This is an introduction guide and “call to arms” motivational post from me to help with your journey from “why is learning German so hard” to the “I can do it if I apply myself and it doesn’t matter if I can’t immediately be perfect at it” mentality.
I am here to convince you that this is not only ACHIEVABLE but also NECESSARY for anybody considering a longer stay in Germany than just a few months.
Together with our pillar article which shows you how to learn German for free, hopefully I can help you to fathom which mixture of learning is best for you and which resources are the most appropriate, in cyberspace as well as in the media and real life experience.
Why learning German is hard, but not impossible…
Before we get into the detail, I’d strongly recommend that you go out and buy some books about the building blocks of your native language.
These are all aimed at ESL students but are a good insight into what we weren’t taught at school! At least in the British state school system, English grammar is something we are simply not taught beyond the very basics at primary school.
We all (I hope) know what a noun, verb and adjective is, but how many people know what a preposition or a subordinate clause or a past imperfect tense is? I didn’t have a clue until I learnt French and German.
This really is the biggest tip I can give you: Understanding grammar and linguistics of your mother tongue will help you immensely in moving from “why is learning German so hard” to being able to master the basics and have the confidence to move on to the trickier stuff. This is especially the case if you have never learnt another language at all (*cough* Americans) :-D.
Speak, and be spoken to!
The simple truth is that by putting yourself in situations which expose you to all aspects of language learning, the easier and faster you will succeed in your ability to learn German.
Extroverts have a natural advantage over introverts when faced with putting theory into practice, as do improvisers and doers when compared to perfectionists.
Everyone makes a hash of their grammar and pronunciation at the start but nobody is going to remember your embarrassment for more than a couple of seconds afterwards. So instead of beating yourself up asking why is learning German so hard, try to move your thoughts to focus on what can I do, little by little, day by day, to make progress. Part of the battle is to break down the problem into bite-sized chunks.
But first of all, before we go any further, let’s start with a reality check. Practice, I’m afraid, does not make perfect when it comes to language learning, at least in the short-term. It brings about untold improvement, for sure, but don’t expect to be speaking fluently and grammatically correct after a few intensive months of language classes or listening to podcasts.
I can’t write German as lucidly as I can English, and completely without grammatical errors, even though I am fluent and hold a C2 certificate from the Goethe Institut.
You will improve and grow in confidence the more you practice, yes, but you won’t be fluent within a year. Unless of course you’re super-motivated and take on private tutoring through online platform such as italki.
The methods which are available nowadays to accelerate, expedite and make your learning experience more interactive, are simply mind-boggling in comparison. If you’re not yet ready to take the leap to personal tutoring to learn German online, then why not try an online course from a platform such as Udemy or Skillshare?
Because the truth is that learning German takes hard work, resilience, the ability to learn from mistakes, training the brain, memorising verb conjugations and adjective endings, and much, much more.
Eating an elephant is best done in bite-sized pieces
It is said that a grasp of around 5,000 words is necessary to have functional fluency in any language. Think about that number for a minute and you’ll probably be terrified.
But now break down the problem into bite-sized chunks. That’s just under 100 words per week. Let’s assume you skip a couple of days, that’s still only 20 per day if you learn 5 days out of 7.
All that requires is 20 minutes less time-wasting on Facebook each day, or a conscientious effort during a coffee break or train commute and hey presto, you’re there! Then spend some time on top of that with native speakers if possible to get them to coach you with your pronunciation.
Some things in German are very logical (word order, spelling), whereas other aspects will drive you crazy (16 different words for “the”, not to mention figuring out what gender a noun takes).
The key is don’t give up, and don’t strive for perfection when you’re just starting out. It’s difficult but it’s not impossible and eventually you will get there.