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Top 4 Things To Avoid When Learning German

Aug 25, 2007
I've noticed a lot of "learn German" courses and online language lessons try to teach their students German bluntly, without worrying about efficiency. I'm not saying it's wrong to learn a new language "the hard way", but in today's fast paced world, everyone wants to learn something with speed and efficiency.

You might be needing to learn German for an exam with a fast incoming term, finish a German project with a quick deadline, or get ready for that business trip in Germany next month and in order to max out your efficiency ratio, you'll be better off if you follow a simple set of rules and avoid some of the most common mistakes occurring when learning German.

1. German Learning Mistakes - Lack of Visualization

Visualization is extremely important when learning a new language, even more so when learning German and its rough, hard-to-memorize words. Whenever you want to improve vocabulary, don't just learn words the hard way by popping open a dictionary and finding out what a word means. Instead, try to associate it with something in your mother tongue.

For example, the German word "mauer", meaning "wall" resembles the English word "mower". Picture someone running into a wall with a mower, or a wall crumbling on a mower. I know it's silly but trust me, it doesn't even have to make sense. It's important that you remember the visual situation, since your brain is far better at remembering images and image-related stuff than just plain words.

2. German Learning Mistakes - Not Understanding your Weaknesses and Strengths

This is crucial in saving time when learning German. If you take on a step-by-step language course, you'll be going through some steps easier than others. This is because each human being has a natural "balance" in their learning process, with weaknesses and strengths. If you find yourself blazing through the grammar, don't waste any more time on it, except when revising. On the other hand, if your course's grammar section is over and you're still not clear with all the concepts and rules, focus on them until you clear them up. It's important to pay attention to these details if you want to learn correctly and fast.

3. German Learning Mistakes - Not Balancing Learning/Evaluation Times

If you get this learning/evaluation balance right, you'll be able to speed things up a lot when learning German. Unfortunately, this is also one of the toughest mistakes to avoid, since each person has its own perfect ratio. Most language specialists agree that it's best to learn for around 10-15 minutes, then evaluate your progress and check yourself out. Afterwards, take a short break, then get another 15 minutes chunk of learning. If you go on learning for 2 hours without evaluation, by the time you re-check yourself you'll find out that you've already forgotten some of the stuff and you'll lose even more time.

4. German Learning Mistakes - Confusing Fake Cognates for Cognates

Words that are similar in look, sound and meaning in English and German (or well, between any 2 languages actually) are called cognates. For example, the English "mouse" and the German "maus" sound and look almost the same and they share the same meaning. However, there are a few words that look and sound alike in both languages, but they mean something completely different and these words are called fake cognates. A few examples could include (German word - English lookalike word - Germany true meaning): scmerz - smart - pain, baum - beam - tree or wald - weald - forest.

You'll probably have to learn these fake cognates by hard, or at least try to figure them out of the context. They can be very misleading to language learning newcomers, especially after you get used to the real cognates and expect any lookalike word to have the same meaning in both German and English.

These are the main things to avoid when you learn German, but there are other things that can help speed up your language learning process. Revising and evaluating efficiently for example, without over or under revising, or naturally building your vocabulary outside the learning sessions (from German TV shows for example) are also important. With these techniques, you can increase your German language learning rate by up to 4 times than if you would simply learn in a robotic, straightforward fashion.
About the Author
Increase your German vocabulary at online German games at www.InternetPolyglot.com. The site contains thousands of German lessons in different languages.
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