While you might badly want to learn German, you might also be anxious about whether or not you will be able to do it; you might also wonder what the best approach is. If you have a choice, look for something that fits your learning style. There are more and more language learning options available these days, and so you should be able to quickly find a program that works for you. If you are a businessperson, entrepreneur, philosopher, scientist, artist, musician, student, or passionate traveler – take German language courses; Germany is more accessible to you than ever. Any good language learning program involves real-life experience – if not in the country itself, at least a simulated reality of it. In fact, most people find that this is the best way to learn a new language, even if they have had extensive textbook training in the past. Now, it is easy and affordable to get online tutoring or speaking sessions with a native speaker, regardless of where you are in the learning process.
Why Learn German?
At first glance, choosing to learn German might seem to be a personal, even whimsical, choice. Perhaps it is something to make you feel closer to German relatives. With genealogy and genetics becoming more popular, this certainly comes up as an incentive for some people. Perhaps you just love the language and culture. Perhaps you have a German friend, significant other, or coworker whom you would like to impress. These are all excellent reasons to take German language courses; Germany, however, offers so much more.
Romance languages (Spanish, French, and Italian) are touted as languages that will help the native English speaker understand his/her own language. (Latin is, of course, similarly touted.) However, English is not really a Romance language; it borrows a lot from Latin but, in fact, it borrows just as much from German. Therefore, a similar academic argument to English speakers could be made about German. In fact, many students might be surprised to find that German is not really that difficult, partly because of the obvious similarity between many German and English words.
Germany has a rich academic tradition in almost all areas – both technical and artistic. The majority of the greatest composers of Western music were Germans. (Think Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms.). The greatest modern physicists have been Germans: Albert Einstein,Max Plank, and Werner Heisenberg. In economics, there is Karl Marx. Marx was an economist as well as a philosopher, and philosophy is another German-rich area – there are such stellar examples as Martin Heidegger, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and so many more. Germany also has a rich literary tradition, with the most famous being Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Hermann Hesse. These last two are frequently mentioned on an interdisciplinary basis, especially in discussions of philosophy and religion. Learning German will allow you to read original works and to communicate with current German scholars.
Germany is still a world leader in business, innovation, and technology; Germany’s contribution in these areas is incredible, considering the relative size of the country. It turns out that Germany’s online presence is highly impressive, again considering the countries relatively small size. Therefore, if you are ambitious in any of these areas, it behooves you to pursue German language courses. Germany and its language are almost certain to open up new pathways to success for you.
Why Working with a Native Speaker Is so Helpful
Obviously, if you are not really a book-oriented learner and you like to learn through direct interaction, then finding a native speaker to teach you his/her language directly is the difference between success and failure. However, if you are more of a book-oriented learner, you might assume that working with a native speaker is not so important. If you are shy and/or introverted, you might not be inclined to engage in conversation. However, in either case, you really need to seek some sort of interaction with a native speaker. Otherwise, you will exercise your brain learning German, but you will not really have German as a skill. Without fluency and an understanding of modern German culture, you cannot communicate self-expressively with real German people.
Even if you are already in Germany and trying to learn the language by immersion, you possibly could benefit from an online teacher, tutor, or conversational friend. This is because this person is focused on you and the exchange of languages. They will not be inconvenienced by your questions, and you might even gain a new perspective from answering their questions about your culture or language.
How to Become Truly Fluent
italki is an online language-learning hub: Regardless of what your native language is or which languages you wish to learn, you can probably find a teacher, tutor, or conversation partner. The site has a huge selection of officially offered languages, but you can learn any language there, no matter how obscure, as long as you find a user that meets your needs. However, with over one million total users, including a thousand teachers, you should have no trouble finding someone who is language-compatible with you.
When seeking an educator or someone to practice with, look for someone who is fluent in your native language and either native or fluent in the language you wish to learn. While it is a language-learning site, the real object of italki is to engage people from other cultures. If you are concerned about scheduling or cost, realize that italki educators post the times they are available and their rates.
If you would rather avoid the formality of teaching or tutoring, look for a language exchange partner instead. You can make a search in the search bar or use filters (native language, desired language to practice, place of residence, etc.) to find potential exchange partners. Send those you are interested in a message: If it turns out that the two of you are available at the same times, then assess together whether you would like to begin a language exchange relationship. Generally, italki meetups or lessons happen over Skype or another video chat software. However, it is certainly possible that you could actually meet an exchange partner in person – if say, one or both of you were traveling.
italki also has great reading and writing skill boosters: there are the Notebook, Discussions, and Articles areas of the site. The Notebook section allows you to post writings in any language and have them critiqued by community members; generally, native or fluent speakers are happy to volunteer their services. (This is like a written version of the language exchange concept.) The Discussions section is even more open-ended: you can essentially comment on anything, in any language, and community members will respond (and you can respond to others’ comments). The Articles section gives a fun break from language practice; it contains an assortment of articles about cultural and language-related topics. (The articles are written in the site language you have selected – presumably your native language or one you are most comfortable with – not necessarily the language you are trying to learn.)
italki is set up in such a way that finding a teacher, tutor, language exchange partner, or even just a compatible conversation partner from another culture is easy and exciting. All users have a social media-like profile that displays their name, nationality, and place of residence (not actual address) – along with a personal statement, record of past achievements on the site, and a list of friends and previous teachers. Lessons are one-hour, except for the half-hour trial (which is half the price of the one-hour); you do not have to pay until you confirm that the lesson happened. To make the site more universally usable, you make payments using italki credits (which are based on US dollars).
You might be concerned that you will not be able to gauge just how fluent someone is in a language. However, italki avoids this problem by using 5 bars beside each language a user knows; native language is indicated by green bars (usually all 5 are filled for a native speaker) and fluency in other languages is noted by red bars. This information appears as part of a user’s listing, so you will see it clearly as you are skimming a list of searches.
Appreciating the Process and the Destination
A multi-pronged approach to language learning – with writing, reading, listening, speaking, and exchanging ideas – is the best way to learn any language. Even if you are already happy with a language learning program or you are learning by immersion, italki is a great way to become sure you are mastering the human component of language – that the subtleties of the language are becoming intuitive and that you are having a focused, open conversation with at least one person who is a native speaker. Furthermore, italki gives you the chance to be part of a language learning community and to share your knowledge. You might see yourself as the student, but there is someone out there who needs your perspective and conversation to help them master your language.