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Eight simple reasons why learning German is really worth your while

While some put months of their lives into mastering the German language, others choose not to. But there are really good reasons to enlist in a Deutschkurs, as we set out below.

Eight simple reasons why learning German is really worth your while
Photo: DPA
You don’t have to start every conversation with an apology

If you don’t speak a word of German beyond “Entschuldigung, ich spreche kein Deutsch”, every time someone starts to speak to you, you have to start the conversation by saying sorry. This can lead to rather embarrassing situations if you have already lived in the country for a couple of years or more.

And as soon as you can respond to someone in German you will notice that they are much more prepared to keep talking. Learn German and you might start to question a few of the common stereotypes about the cold Teutons.

People don’t have to work around you

Most Germans speak English to a good enough level so that they can keep a conversation going in it. So if they are in a big group and one person doesn’t speak German, they will normally make an effort to switch to English. But do you really want to be the one that causes them all to speak in a foreign language, just so that everyone can join in?

Click here for all The Local’s guides on Learning German

You will meet a bigger variety of people

While it is true to say that most Germans (especially younger ones) speak good English, this doesn’t mean that they are good enough at it to really express themselves.

If you don’t speak German you are limiting yourself to knowing the people who were nerds at school or whose families had enough money to send them on a year abroad at high school. Speaking the native tongue means you will get to know people from many more walks of life, whether it be the Oma in the apartment across the hall or the Azubi at your local baker.

You’ll get a deeper appreciation for what is going on around you

While sometimes it is pleasant not to hear the small talk taking place next to you on the train or in the supermarket queue, not understanding what people are saying can narrow your horizons.

Speaking German gives you all kinds of little snapshots on life which allow you to better understand how Germans tick. This could be how they raise their kids, what music is currently in fashion or what political debates are riling people up.

But it doesn’t just have cerebral benefits. Picking up on what is going on around you might also help you understand why a train is delayed, or help you nab tickets for a concert.

You won’t be useless in an emergency

Sure, if you are trained in CPR, you are probably more useful than the average person, regardless of whether they speak the local language or not. But if something happens that requires people to respond quickly, you will be much better equipped to understand what is needed and how to react if things don’t have to be translated for you first.

It will help prevent dementia

If we haven’t managed to convince you yet, how about this for a reason? Learning German will help ward off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s.

Research demonstrates that those who are bilingual – even if they don’t begin learning a second language until middle age – are far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their monolingual peers. Even if a person does not become fluent, language learning exercises – similar to the impact of physical exercise on the body – keeps the brain fit.

The sense of achievement

Unquestionably, one of the things that demotivates people about German is how darned fiddly it is. For English speakers, the concepts of dative, genitive and accusative can seem overwhelming at first. And, as if they weren’t complicated enough already, each of them is different depending on whether the noun is masculine, feminine or neuter.

Mark Twain wasn’t so far off when he said that learning German “is what eternity was made for”.

But this only adds to the accomplishment of actually learning the language. If you’ve found for instance that you naturally put an ‘s’ on the end of the word Mann when you are describing possession, you can pat yourself on the back. Rest assured, your brain is in good working order.

SEE ALSO: ‘Learn the language fast’: tips for engineers looking to work in Germany

Getting to read things in the original

Speaking German means that the vast canon of German literature, theatre of film is opened up to you in the original. That means that you can read the exact words that Goethe himself picked, or you can enjoy Das Leben der Anderen without spending half the time looking at the subtitles.

Hey, it even means you can start watching every German’s favourite TV series, Tatort.

Click here for all The Local’s guides on Learning German

Member comments

  1. I watch Tatort every Sunday evening, and spend half my time looking at the subtitles! Doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the experience, and learning (a little bit) of German culture.

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LEARNING GERMAN

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

STARTING OUT

Coffee Break German

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes

German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don’t have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.

READ ALSO:

Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 

DEVELOPING YOUR GERMAN

Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner

PERFECTING YOUR GERMAN

Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.

Sozusagen

Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.

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