A Step by Step Guide to Learning German on Your Own (2024)

A Step by Step Guide to Learning German on Your Own (1)

By A Step by Step Guide to Learning German on Your Own (2)rebeccahenderson Last updated:

Sometimes we need a little spontaneity in our lives.

You know—buying a jacket you don’t really need. Taking a long drive for no reason. Maybe even booking a last-minute trip to Berlin.

But then there are times for planning and structure.

Like learning a new language.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with casual, free-time language studies. But if you want to go from beginner to fluent in a reasonable amount of time, you’ll need some proven study methods and daily dedication.

That’s what we’ll help you achieve here. Our seven-step German learning guide will show you how to teach yourself the language in a structured, effective way.

You can follow this guide along with formal German learning (such as official German courses) and several of the early steps will stay with you as you progress. Ultimately, the idea is to build good German habits from the get-go so your skills develop naturally and your motivation doesn’t wane.

Time to put your best foot forward!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

What German Skills Should You Focus On?

Fluency is measured by the ability to read, understand, write and speak a language.Each of these abilities require their own skill sets, and they’re also all subject to the grammatical rules of the language.

As you set out on your German learning journey, you’ll not only need to memorize the rules of German grammar, but also when to use them (and when to break the rules!) when writing and speaking.

Then, as you move beyond the basics and start learning language quirks like idioms and slang, you move closer and closer to true fluency.

The steps below will take you through this progression of skills in a natural, engaging way.

Step 1: Get a Rich German Reading Diet

The first step to improving your German is to start reading regularly in German. It may sound daunting, especially for beginners, but it’s one of the best ways to engage with the language and become familiar with its patterns.

The more reading practice you get, the more your mind will begin to naturally absorb German sentence structure and verb conjugation rules. Plus, you’ll be getting a great story out of it—if you’re not the kind of person who responds to flashcards or other memorization techniques, this is a huge bonus!

Where to Start with German Reading

Pick up two copies of a book—one in German and one in your native language.Move chapter by chapter depending on your language skills. Absolute beginners should start with the English version and then read in German (along with a German dictionary) looking for cognates and writing down words that appear repeatedly.

If you already have some German foundations, you can start by reading the German to get a feel for what you can pick up and then read the English version to clarify and/or check your understanding.

As you get more comfortable, read a German translation of a familiar book. Pick a book that you’ve already read in your native language. Better yet if you’ve read it a dozen times or the story made a huge impression on you.

The important thing is that you know the plot of the story already, so you can focus more on the language itself.

Listen to audiobooks as you follow along in print.They can be audio versions of books you’ve already read depending on how much familiarity you need. The idea is to start getting comfortable with German pronunciation as you build your grammar and vocabulary knowledge.

Many good narrators will inflect their tone to show context clues such as emotions, so pay attention to those cues. You can cement new words by looking them up inLEO, which offers a great dictionary that pronounces words for you!

Step 2: Immerse Yourself in German Media

Now that you’ve dipped your toes into German basics, it’s time to start consuming as much real German media as you can.

Some learners tend to put this step off, but resist that urge! It’s never too soon to get comfortable with German the way native speakers really use it.

German Media to Explore

Find your new favorite show—in German!German TV is great for hearing casual spoken German, as well as learning about German culture. Listen for unfamiliar words and see if you can notice any common expressions or slang. Also pay attention to the humor or social rules that can be discovered.

Read German news every day.Not only is this a great way to learn about the issues that are important to Germans, you’ll also see essential vocabulary and formal, grammatically correct language. Here are some great German news outlets for learners.

Other options includeDANK TV for free German TV onlineor listening to German radio. You’ll hear the rate at which native speakers talk and the pacing they use. Better yet, you might even find a few tunes to add to your playlist!

If you want to take this learning method up a notch, check out FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Click here to check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

Step 3: Start a Daily Journal in German

While it’s easier to get your thoughts down on paper in your native language, challenge yourself to write first in German and skip English entirely. This will force your mind to begin thinking in German, rather than moving through each step of the translation process. Thinking in German is a crucial, significant step toward fluency.

If you need to use a word that you don’t know, trycircumlocution.This is the act of describing a concept using an alternative route. Try to think of synonyms or explain the word in German.

Let’s say I don’t know the word for “apple,” but I know the color “red” and the word “tree.” Instead of saying “apple,” I can say “it is red and it grows on a tree.” The idea is that you come at the word or phrase you don’t know via a different path, that still gets you to the same concept.

Afterward, look the word up and if it’s one you’ll need to use a lot, memorize it for future use.

Step 4: Write Letters to German Pen Pals

Build on your journaling exercise by starting to get some real-world German communication. You can find pen pals to write to on websites like MyLanguageExchange and GlobalPenFriends.

If you choose, you can write the letter in English and attempt to write it in German as well and send both. You might also encourage your pen pal to do the same, so they have the opportunity to practice their English.

But eventually you’ll want to move from writing in English and then translating, to writing immediately in German. Again, this will help train your mind to begin thinking in German.

Of course, a more modern version of this exercise is to write emails in German. However some people find that the act of directly writing on paper helps make the process more engaging and memorable.

You can also consider writing to other German learners! The Goethe Instituthas courses that will open you to a worldwide community of German students.

Step 5: Express Yourself, Then Correct Yourself

Try writing a creative story, small poem or short response to something you’ve read. When you start out, you’re going to inevitably write simplistically, but that’s okay!

