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How Long Does it Take to Learn German?

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What dedicated language learner could pass up an opportunity to spend endless days studying German and all its nuances? Unfortunately, in our society, time is money and the reality of things can be quite different. Most of us just don’t have the time to study languages at our leisure. 

Because time is such a constraint, there’s an important question to ask yourself before beginning to learn this beautiful language: How long does it take to learn German?

Mark Twain said: “A gifted person ought to learn English in 30 hours, French in 30 days and German in 30 years.” But it might not take quite that long!

I’m sure we all instinctively look for the fastest and easiest ways to learn new things. Being efficient with our time allows us to start practicing and using our new skills much sooner, so we can find a better job, travel abroad, or better communicate with a loved one. 

Learning a foreign language is always an amazing and fulfilling process, though often arduous. By learning to understand, speak, and think in a different language, we not only add a new skill to our repertoire but we also change the very way we see and interact with the world.

It’s understandable that you’d like to know for certain how long this marveolus language learning journey will take you, so that you could make plans and form solid expectations. The reality is, however, that there’s no one best way to learn German and there’s no set timetable for it! 

Everyone learns differently, and how long it takes to learn German will depend on many factors. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the factors that will affect your learning and how you can speed it up as much as possible!

Hourglass against a Dark Background
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Experience
  2. Learning Style
  3. Approach
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?
  5. How Our Website Can Help

Experience

One of the most important factors to take into account when considering how fast you can learn a language is your personal experience with languages

The Language(s) You Speak

What’s your native language? And what other languages do you speak? 

Yes, this might actually be a defining element in how quickly you’ll be able to pick up the German language. If you’re a native (or near-native) English speaker, you’re in luck! German and English actually share the same roots and forty percent of German vocabulary is similar to English vocabulary!

If you’re a native speaker of a Semitic language like Arabic, on the other hand, it might be a little trickier to learn German—but all the more challenging and rewarding! So, don’t be discouraged. Just be aware that your native English-speaking classmates might have a bit of a headstart…but that doesn’t mean they’ll learn it better than you!

Several Language Learning Textbooks

Your Previous Language Learning Experience

Have you ever learned another language before?

If you already speak a foreign language fluently, or were raised bilingual, it may be easier and quicker for you to learn German. Several studies have now proven that bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language. This is because they already have experience learning and using a second language, and are thus more accustomed to the entire process.

Even if you’re not bilingual, having studied and learned a foreign language at some point in your life will help. Having fluency and skill in one language will help you gain fluency and skill in another, even if the two languages are unrelated! 

Your Previous Grammar Knowledge

One of the first steps in learning a foreign language is finding out how it’s built and how it works. This is usually done by studying its structure and grammar. 

If you already have some experience studying grammar and syntax, even in your native language, it will be much easier for you to study the grammar and syntax of a foreign language. 

So, if you plan to start learning German (or another language!), it’s a good idea to have some grammar foundations to build on!

An Asian Woman Studying German

Learning Style

The way you learn and study is another essential aspect that may affect how long it will take you to become fluent in German. 

Your Methods

If you limit your learning to a classroom setting, even if you show up every day, it will probably take you a little longer to learn and feel confident using your language skills. Try to expose yourself to German outside the classroom (or online lesson) and you’ll cut down the time it takes you to learn it! 

Try reading German newspapers, watching films and series in German, and even listening to German podcasts while you drive or cook. Of course, finding a language partner to practice conversing with will also go a long way toward making you fluent faster! 

Your Time

There’s another aspect we haven’t mentioned yet, but it’s the most important of all when asking yourself how long it takes to learn German: The time you dedicate to it!

If you want to learn fast, try to dedicate as much time to learning as you can. 

Daily practice is ideal, and research has actually proven that learners who dedicate an hour a day to language learning—whether studying grammar, memorizing new words, watching a film, or reading a book—learn significantly faster than those who just attend weekly classes. 

And of course, if it’s an option for you, full immersion is best. If you can travel to Germany and live there for a while, that will make a big difference!

A Christmas Market in Germany

Approach

This is quite possibly the game-changer that will determine how fast you learn German. It can really make a massive difference!  

Your Motivation

It really is no secret that staying motivated is essential for learning a foreign language. Why do you want to learn German?

Have this clear in your mind and set weekly (or even daily) goals for maximum efficiency. This will help you stay motivated and interested in learning, and you can remind yourself every day why you’re learning this beautiful language. 

Your Attitude

Keeping your motivation up will make you feel like you’re learning more efficiently, and it will help you maintain a positive attitude during your language learning journey! 

It’s key to see learning as a fun and interesting activity that you’re choosing to do, and not a chore that you’re forced to do.

A Man Expressing Victory

Remember that learning a new language will open your mind and your horizons, and it will give you a great set of skills you can use in your day-to-day life. 

When you think this way, you’ll feel like learning something new every day and the process will be more enjoyable and much faster! 

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?

So, let’s get to the point. Even though it’s hard to say for sure, we’ve tried to make an estimate of how long it might take you to reach a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of German. 

