When an English speaker starts learning how to speak German, he or she usually finds certain differences immediately apparent. Getting used to these differences is vital to becoming more comfortable with a language that seems at once very structured but also mysterious. If you know what lies in store for you before starting, and if you can find the right tools to help you practice and make the differences seem natural, you will learn German much faster.
English speakers who don’t yet know how to speak German often expect that they will only have to learn new vocabulary, but that the grammar will be the same. Instead, they quickly learn that even basic word order in German is quite different. Verbs, for example, often appear at the end of sentences instead of right after the subject, like we are used to. And while we are used to a noun’s place in the sentence giving it meaning, the first noun in a sentence does not have to be the subject. Instead, nouns operate in a way that English speakers are simply not trained to watch for.
German is an “inflected” language, which means that it creates meaning by changing the form of words instead of just their order. English has a bit of this, like when we use “she” for a subject but “her” for a direct or indirect object. In German, however, every noun must be inflected each time it is used. It does this by what is called “declension,” or changing the articles (English “a,” “an,” and “the”) according to the noun’s case, or use in a sentence. So, for example, one would start a sentence about a dog by saying “Ein Hund” (a dog). But if that dog were a direct object in the sentence, you would say “einen Hund” (a dog). This gets even more complicated when you have to decline adjectives according to the gender and case of the noun it modifies. When you first study how to speak German, you will often have to memorize long and difficult lists of noun and adjective declensions.
Even pronunciation can cause problems for English speakers, especially for those trying to learn on their own from books. First, the German alphabet is slightly different, which means that you may not immediately know how a word is supposed to sound based on its spelling. German vowels can have umlauts, the two dots above the letter, which change the sound, and there is what’s called an ess-zett, or ß, which sounds like an English “ss.” Furthermore, many consonants indicate slightly different sounds, such as German “s” sounding like English “z.”
It can take some time for these basic differences to feel natural. Luckily, there are many software packages that combine written and spoken German with a number of different vocabulary builders, memory games, and grammatical exercises. Some of the best learn German courses even include online tutors who can help you instead of trying to learn how to speak German on your own. Finding the best and widest range of resources will not only help you learn German faster, but also make you more fluent in the end.
Are you looking for an affordable German course that will teach you to speak German fast? Alexis Aldridge is a native German professor and has been teaching the German language for over 10 years. His website offers free tips on how to speak German fast and efficiently: http://www.germanlingo.net