Learning German is mainly a handicraft like many other things. Of course there are many influences like talent, age, intelligence, experience just to name a few. But in general after more than ten years I can say that one can come very far with mere discipline and structure. After all the majority of us have already learned a language successfully so why should learning a second language cause problems?
If I had to break down the German learning process to three points this would be my advice:
- Get a professional private German tutor (anything above 40€ per lesson)
- (Learn to) listen attentively
- Learn your daily dose of useful (!) vocabulary
Let me elaborate:
What to look for in a private German tutor
You learn German to be able to speak it properly and for the rest of your life. If you let someone guide you who is just out to make some easy money, you are going to end up with crippled German that will make you feel bad for the rest of your life. I am not exaggerating. You only have one chance to get it right. It is an incredibly painful struggle to correct bad German and in most cases an endeavor doomed to fail.
Good work costs good money
People charging a solid hourly rate are either smart frauds or people who know what professional guidance is worth. A fraud you can easily discover after a few lessons but I will not go into detail here. I will write a discover frauds guide these days. To make sure you get a good tutor you might simply go to accredited and certified schools. Don’t just pick a student that offers lessons for 20€ or less. It is a waste of money. Although that’s how I have begun *apologies*. A professional will have to pay taxes, insurances and taxes and her rent. To give you an estimate: I pay 1.700€ monthly and there is no way I am able to reduce this amount in any significant way although I am living a humble life. I would have to work over 100 (!) hours monthly if I only took 20€ per lesson to simply pay my recurring expenses. I wouldn’t have eaten anything yet.
The best Teachers teach from their own Experience
A very good tutor (why should you look for less for such an important task?) should at least speak English if not also another language so she has first hand experience of the language learning process.
She should also be able to explain the German grammar in English (!) to you in a way that you afterwards could explain it to others. If she tries to teach you without grammar, run away. That is esoterical bs from the sixties and scientifically unacceptable.
You need clear Goals
After about three lessons she should give you an estimate of the time you will need to reach a certain level (B2 CER is the minimum to manage well even in a professional environment). If you don’t set a clear goal you are bound to waste time and money. To give you an idea of the usual duration in a class with 10-20 students:
-B1 takes six months with 3h daily instructions and 1.5h of daily homework or ~720 lessons+
-B2 another three months of the same workload i.e. ~360 lessons
You can calculate with half of this when studying with a private German tutor.
Learning German is an emotional and intimate process
And above all: You will have to like her. Learning a new language is veeeery intimate. You will sound stupid and imbecile trying to express yourself in a language that you are yet lacking the words for. That is totally fine but requires a trustful environment. If you are ashamed to speak right from the beginning it will take you much much longer to get established in the German language than if you learned with someone who creates a supportive and motivating atmosphere.
This is it for today. Let me summarize the criteria to pay attention to when looking for the best German tutor available. She should:
- have learned another language herself
- explain German grammar clearly in English
- give an estimate about the time until a clearly defined goal is reached
- be likeable and create a comforting and trusting atmosphere
I will discuss the remaining two steps the following days. Stay tuned.
You can find Step II here .
*I choose the gender in my texts arbitrarily and of course always refer to all genders.