Beginner

A beginner speaker of a language will be able to introduce themselves, understand slow and simple spoken language, and ask basic questions (probably making some mistakes along the way!). 

This level is probably enough if you just want…

  • …to be able to greet people. 
  • …to order a meal at the restaurant
  • …to understand when someone talks to you slowly and carefully. 
  • …some basic reading skills. 

You’ll be able to do all these things after about 180-200 hours (level A2) of German classes. This means that if you’re motivated and willing to put in 10-15 hours a week, you can travel to Germany without any worries in just over three months! 

So get studying now, and you’ll soon be having some basic conversations with native speakers!

Intermediate

If you reach an intermediate level, you’ll be able to understand everyday conversation (if spoken clearly), even if you have to ask some questions here and there to keep up. This level will also allow you to… 

  • …watch videos and read the news without major problems understanding the main points. 
  • ask for and follow directions
  • …have basic interactions with locals about familiar subjects. 

We estimate that to achieve an intermediate level in German, you’ll need around 350 hours of study. This means that, if you dedicate around 15 hours a week to practicing your German, you’ll be able to reach this level in just six months! 

Advanced

If you want to achieve fluency, this is what you’re aiming for: advanced language skills. With this level, you’ll basically be able to… 

  • navigate any kind of situation that may arise in your daily life or while traveling.
  • …have in-depth conversations with native speakers. 
  • watch movies without subtitles.
  • …read books in German with no problem.

You’ll be fluent! (Even if there will always be something more to learn about this intricate and beautifully complex language…)

A Woman Studying Late at Night

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! 

If this seems like a long time, take into account that harder languages like Japanese or Arabic may take up to 2200 hours, three times longer than German!

How Our Website Can Help

What are you waiting for? The right time to start learning a new language is now! 

The sooner you start learning, the faster you’ll achieve your language objectives and start speaking German. 

As you consider your options (and the world’s ongoing pandemic), you might wonder how to learn German online. GermanPod101 is a great place to start! 

To keep you motivated and interested (and to make your language learning adventure easy to navigate), we offer all kinds of language learning content on GermanPod101.com. Here you’ll find lessons for all levels, as well as vocabulary lists, dictionaries, and blog posts. 

Above all, how long it takes to learn German just depends on how much time you’re willing to invest. Our courses and resources are specifically designed to give you all the right tools to learn German as quickly and easily as possible, so that your precious time is well-spent!

Whether you’re a beginner who wants a full immersion experience or an advanced speaker who just needs to refine your skills, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you! Do you feel ready to tackle the challenge of learning German? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Is German Hard to Learn? Yes – But in a Good Way.

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You might be one of those folks who wishes they knew German.

But wanting to know German is different from learning German or wanting to learn German. The people who just long for the day when they know German are usually the ones asking “Is German hard to learn?”

But here’s the thing. Every language out there is hard in one way or another, even the ones that are close to your native language. Whether the difficulty comes at the beginning of the journey or in the middle, you’re never going to get off easy.

The challenge is the fun of it! And besides, do you really have that much to worry about when it comes to learning German? 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning German Table of Contents
  1. Is it Hard to Learn German?
  2. The Hardest Parts of German
  3. The Easiest Parts of German
  4. Where Should You Start Learning German?
  5. Advice to a New Learner
  6. The Advantages of GermanPod101
  7. Conclusion

1. Is it Hard to Learn German?

Traditional German Tree Image

German has this bad reputation of being difficult. Centuries of students from all around the world have been stuck translating German back and forth from their native languages, usually long and dreadfully boring passages made up to illustrate some grammar rule or another. Hemingway himself studied German and wrote his experiences down in an essay, where he talked about the struggles that English-speakers face when learning this difficult language.

But what makes German so hard to learn?

The only reason that German seems so difficult to people is that it has grammar rules that other languages don’t.

German is a language with relatively high “inflection,” meaning that the words in a sentence change based on their grammatical roles. For example, you have to add different endings to the adjectives and the articles in order to show which part of the sentence is the subject and which is the object.

Like English, German also has a lot of set phrases and verbs that go with specific prepositions. Adding a different preposition or prefix to a verb can change the meaning completely. Just like how, in English, a business can “go under” if the rent prices “go up.”

There’s also the question of pronunciation. After a handful of spelling reforms, German is spoken much like it’s written, but there are some consonants and vowels that don’t exist in English. It’s especially tricky because some of them are almost like their English counterparts, but just different enough to cause confusion.

These factors definitely make it sound like German is a tough nut to crack. Don’t worry, though—with every difficult feature comes an easy one to balance things out. 

2. The Hardest Parts of German

A Kid Stressed about His Homework

Let’s go into a bit more detail on the things that scare people the most. 

Look up any information about why the German language is hard to learn, and the number-one answer is “the cases.” Those are the word changes we alluded to earlier. 

Interestingly enough, German is one of very few European languages in which the article is affected by the grammatical role instead of the noun. Look at any of the Slavic languages or Latin, for instance, and you’ll see that the noun itself has to change!

German has four cases: the nominative (subject of the sentence), accusative (direct object), dative (indirect object), and genitive (possession). Nominative is the “basic” case with the dictionary form of the word, so you can strike that one off your list of things to worry about right away.

