german language Learning Techniques

Getting Started with Learning German

german for beginners
die Läuferin – the (female) runner / Image by Ryan McGuire via Pixabay

Learning German: Useful Questions for Beginners

Are you having trouble with learning German? You are not alone. How to get started with learning the German language. Some important questions for beginners before you start your journey.

I love my job and I am really passionate about it. I want my students to learn German very well and damn fast. But being fast on my feet at least as far as languages are concerned and being highly rational I do not always find my expectations matched.

People often just want to have fun in classes or just not be alone with this mighty task of learning German. Nothing wrong with that. I enjoy that a lot myself. But there are also students that prefer to do boring and tedious grammar exercises over and over again and then compare the answers in class, although they could easily check them themselves. This goes beyond my understanding and I would never do that in class unless I am lazy or badly prepared for my lesson, which in my case is never. It is simply a waste of time.

What on the other hand is valuable, are the questions that occur while doing an exercise in class or at home. This is where learning can take place and where the student’s and the teacher’s attention is undivided. Over the years most of these questions repeat themselves and there are a few core problems, every learner of German is experiencing sooner or later:

  • the articles der, das, die
the cases, mainly the dative and the accusative
the adjectives and their uncontrollable endings
the irregular verbs aka past tenses
the prepositions and their appropriate cases
  • the vocabulary of course

just to name the more important ones. These require usually a lot of effort and persistence and almost never have I met a colleague or student that knew how to make these issues go away in an appropriate time. And this is not only about German for beginners. People living in Germany for 10 or more years still struggle from bad grammar. That should not have to be. So let me introduce you to some powerful, because efficient and effective, techniques to take the edge from German grammar once and for all…

How to get Started? German for Beginners

Well, if you are going on a journey, you usually think about your goal first [exceptions prove the rule] and then plan the route, or simply type it into your navigation system. The same applies when you want to learn German or any language actually. If you want to learn how to speak it wouldn’t make sense to visit a writing course. Most students (I’ve only seen around a thousand, but that should do for same basic statistics) have pretty vague goals if it comes to learning German. “I want to learn German.” That’s like saying “I want to cook.” You might end up with Spaghetti and ketchup instead of a fine Moroccan parsley squash pastry spoiling your senses. So the very first step should be to become clear about your goals.Here are some questions to help you defining it:

  • Where do you want to use your German? In a social, scientific or professional environment? Which means would you like to use German at work or just around friends, cooking courses or soccer games? Or would you like to study at a German university?
  • How much time have you got & would you like to spent on learning German? Hours per day? How many months?
  • What level would you like to reach in that time? There are some standardized levels that indicate your proficiency called GER. They reach from level A1 (beginners that are already able to write German letters) to level C2 (very sophisticated, native-like German). Just to give you an idea: The German government requires some migrants to pass the B1 exam. To reach that goal they have 600-900 lessons. This should enable them to deal with most everyday situations using German. These are special classes though and “normal” students usually take around 500h to reach this goal. If you are planning to work or study in Germany the B2-level is the minimum you’ll have to master. For some studies you will have to pass the C1-level-exam.
  • How would you like to learn? In a class? Individually? With or without a tutor? I guess it all comes down to the costs here. Many people attend classes just because they (think they) can’t afford a private tutor. And besides that, schools offer plenty of lessons in short time, giving you the feeling that you get a lot for your money. Don’t be fooled. Do you really think schools would want you to learn German as fast as possible? Wouldn’t that mean, they earned less money? And then, why are private lessons more expensive anyhow? Because the tutor has to prepare more for one student than he has to for 12 or even 20 students? Again, don’t misunderstand me. Schools are there for a purpose and of course they are not (only) money making machines but also want to provide something to others beyond that. But they have to find a compromise between these two goals (earning and contributing) and that surely isn’t letting you know that there are faster ways to learn German. They are usually not doing this on purpose. They are just not interested in it and simply adopt to the market’s demand and their co-competitors. Nothing wrong with that in our type of economy.


Private Tutoring is the Better Economical Choice

So let’s do some short and simple calculation. Intensive classes with approximately 12 students (rather more) cost around 300€ (around $400) per month. Intensive often means that you have approximately 80 lessons (á 45min) per month, usually divided in sessions of 3hrs per weekday. So one lesson costs around 3,75€ (around $5). A cheap private tutor from that same school would cost around 35€ ($40). That makes it roughly ten times more expensive. But now the hook: in class you would have to divide the teachers attention and the possible actual practice time by 12 as he has to focus on 12 students instead of solely you. So you get the same quality (not really but later more on that) as a private lesson for the price of 3,75€ x 12 (as you need 12x more time to have the same amount of attention and practice – this is of course a Milchmädchenrechnung but I only want to proof a point). So one equally valuable class-session costs you 45€ ($60). That’s 50% more than a private tutor would cost you (from that school! Freelancing tutors are usually even cheaper). But that’s only when taking a class is comparable with having a private session with a tutor, which it isn’t. The teacher-student relationship in class never reaches the same depth and level of skill-analysis as it does in a private setting. Imagine searching for oil and having to dig in 12 different places at the same time instead on focussing on one spot. It not only postpones the individual’s success but also the positive feedback for the teacher, making his job less rewarding. Also the teacher has to multitask and no matter if it’s a woman or a man, that never reaches the same quality of work than focussing on one project at the same time.

