dann erzählt sie mir wie wichtig Vitamine sind und sagt:
And then she tells me how important vitamins are and says:

„Komm, iss deinen Teller auf, sei ein liebes Kind.”
“Come, empty your plate, be a nice child.”

Und ich bin lieb und der Liebste, den es gibt.
And I am nice and the nicest one, that there is.

Aber wenn ich aufgegessen hab’, dann sing ich dieses Lied:
But when I have eaten up, then I sing this song:


Obst und lecker Gemüse, ja, das macht mich groß und stark.
Fruits and tasty vegetables, yes, that makes me tall and strong.

Denn heute möcht’ ich zu Oma fahren,
because today I would like to go to granny,

die gibt mir was ich mag.
who gives me, what I like.

Oma gibt mir Schokolade. Yeah
Granny gives me chocolate. Yeah.

Lecker Schokolade
Tasty chocolate

Oma holt mir Naschi aus dem Schrank
Granny gets me sweets from the cabinet

Sie hat da so ‘ne Schublade, voller Schokolade,
She’s got there such a drawer, full with chocolate,

voll, so wie im Schlaraffenland
full, like in the land of milk and honey


Ich will Schokolade.
I want chocolate.

Ich will so gerne Schokolade.
I so dearly want chocolate.

Ich will Schokolade.
I want chocolate.


Aber wisst ihr, was ich eden Tag ess’?
But do you know, what I eat every day?

Ich esse jeden Tag Gemüse, mal weniger, mal mehr.
I eat vegetables every day, sometimes less, sometimes more.

Bei uns zu Hause ist das Gemüse wirklich niemals leer.
At our place the vegetables are never really empty.

Papa sagt: “Iss die Gurken und Tomaten, von mir aus aus’m Supermarkt,
Daddy says: “Eat the cucumbers and tomatoes, I don’t care if from the supermarket,

 am liebsten aus’m Garten.”
most preferably from the garden.”

Und dann erzählt er mir, wie wichtig Vitamine sind.
And then he tells me how important his appointments are.

“Iss dein Gemüse auf, komm, sei ein liebes Kind.”
“Eat up your vegetables, come, be a nice child.”

Und ich bin lieb und der Liebste, den es gibt.
And I am nice and the nicest one, that there is.

Und wenn ich aufgegessen hab’, dann sing ich dieses Lied:
And when I have eaten up, then I sing this song:



german language Uncategorized

B1 in 14 Days – 2014 – Start

The B1 in 14 Days Project Begins
der Nebel – the fog / Image via Pixabay


“Jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne.”

With these words by Hermann Hesse, I hereby announce the beginning of one of the most challenging projects in the German language learning world: Is it possible to teach/learn German in just 14 days? Working title: B114.
Witness our progress and honor us with your support. It is highly appreciated and strongly needed.

Don’t just take my word for anything you read here. Rather see for yourself by following our short interviews at the end of each project-day. There will be daily, short updates on all major platforms on Ewelina’s progress. Make sure to follow where it suits you best. You will also have the option to subscribe to my newsletter (for later on) not to miss similar events or invaluable, pretty unique tips and tricks for German learners that I tend to post here every now and then. Don’t worry, you will not be spammed with special offers (I don’t give discounts anyhow, I am already way too cheap ^^) or word-of-the-day-nonsense. I value my short lifetime highly and yours as well.

“Alles hat ein Ende…”

Enough said. Subscribe if you want to witness the revolution of German teaching/learning (not kidding). The countdown is running: Minus 19h from now. Just as a reminder: Ewelina’s TELC B1-exam is on the 27th and the 28th of March. We aim for an 80% score or better.  You can find out more about this project by subscribing to one of the services below.

youtube-channel of smarterGerman Click here to subscribe to youtube

twitter-channel of smarterGermanClick here to subscribe to twitter (#b114)

google plus page of smarterGermanClick here to subscribe to g+

facebook fanpage of smarterGermanClick here to subscribe to facebook

german language Uncategorized

Learning German (B1) in 14 Days ?

How long does it take to learn German?
die Stoppuhr / Image via Pixabay

ATTENTION: This project was in 2014 and you can’t apply anymore.

No One Learns a Language in Two Weeks, Right?

But what if you could learn German in a Fortnight? Would you go for it?

Imagine a world in which German wouldn’t be “Deutsche Sprache-Schwere Sprache” but the language that could actually be learned in just 14 days. I am speaking of learning it from scratch until B1, a process that in groups here in Berlin language schools would need approximately 720 lessons or six intensive months after which only about 60% pass the B1 exam. Wouldn’t you rather invest 14 days to get a solid base that you could build on?


I am Certain, That we can do This

-You will get 56 private lessons for free but not for nothing-

smarterGerman is giving you the chance to save more than 400 hours of time (i.e.  560 lessons) and up to 7.200€ tuition (that’s what the leading school in Berlin is taking for six months of ‘intensive’ tuition). It is absolutely for free(I even pay your exam, no matter the outcome)but not for nothing. You will need to fulfill a few requirements that you can find on this page on which you can also apply for the project. It is a lot of work but for a very limited amount of time and I am sincerely convinced that you will not only pass the B1 exam at the Berlin Goethe Institut after that short time but  also that you will  have an amazingly good and natural command of German according to that level. Besides: It will make you incredibly happy if you pass that exam.


Wörst Case Zenario

The worst that could happen is that you simply don’t pass that exam. So what? You will still have learned an immense amount of German and will surely have passed level A2. Besides you will have learned incredibly powerful techniques to speed up your further effort to master the German language.

If you think you are the right person, go ahead to the project page and make sure to read and fulfill all the requirements. I don’t just give away free tuition to just anybody. I want my time to be well invested, so do you, right? Then all that’s left is to click the big red apply-button and you are in the nearer choice. I will pick the candidate in the first days of March and let you know if you hit the jackpot or not. That will leave you a 12 days notice period to apply for a leave from your job if necessary.

I wish you a great time and am looking forward to working with you.

Michael Schmitz