The genitive is slowly being phased out, except in formal language and in set phrases, so you only really need to recognize it until you’re an intermediate learner. That leaves just two cases you have to choose from, and honestly, it becomes second nature to think in that sort of “framework” after enough practice. 

3. The Easiest Parts of German

Oktoberfest Decorations

It’s definitely not all doom and gloom here. German is related to English, and that means there are some delightfully easy things about it.

First of all, the verb system. Anybody who’s ever studied a Romance language (like Spanish) or a Slavic language (like Russian) knows that the verbal system in other languages can be very complex. 

In German, the tenses of verbs are made with helping words, like in English. English doesn’t really have a future tense—we just say “I will do.” German doesn’t either: ich werde tun. And although the word order changes around a bit, this holds true even for rarer and “more complicated” tenses.

  • Es wird getan sein.
    “It will be done.”

Also, there are quite a few words in German that are easy to guess the meaning of. English and German    share an ancestor language, so a lot of the basic, core vocabulary comes from the same root. 

Once you hear that Das Buch means “the book” and Das Schwert means “the sword,” these words are super-easy to remember when you see them again. You’ll even unconsciously pick up on the sound changes that connect German and English roots.

And even better, there’s now a second wave of common vocabulary: words loaned from modern English into German! Das Management and Der Computer are just two examples. They mostly come in the form of tech or business words.

4. Where Should You Start Learning German?

Someone Turning Up the Volume

The best way to start learning German is to begin with audio.

German pronunciation is a pitfall for a lot of people, because it has subtle vowel changes from English that are hard to pick up on your own. If you start by listening to German instead of reading it, though, you’ll hear the differences early on.

An easy place to start is with GermanPod101 or a YouTube German-learning series where you can see the German transcript of what you’re hearing. That’s a great way to match each word to its correct sound right from the beginning.

After that, you should go through a quick set of pronunciation drills. YouTube is fine for this, too, though you can just follow the instructions in a German textbook. 

This may sound like a lot of work before you really get going, but laying a proper foundation is absolutely crucial to achieving a good command of German later on. 

There are far too many people out there who started speaking before they were ready, and ended up hitting a wall in the intermediate stage where their constant mistakes continue to hold them back.

Avoid that fate—study methodically at first, and then let loose later on! 

5. Advice to a New Learner

A Woman Reading and Writing Late at Night

Now that you know what makes German hard to learn, have you decided it’s not too bad after all? Great! Here’s some advice for new learners:

Since German has a lot of little things that have to be memorized, just embrace it.

Take a two-pronged approach: set aside a bit of time every day to go over the declension charts and review the core grammar rules. You’ll quickly find that this stuff locks itself into your memory pretty easily. Be patient with yourself and slowly write out the charts over and over until they’re second nature.

At the same time, it’s important to work with real native German material right from the start. Again, GermanPod101 and YouTube are treasure troves for this. You can find interesting content, slow it down, read the transcripts, and break it down into chunks you can understand.

Understanding is way more important than being able to speak right away, because everything depends on your ability to know what’s being said to you or what you’re reading.

Your brain will subconsciously pick up the patterns of natural German speech. This means that when you want to actually speak or write, it’ll be easy because you’ll also know the theory of German grammar.


6. The Advantages of GermanPod101

Obviously, the flagship podcast series from GermanPod101 is the main attraction on our website. With hundreds of episodes covering hundreds of topics, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, it’s all broken down with clear explanations and advice for learners.

Also, don’t miss our excellent grammar and pronunciation guides, where each sound and each case is explained by experts so that you can follow along, no matter your current level.

One huge thing you can take advantage of right now is the GermanPod101 YouTube channel, which has a great series of videos designed for listening comprehension from absolute beginner to advanced.

Each of those videos has slow and clear native-speaker audio acting out dozens of realistic situations, such as buying things in shops, talking with friends, and interacting with people at work. Each dialogue gets played twice, once without subtitles and once with subtitles, so you’ll automatically make the connections you need. 


7. Conclusion

Honestly, the best way to find out if the German language is hard or not is to try learning it yourself. Although there are definitely things you’ll have to spend more time on than others, no language is really “more difficult” overall than any other.

With German, you will have the initial handicap of it taking longer to be able to form simple sentences, especially compared to a language like Indonesian, where the words just fall into place.

However, you’ll also have a huge advantage if you know English, because you have a great base of shared vocabulary and cultural knowledge. That advantage only grows if you know French or another Romance language.

When you get to the more advanced levels, you’ll see your vocabulary grow exponentially because you’ll already have learned all the roots you need to create those impressively long German nouns.

The path begins today. Take the right first step by checking out GermanPod101, and see how far you can go!

If you’re learning the language already, which parts of German do you struggle with most? What things are easier for you? Let us, and aspiring German learners, know in the comments!

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Guard Yourself Against These Common German Mistakes

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Make no mistake—people have been complaining about the difficulty of the German language for centuries. Mark Twain did it then, and you’re probably doing it now.