As I have written before, taking classes in a school-environment can make sense to you but if your aim is to advance fast, you might consider taking private lessons with a professional. You wouldn’t even have to take the same amount of lessons than you would have to in class. A lesson or two a day would do at the beginning and later on you reduce that amount to three or even two times a week, saving lots of money and above all: time.

The most Supporting Environment to Study

Be aware of possible distractions. Not everybody can work at home. Maybe there’s a nice library near you or a silent café. In summer there are nice spots in the parks.

What material do you need?

Above all you need some kind of dictionary. Back in the days, when I was still teaching groups, every once in a while I had to teach classes other than my own and I came across German learners without any dictionary. Not because it was their first day or week but because they said they were too expensive (the dictionaries, not the people), too heavy or they simply “forgot” them at home. Some come with very tiny books lacking a lot of elementary vocabulary needed even for the first months. We are not talking about rare cases, I would actually say in the lower levels such as German for beginners these students made up to 1/4 of the class. Imagine a plumber coming to your house trying to fix your pipes with his Bob the builder toolkit made of finest plastic. What results would you expect? The same is valid for German learning. There’s only a few tools needed, make sure they are of the best quality available. Electronic devices are a gift to the language learner. So are apps for smartphones. Make use of them. Second important material is a workbook. A good school or German tutor should provide you with any necessary working material, of course they will charge you one way or the other, but still… But the book should be user-friendly. Could you use it to study at home or would you need a teacher to explain the exercises and the grammar? Does it come with an answer key audio? Is there a glossary for your language or at least English available? That would speed up the vocabulary learning quite a bit. Are the texts interesting enough to keep you interested (most probably not really due to the generality of the subjects, but having no other option)?

Final Advice

Last but not least I strongly recommend to get good grammar books. And maybe one book explaining your native language’s grammar to you, so you can compare phenomena with German in case you think your native grammar skills are weak. This makes an invaluable toolkit for many students. If you are serious about studying or working in Germany, find out where you are heading to and then plan your route and make sure you have the resources needed.

If this seems like a lot of organizational effort to you, and you’d rather like to have someone else organize these things for you and to guide in simple and small steps through the jungle which is the German language to every beginner, check out our Everyday German Course (click on the ad in the right sidebar or on the tomatoes below). You can preview the first lesson completely for free and can even test the full course for 30 days without any risk as you have a 30-day money back guarantee.


I wish you success and above all fun, fun, fun with this wonderful language. I envy you as I’d love to learn it again with our materials. What a joy.
Take good care // Pass auf Dich auf


smarterGerman’s grammar courses are excellent tools to accompany your German language classes. Just click on the image below to find out more.

german beginners



I want to learn German. How do I begin?
german language

The top 10 rules for German learners

When I find the time I answer questions on different forums. Someone asked today what are the most important (grammar?) rules for a beginner German learner. I had the idea of such a post in my head for a long time so I took the opportunity to finally write it down. Here are my top 10 “rules” for anyone who would like to learn German efficiently. I hope it helps you on your path. Take care and viel Erfolg with your German.


  1. Know thy articles! Start here:

    and here:

  2. and if you want to master the gender of 1700 German nouns, you should check out my German Articles Buster.

    learn german articles

  3. Sentence orders: a) Subject-Verb-Object for normal sentences and W-questions b) Verb-Subject-Object for yes/no-questions or orders and c) Verb at the end for side-clauses
  4. Learn when to use the Accusative as it is the most used case (after the Nominative which usually doesn’t cause much trouble):

  5. Understand that there are only 2 tenses that you will need until late B2: The Präsens for present & future events and the Perfekt for the past.
  6. Learn your irregular verbs: German Verb Conjugations – Meister der Konjugation (for drill). If you are looking for a really really neat way of memorizing all relevant irregular verbs in less than two hours, you might want to consider getting my German Grammar Video Course.
  7. To ask for things politely or express your desires also called wishes you will need the Konjunktiv II which is very (!) simple: use a form of “würden” (=would) + Infinitive. One example: 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. Done. Next.
  8. Learn words, words, words. Find a beautiful technique on page 72 of my A1-B1 German Grammar eBook and please do yourself the favor and use www. Memrise – Learn something new everyday which will save yourself a lot (!) of time.
  9. Get a book and start reading it. Here’s the book that I have already prepared the vocab for at memrise. Any other book will do, too, yet you’d have to enter the new vocab into your own memrise course yourself. Do not exceed 25-30 words per level if you intend to do so.
  10. Find a conversation partner.
  11. Know what’s expected of you and check out these freely available model exams (there’s also videos showing you samples of an oral exam of each level): Goethe-Zertifikat B1 (other levels you will find in the left sidebar of that page).
  12. 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 video courses and ebooks here (or just click on the dandelion = Pusteblume below)


getting started with learning german - ten rules you should know