Try to get your ideas down first. Think of it as writing a draft before you go back and revise. The goal is to get into a flow of writing and thinking in German. Don’t stress about errors—just try to let your personality shine through in German. After all, a huge part of fluency is being able to confidently communicate your own ideas in German.

After you’ve got a draft down and you’ve run through it one or two times, now you can start correcting your mistakes.

Work through the piece sentence by sentence, making sure your nouns have the appropriate article and reflect the proper case. Conjugate your verbs according to their subjects and tense. Follow the rest of the grammar rules you’ve learned to polish your work.

This is a great way to catch your own bad habits while learning to express yourself naturally in German.

Step 6: Join German Clubs

It’s time to find opportunities for real-life German conversation, as often as you can! German clubs are a fantastic option here. Many universities or local Meetups will form clubs that often meet to speak together in German.

Plus, other members will often have study tips and tricks to help you out as well!

Eventually, you couldchallenge yourself tospeak only German for an entire day. This will force you to apply your skills and think on your feet. It doesn’t matter how grammatically correct you are, only that you become comfortable speaking.

Step 7: Attend an Immersion Camp or Visit Germany

There might be German immersion opportunities closer than you realize! There are a number of camps and programs based in the U.S. where you’ll hear and use only German, day in and day out.

For example,Middlebury Collegehas a famously rigorous total German immersion program. You’ll be speaking and hearing German non-stop, even within the woods of Vermont!

Schulhaus Denveralso offers German language classes for all ages and levels. The teachers are native speakers who provide a full immersion learning experience.

Ask your local university’s German department where you can find nearby opportunities similar to these.

The ultimate test of your German knowledge is to spend time in Germany! Apply to be an exchange student and spend a semester or year abroad. Many host families will offer you a fully-immersive experience that’ll allow you to discover the language and culture directly. They can also act as a guide.

The next time you find yourself struggling to master German, take a look at this guide to fluency. Language is something you’ll learn for the rest of your life. Learn to embrace mistakes, seek out new words and gain appreciation for the language and customs that make this world the rich place it is!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

A Step by Step Guide to Learning German on Your Own (2024)


A Step by Step Guide to Learning German on Your Own? ›

The basics of German are easy and if you really commit yourself to it you can learn them quickly by using free resources. Especially the basics of grammar and some easy to learn phrases like greetings and introducing yourself can be easily learned before thinking about any course.

How do I start learning German by myself? ›

5 easy ways to learn German from home
  1. Work your way through a few lessons. When you're first starting to learn German, it's a good idea to have a guide, and there are lots of free options. ...
  2. Listen to German radio and podcasts. ...
  3. Watch German TV shows. ...
  4. Meet German speakers. ...
  5. Plan a virtual trip to Germany.

How to learn German step by step? ›

Here are some easy steps to learning German:
  1. Master the alphabet. ...
  2. Learn easy/important words. ...
  3. Basic grammar: study nouns, verbs and adjectives. ...
  4. Learn how sentences are constructed. ...
  5. Talk to German speakers regularly. ...
  6. Try watching some German movies or listening to German music. ...
  7. Learning German online.

Is it possible to learn German by myself? ›

The basics of German are easy and if you really commit yourself to it you can learn them quickly by using free resources. Especially the basics of grammar and some easy to learn phrases like greetings and introducing yourself can be easily learned before thinking about any course.

What is the quickest and easiest way to learn German? ›

If you want to find the best way to learn German fast, immersion is the way to go. The most important thing that immersion provides is a constant stream of your target language. You will hear it all the time and read it everywhere.

Is 1 year enough to learn German? ›

So, how long do you need to learn German if you want to reach this level of fluency? According to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI), you'll need about 750 hours of study to become fluent in German. This means that if you study 12-15 hours a week, you'll be able to speak like a pro in just a year!

How long does it realistically take to learn German? ›

The FSI estimates that German takes approximately 30 weeks, or 750 classroom hours to learn. This study was conducted on a group of language students who spent 25 hours per week in class, and three hours daily on individual practice.

How to learn German ASAP? ›

If you're interested in learning German, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process:
  1. Play charades.
  2. Get real immersion.
  3. Go on a language adventure.
  4. Make a plan.
  5. Use mnemonics.
  6. Know what you need to know.
Feb 14, 2023

How long does it take to learn German alone? ›

It shouldn't take long to become fluent in German. Actually, after 6-8 months of studying in intense courses (about twenty hours every week) you will be able to gain proficiency of your German language to navigate your daily life. It is possible to gain professional proficiency within a mere year!

Where should I start if I want to learn German? ›

Beginners and even intermediate learners can use German textbooks to master the basics. The most helpful books include a Duden grammar book and Langenscheidt dictionary. You may also choose to read fiction and nonfiction books written in German, though you'll want to choose material based on your ability level.

How long does it take to learn German on your own? ›

Language students who practice a method of complete immersion, with eight hours of practice per day, could learn German to a high level in a matter of months. Those who dedicate at least one hour per day to language learning can achieve an intermediate level within two years.

What is the first thing to learn in German? ›

#1: Learn Basic German Vocabulary to Be Able to Communicate

So in order to start speaking German as soon as possible, make sure you know the way letters are pronounced in German, as well as the specific-to-German letters that are not found in English, such as ß (Eszett or scharfes S) or vowels “mit Umlaut” like Ü or Ä.


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