It seems like the harder a language is, the more pressure we put on ourselves to get it exactly right. That’s even more true when the locals tend to speak English quite confidently. 

But as the Europe of today becomes more and more multicultural, the stigma of “perfect German or bust” is slowly falling away. There’s no need to paralyze yourself with doubt concerning common German mistakes or creating the perfect German sentence, because others in your community are probably dealing with language struggles of their own. 

So if you want to improve your German, you can start first with the beginner mistakes in German that make you stand out the most. That’s what we’ve distilled right here for you in this article!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. German Pronunciation Mistakes – The Trickiest German Sounds
  2. Confusing Words
  3. Put That Verb Back Where it Came From
  4. Flex Your Grammar Skills
  5. The Mistake Grab Bag
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. German Pronunciation Mistakes – The Trickiest German Sounds

Woman Struggling with Complex Math Equation

German definitely has a stereotype of being a “harsh” language. Outside of World War II movies, though, there’s no basis for that! 

It just has sounds that English-speakers aren’t used to. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a matter of accent. Pronouncing German sounds wrong can lead to serious misunderstandings.

For many people, it seems that the most common German pronunciation mistakes have to do with the consonants.

German has two rather throaty “ch” sounds, one called the ich-laut and one called the ach-laut. To distinguish between them, think about where your tongue is placed when you say the vowel in ich and the vowel in ach

The “ch” sound in ich is lighter and made more forward in your mouth. It actually requires the same tongue position as the vowel—you’re basically just whispering that ich vowel. The ach-laut, in contrast, is made more in the back of the mouth, with your throat just a little bit tighter than when you made the vowel sound in ach.

You should know that in some German dialects, the ich-laut does become something more like the English sound “sh,” and people even spell it as isch

The throaty German “R” sound is another rough one for learners, and some even complain about sore throats when reading German aloud. 

If that’s happening to you, relax a bit, since your tongue shouldn’t actually be touching your throat when you make that sound. Do your best with audio or a native instructor, but the most important part is to get the transition sounds right.

That means you need to practice saying words that begin with R, end in R, and have R in the middle. Seamlessly moving from other vowels or consonants than R is a true mark of an advanced speaker. 

2. Confusing Words

Someone Getting Ready to Write in Their Journal

There are, unfortunately, quite a few German words that learners tend to mix up. 

The simplest ones are those that English doesn’t quite have an equivalent for, like machen/tun and wissen/kennen

Machen and tun both mean “to do,” but each word has its own separate collocations and set phrases. Furthermore, tun sounds a bit informal or even juvenile at times, and so you’ll rarely (if ever) see it in formal written German. There’s even a saying: Tun tut man nicht. (“One does not tun.”)

And if this wasn’t enough, the few times you do see tun written somewhere, it will very likely be misspelled. There are a few words in German that even the natives aren’t sure how to spell. That’s why you might come across variants like tuhn, tuhen, or tuen. Indeed, tun sounds like there could be an h or e in-between, but we guarantee that this word consists of only three letters.

Wissen and kennen, similarly, both mean “to know,” but kennen is for people and wissen is for knowledge. 

  • Ich kenne ihn nicht.
    “I don’t know him.”

Trickier still, are the many, many words with prefixes or reflexive components that otherwise sound quite similar. Native English-speakers never had to learn it consciously, but English does the same thing: imagine you’re a learner and you’re trying to keep the meanings straight between “throw up,” “throw out,” “throw off,” and “throw on”!

Writing in German is one of the best ways to master confusing words and avoid common German spelling mistakes in the future. This is because, in speech, it’s too easy to stutter and correct yourself in real time while losing the thread of what you really wanted to say. In writing, though, you can carefully consider each word and lock its meaning into your brain. 

Be careful, though, not to contrast similar-sounding words too much right next to each other. Don’t sit in your chair with your eyes closed and repeat betrunken (“drunk”) and ertrunken (“drowned”) over and over. People will look at you funny, and you’ll only make the mental links between the words stronger.

3. Put That Verb Back Where it Came From

Someone Going on a Hike

To a native English-speaker, German word order can seem like one of its quirkiest aspects. 

As you’re probably aware, the verb is the very last element of German relative clauses. 

  • Ich habe einen Ball.
    “I have a ball.”
  • Ich habe einen Ball, der schwer ist.
    “I have a ball that is heavy.”

We’ve put ist (“is”) in the very last spot in the second clause of the second example. That trips up even advanced German students, because when you’re composing a sentence in your head, it’s often unnatural to wait until the end to think of the verb.

Try out some online grammar quizzes in German for a quick refresher of the word order rules. Also, if you do some writing in German from time to time, you should try stepping away from your text and reading it aloud after a break. It will probably surprise you how many little mistakes you find!

Another type of word order mistake in German has more to do with comprehension than production. German articles have several different forms depending on the number and case, but in English, they all get mapped to “the.” 

Have a look at this, though:

  • Dem Mann folgte die Frau.
    “The woman followed the man.” (It was the man that the woman followed.)

In today’s German writing, you won’t come across sentence inversions like this very often, but crack open a book written before the 1920s or so, and this will be everywhere. This example shows that the cases do play an important role in allowing for free word order while maintaining intelligibility. 

4. Flex Your Grammar Skills

Male, Female, and Neuter Gender Signs

You probably already know that the single biggest problem German learners face grammar-wise is the grammatical gender and the word endings that go along with them. Here, we’ll cover common German grammar mistakes concerning this, and how to avoid them.

Although there are a couple of rules you can memorize to make guessing noun gender go a little faster, it’s truly just going to come down to memorization and exposure. Learning German isn’t a race. The longer you spend with it, the more natural the correct noun endings are going to seem.

One thing that can actually help a lot for learning adjectives and article declensions is making study guides. 

Take a selection of intermediate-level German text and explain it, word by word, to a learner who doesn’t know a thing about German. Explain why each word has each ending, and how it relates to the sentence as a whole.

This is the kind of exercise you only need to do a handful of times before you start surprising yourself with how accurate your grammar is.

5. The Mistake Grab Bag

Many learners aren’t quite comfortable with the concept of polite and informal pronouns. To tell the truth, tons of native speakers have a hard time knowing exactly when to siezen “use Sie” or duzen “use du” as well!

There’s also a general shift toward using du more, especially online and especially among young people. However, if you ever take a German standardized test, you’ll be specifically tested on your ability to effectively use both levels of politeness, so make sure you’re equally strong in both.

And although German is considered to be one of the easier languages to spell, there are a few words with irregular pronunciation. These mostly come from other languages.

For instance, the words Restaurant and Fond (“fund”) are from French, and so they end in nasal vowels. Also, Regisseur (“film director”) has a smooth French “zh” sound, but Region has a hard “G” sound.

Finally, the humble word vier (“four”) has a long vowel, but it actually becomes a short vowel in the related words Viertel (“fourth”), vierzehn (“fourteen”), and vierzig (“forty”). Keep a sharp ear out, and you may hear more irregularities!

6. The Biggest Mistake

Man with Tape Over His Mouth

However, all of these little mistakes pale in comparison to one thing that could ruin your German forever—not using it. 

German-speakers aren’t going to bite you if you use a few words wrong or forget an ending. If you force yourself to stay silent even when you hear a lost German tourist asking for directions in your home country, you’re missing out on unequaled practice and the opportunity to make new friends. 

You might have the preconception that German-speakers would be too good at English to ever help you with your German, but that’s really not the case. The more you put yourself out there, the more international friends you’ll make and the better your German will become.

7. Conclusion

Even though practice with native speakers is the only tried-and-true way to really feel comfortable with native speakers, you can still make a strong effort at home. 

That’s where GermanPod101 comes in as a complete solution to all of your German-learning needs—all inside two earbuds. 

Learning German is a slow road, but oftentimes, you look back and marvel at how far you’ve come. Daily practice is the key, and that’s made easy with the podcast episodes, video tutorials, and vocabulary lists you’ll find on GermanPod101.com.

So step right up, and try out GermanPod101 today to start speaking beautiful and correct German as soon as possible!

Before you go, let us know in the comments what German mistakes you make the most often, or how you’ve learned to overcome them. We look forward to hearing from you!

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German Keyboard: How to Install and Type in German

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You asked, so we provided—easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up your electronic devices to write in German! We’ll also give you a few excellent tips on how to use this keyboard, as well as some online and app alternatives if you prefer not to set up a German keyboard.

Log in to Download Your Free German Alphabet Worksheet Table of Contents
  1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in German
  2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for German
  3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer
  4. How to Change the Language Settings to German on Your Computer
  5. Activating the German Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet
  6. German Keyboard Typing Tips
  7. How to Practice Typing German

1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in German

A keyboard

Learning a new language is made so much easier when you’re able to read and write/type it. This way, you will:

  • Get the most out of any dictionary and German language apps on your devices
  • Expand your ability to find German websites and use the various search engines
  • Be able to communicate much better online with your German teachers and friends, and look super cool in the process! 

2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for German

A phone charging on a dock

It takes only a few steps to set up any of your devices to read and type in German. It’s super-easy on your mobile phone and tablet, and a simple process on your computer.

On your computer, you’ll first activate the onscreen keyboard to work with. You’ll only be using your mouse or touchpad/pointer for this keyboard. Then, you’ll need to change the language setting to German, so all text will appear in German. You could also opt to use online keyboards instead. Read on for the links!

On your mobile devices, it’s even easier—you only have to change the keyboard. We also provide a few alternatives in the form of online keyboards and downloadable apps.

3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer

1- Mac

1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Check the option “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar.”

3. You’ll see a new icon on the right side of the main bar; click on it and select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A screenshot of the keyboard viewer screen

2- Windows

1. Go to Start > Settings > Easy Access > Keyboard.

2. Turn on the option for “Onscreen Keyboard.”

3- Online Keyboards

If you don’t want to activate your computer’s onscreen keyboard, you also have the option to use online keyboards. Here are some good options:

4- Add-ons of Extensions for Browsers

Instead of an online keyboard, you could also choose to download a Google extension to your browser for a language input tool. The Google Input Tools extension allows users to use input tools in Chrome web pages, for example.

4. How to Change the Language Settings to German on Your Computer

Man looking at his computer

Now that you’re all set to work with an onscreen keyboard on your computer, it’s time to download the German language pack for your operating system of choice:

  • Windows 8 (and higher)
  • Windows 7
  • Mac (OS X and higher)

1- Windows 8 (and higher)

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Change PC Settings” > “Time & Language” > “Region & Language.”
  2. Click on “Add a Language” and select “German.” This will add it to your list of languages. It will appear as Deutsch (Country of your choice) with the note “language pack available.”
  3. Click on “Deutsch” > “Options” > “Download.” It will take a few minutes to download and install the language pack.
  4. As a keyboard layout, you’ll only need the one marked as “German – Deutsch.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts.

2- Windows 7

1. Go to Start > Control Panel > Clock, Language, and Region.

2. On the “Region and Language” option, click on “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods.”

3. On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click on “Change Keyboards” > “Add” > “German.”

4. Expand the option of “German” and then expand the option “Keyboard.” Select the keyboard layout marked as “German.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts. Click “OK” and then “Apply.”

3- Mac (OS X and higher)

If you can’t see the language listed, please make sure to select the right option from System Preferences > Language and Region

1. From the Apple Menu (top left corner of the screen) go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Click the Input Sources tab and a list of available keyboards and input methods will appear.

3. Click on the plus button, select “German,” and add the “German” keyboard.

Adding a system language

5. Activating the German Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet

Texting and searching in German will greatly help you master the language! Adding a German keyboard on your mobile phone and/or tablet is super-easy.

You could also opt to download an app instead of adding a keyboard. Read on for our suggestions.

Below are the instructions for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets.

1- iOS

1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

2. Tap “Keyboards” and then “Add New Keyboard.”

3. Select “German” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by tapping and holding on the icon to reveal the keyboard language menu.

2- Android

1. Go to Settings > General Management > Language and Input > On-screen Keyboard (or “Virtual Keyboard” on some devices) > Samsung Keyboard.

2. Tap “Language and Types” or “ + Select Input Languages” depending on the device and then “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES” if available.

3. Select “Deutsch” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by swiping the space bar.

3- Applications for Mobile Phones

If you don’t want to add a keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet, these are a few good apps to consider:

6. German Keyboard Typing Tips

Typing in German can be very challenging at first! Therefore, we added here a few useful tips to make it easier to use your German keyboard.

A man typing on a computer

1- Computer

  • Windows 10: Hot keys to activate the keyboard – “Windows + Strg + O”
  • Windows 10: Open the Start menu > enter “Bildschirmtastatur,” > click on “Bildschirmtastatur” among the available options. This will bring up the Windows keyboard pre-installed on your computer.
  • You have the Umlauts “Ü” (to the right of the “P”) and “Ö” and “Ä” to the right of the “L” available, as well as the “ß” next to “0” (zero).
  • Decimal separators in German and English are vice-versa(!): English – 999.50 EUR. German – 999,50 EUR. English – 1,000.50 EUR. German – 1.000,50 EUR.

2- Mobile Phones

  • To type the German umlauts ä, ö, ü, and the ß: Tap and hold the letter to which you’ll add the umlaut. For example, to type an ä, tap and hold the “a” key. Wait for the symbols list to open. Swipe your finger along the line until you reach the “ä” and then take your finger off the screen to insert it. Use the same process with the corresponding letters to create an ö or an ü. For the ß, use the “s.”
  • Decimal separators in German and English are vice-versa(!): English – 999.50 EUR. German – 999,50 EUR. English – 1,000.50 EUR. German – 1.000,50 EUR.

7. How to Practice Typing German

As you probably know by now, learning German is all about practice, practice, and more practice! Strengthen your German typing skills by writing comments on any of our lesson pages, and our teacher will answer. If you’re a GermanPod101 Premium PLUS member, you can directly text our teacher via the My Teacher app—use your German keyboard to do this!

Log in to Download Your Free German Alphabet Worksheet

Learn to Say “Father” in German and More

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Imagine that you’re traveling to good old Germany, and you want the real experience (not just staying in a hotel or hostel like everyone else). Well, this is fair enough, and we definitely encourage going for the full Germany experience. But first, you’ll need to know some basic family terms, like how to say “father” in German.

Why is it so important to know the words for family members in German? Imagine the following situation:

You arrive at your freshly booked Airbnb, and your host welcomes you with a nice dinner. But there’s one hitch: you find yourself eating with his parents, some friends, his cousin, and his grandmother, too. Your host starts to introduce everyone, pointing to each person as he states their name:

Ich möchte dich meinen Eltern vorstellen. Das sind mein Papa und meine Mutter. Und dort sitzt meine Großmutter und mein Cousin.

Despite your host’s best efforts to familiarize you with his family, you actually find yourself more confused about who’s who. Oh no!

While learning things like family member terms in German first-hand is always a great idea, you may be more comfortable studying up on this before your trip. After all, when it comes to family in German, words like the one in our example are going to come up all the time, so you should prepare using German lessons about family like this one!

GermanPod101 has prepared a guide just for you, covering vocabulary terms for any family member you may find yourself introduced to! Going through this guide, you can work on your language skills beforehand, so that you can make the most of your first-hand learning experiences in Germany. So let’s get started!

Table of Contents

  1. Family in German – Die Familie
  2. List of Closest Family Members + Basic Sentence Patterns
  3. More Family and Endearment Terms
  4. How to Talk about Family
  5. Cultural Insights in a German Family
  6. How GermanPod101 Can Help You Learn about Family in German

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1. Family in German – Die Familie

Family Words

Familie is the German word for “family.” As you can see, the word is more similar to English than you thought. Might this be because German families aren’t so different from those in the U.S. or other countries? Let’s take a look.

When you look over the demographics of Germany, you can clearly see that we are a dying nation. This means that every year, more people die than are being born, and our average age is getting older and older from year to year. (This is, of course, not exclusive to Germany, and is also happening in other first-world countries.)

I want to give you a short example of the above statistics using my family history. My grandmother was one of six children in her family at the end of the Second World War, and this was considered a normal-sized family. Now, my mom and dad are both one of three children. And today, there’s just me and my sister. From each of my uncles and aunties, I have between zero and three cousins.

Do you see what I mean? German families have become much smaller over the last seventy-eighty years. Today, people tend to think first about their lives and careers, and secondly about kids and family.

Families are the most important reference point for a child until the end of his or her time in college. But for many people, the end of college also represents a diminishing significance for their parents’ home. Keep in mind that I don’t want to say German kids don’t love their parents. Of course they do.

The family is, and will always be, important in Germany, so learn about it and adapt to it!

2. List of Closest Family Members + Basic Sentence Patterns

Family

1- General Terms for German Immediate Family

We created an overview of the most important family in German vocabulary words, such as your siblings, parents, and grandparents. The German is on the left, and the English equivalent is on the right.

die Eltern “the parents”
der Vater “the father”
die Mutter “the mother”
das Kind
die Kinder
“the child”
“the children”
die Geschwister “the siblings”
die Schwester
die Halbschwester
“the sister”
“the half-sister”
der Bruder
der Halbbruder
“the brother”
“the half-brother”
der Sohn “the son”
die Tochter “the daughter”
die Ehefrau “the wife”
der Ehemann “the husband”
der Großvater
der Opa
“the grandfather”
“the grandpa”
die Großmutter
die Oma
“the grandmother”
“the grandma”

To help you out with some basic words and the pronunciation for family member terms, we created a free lesson in our free-of-charge course. With enough practice, you’ll be able to talk about your parents and siblings in German like it’s nothing!

2- Talking about Family Members

There are usually three situations when talking about family:

  • You’re trying to talk about your family
  • You’re talking about someone else’s family members
  • You’re asking someone about their family

That means you need to describe who’s family you’re talking or inquiring about. This is done with possessives.

Similar to “my,” “yours,” “his” in English, in Germany we use meine, deine, and seine. To prepare you for the upcoming challenges associated with each of the situations outlined above, we’ve provided you with some basic questions and answers.

Wer ist deine Mutter?
“Who is your mother?”
Das ist meine Mutter.
“This is my mother.”
Sind deine Eltern verheiratet?
“Are your parents married?”
Nein, meine Eltern sind geschieden.
“No, my parents are divorced.”
Wie viele Geschwister hast du?
“How many siblings do you have?”
Ich habe zwei Geschwister, zusammen sind wir 3 Kinder.
“I have two siblings, together we are three kids.”
Hast du einen Bruder oder eine Schwester?
“Do you have a brother or a sister?”
Ja, ich habe zwei Brüder und eine Schwester.
“Yes, I have two brothers and one sister.”
Wie ist der Name deines Bruders?
“What is the name of your brother?”
Mein Bruder heißt Peter.
“My brother’s name is Peter.”
Wie alt sind deine Großeltern?
“How old are your grandparents?”
Meine Oma ist 65 und mein Opa ist 70 Jahre alt.
“My grandma is sixty-five and my grandpa is seventy years old.”
Ist sie deine Ehefrau?
“Is she your wife?”
Ja, das ist meine Ehefrau Eva.
“Yes, this is my wife Eva.”

Take a close look at how we used the possessive pronouns. They always have to be adapted to the person you’re talking about.

3. More Family and Endearment Terms

Parent Phrases

1- German Extended Family

Everybody has family members outside of their immediate family. Below, we give you some family member terms that you’ll face every day while living with a German family. We won’t go into too much detail, as the half-sister of your siblings’ aunt isn’t really interesting anymore.

der Onkel “the uncle”
die Tante “the aunt”
der Cousin [kuˈzɛŋ] “the cousin” (m)
die Cousine “the cousin” (f)
der Neffe “the nephew”
die Nichte “the niece”

This doesn’t seem too hard to understand, does it? With all of the terms we’ve gone over so far, you’re almost ready to talk about your family in various contexts. There are some more things we’ll cover in the next chapters, but what we have so far are the closest family members.

2- Endearment Terms

Families are cute, and you can always hear little grandsons or granddaughters calling their grandparents “granny” or “grandpa.” Those are just a couple examples of so-called endearment terms, and of course we have them in Germany as well.

A Cute Kitten.

We’ll show you two quick ways to create endearment terms, and give you some examples. Before we go on, we want to let you know that this doesn’t work with all family members the same way.

1. Adding an i

The first way to create endearment terms in Germany is to cut the last letter(s) of the term, and replace it with the letter i. It’s no mistake that we mentioned it can be the last letter or letters. When the term ends with a vowel, you replace only the last letter. In any other case, you need to replace the last two letters.

Here are some examples:

Mama -> Mami
“mother” -> “mom/mommy”

Mutter -> Mutti
“mother” -> “mom”

Papa -> Papi
“father” -> “daddy”

Vater -> Vati
“father” -> “dad”

Opa -> Opi
“grandmother” -> “granny”

Oma -> Omi
“grandfather” -> “grandpa”

But there are also examples where it doesn’t work, such as:

Onkel -> Onki
Tante -> Tanti
Großmutter -> Großmutti
(theoretically this works, but you’re never going to use this)

2. Adding chen to the end of the word

This might be the better-known form for any German learner. This one is a bit trickier and has some special rules. The basic rule is that you just add chen after each term. But be aware that when doing this, in some cases, if the word ends with a vowel, you have to cut this vowel before adding the chen. Or, if the word has a vowel in-between, you change it to ü, ö, or ä (instead of u, o, a).

Good examples are:

Großmutter -> Großmütterchen (grandmother -> grandma)
Onkel -> Onkelchen
Tante -> Tantchen
(aunt -> auntie)
Cousine -> Cousinchen

As you can see, sometimes there’s not even a proper English translation for the endearment term you can create in German. The good thing about this way of creating endearment terms is that you can use it with almost everything, and you’re not limited to people or family members. Take a look at these examples:

Bierchen from the word Bier (beer)
Tischchen from the word Tisch (table)
Tässchen from the word Tasse (cup)

4. How to Talk about Family

It’s quite easy to introduce your family to another person in German. Let’s imagine ourselves sitting around a large table, where all the family is eating together, and a friend of yours arrives for the first time. You both stand in front of the table.

A Family Sitting Together Outside in a Park Talking and Eating.

Das ist meine Mutter und das mein Papa. “This is my mother and this is my dad.”
Dort drüben sitzen meine Großeltern. “Over there are sitting my grandparents.”
Neben ihnen siehst du den Bruder meiner Mama, meinen Onkel. “Next to them, you can see the brother of my mother, my uncle.”
Mein Cousin, der Sohn meiner Tante ist heute nicht hier. “My cousin, the son of my aunt, he is not here today.”
Meine Oma ist leider schon gestorben. “My granny unfortunately has already passed away.”

5. Cultural Insights in a German Family

Family Quotes

The family is, for most Germans, one of the fundamental aspects of their lives. The family is an important part of every German. Children usually grow up close to their grandparents (who sometimes take care of their grandchildren when the parents are at work). Further, trust is a big thing for German families. But even with this strong bond, Germans are moving out of their parents’ home quite early to study, work, and become financially independent.

We’ve already mentioned that most German families are fairly small compared to those in other countries. Family size strongly depends on where you live, though. For instance, in the countryside, it’s normal for multiple generations to live on a big farm together, or even more than one family from one generation.

So it can be possible to find houses with up to ten people in the more rural areas, but even there, everybody has their own space and flat. You can live there with your parents, your grandparents, and maybe even your uncle’s family.

In the city, the situation is typically different, and families don’t live together. Everybody has their own flat or house, and don’t see each other in daily life.

Traditionally, the man is the head of the family. But let’s face it: this isn’t really how it works anymore. Women enjoy the same rights as men, and all decisions are made as a couple, or even among the entire family including children.

In the old days, it was common for people to get married after living together for a while. Now, you can find couples that stay together their whole lives and never get married. But trends are now coming back to the traditional way.

For some more information about German culture, we’ve prepared another lesson for you.

6. How GermanPod101 Can Help You Learn about Family in German

We hope that you got some helpful insight from our article about families in Germany, such as how to talk about family members. You now know a little bit about the typical family situation in Germany today, and how people are organizing their daily lives.

Four Arms Held Up and All Showing the Thumbs Up.

You should be able to talk about your immediate and extended family, introduce them to others, and talk to someone about them.

If you want to really boost your German skills, then we recommend our private teacher program which focuses on your personal goals based on your current level.

But we won’t leave you without making a quick gift to you. We have free-of-charge courses on GermanPod101.com for learners of every level:

Save yourself a spot today!

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Happy Holidays and Happy New Year From GermanPod101.com!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from everyone here at GermanPod101.com! We’re grateful to have listeners just like you, and we’re eagerly waiting for the upcoming year to learn German together!

And when the New Year comes around, be sure to make a resolution to study German with GermanPod101.com!

Have a healthy and happy holiday season.

From the GermanPod101.com team!