A Step-by-Step Guide to German Immersion
Would you like to learn German? Come to Germany! There is no better place to learn German than in good ol’ sunny Germany. Right?!
Are you shaking your head and saying “Nah, man, Germany is too far”, “I don’t have time” or something along those lines?
No problem at all! You don’t actually need to be in Germany to learn the language. Bring Germany to you!
Intrigued? Read on!
Before we go into the nitty gritty of the process, head over to Sprachheld for an extensive article that includes the best resources for learning German around the web. It goes step by step with videos covering topics from your very first words to grammar, pronunciation, conversations, expressions and much more!
Now let’s have a look at how to become like a German, while living outside of Germany!
The “immersion bubble”
In many cities around the world I see so-called ‘language enclaves’. In these enclaves people from other countries succeed in continuing to speak their native language without having to learn the language of their host country. They do this by surrounding themselves with people with the same native tongue, usually inhabiting a certain area of town. They live almost as if they never left home. I have seen this all over the world, people living in Odessa without speaking any Russian or Ukrainian, same as in my hometown of Hannover. It’s always the same process.
While Chinatowns all around the globe are probably the most conspicuous type of foreign enclaves, you surely can also find some German ones close to you.
So how can you use this to your advantage?
All you have to do is reverse engineer the process and join the immersion bubble of the language / country that you want to learn.
In our case with German you are quite lucky. Germans love to travel and stay in different countries around the world! According to the passport index of 2017 they hold the most valuable passport worldwide, which means they can travel to a whopping 158 countries visa free, more than any other country in the world. This is great for you, because you will find Germans everywhere, which makes seeking out people to practice speaking German with easy.
How can you find Germans in your city?
Your job is first to find these Germans in your city, then hang out with them. There are many ways to do this. There are various online platforms where people of similar interests or backgrounds can meet up. These are a great way to start:
- Obviously Facebook: With the function of Facebook groups you can find people that share similar interests. Search for the name of your city and type in the word German, either in English or to make it easier for you, anything that has “Deutsch” in it basically.
- Meetup is a platform where people can organise groups to do activities together like Yoga or speak a specific language. Search for German!
By far the best method is to find a German and ask them. People of a specific ethnic group usually know where to find more of the same.
So now you have found Germans, what do you do next?
It depends on your level of German.
If you speak fluently enough you can just access their immersion bubble and hang out with them and join the fun. Obviously, in small towns there will be less Germans than in big cities, but even one German is enough to do this!
If your German isn’t at that level just yet, you can meet up with a native individually for a language tandem. What is that you ask? A tandem is when you split your time in half and speak both languages, you practice German, while they practice your mother tongue. Win-win!
Changing your daily habits to the German way of life
Your next step is to learn how to live outside of Germany like a true German. This means full immersion of the language.
In the following steps I´m going to explain to you how to be super-german.
In Germany all movies and shows are dubbed, basically everything on TV is in German. You are in luck again! You can watch Hollywood movies in German. Therefore, instead of watching TV in your native language, just watch it in German!
Here are the most popular German channels:
- The public channels: ARD & ZDF
- The most popular private ones: Pro7, RTL, RTL 2 and Sat1
If you don’t understand German that well, keep the subtitles switched on, at first in your native language and later in German. Eventually, you can get rid of them completely.
Bringing German Culture to your home
With music this will be slightly harder since most music in the charts is in English. This isn’t only thanks to American music dominating, but also many German artists sing in English. Nevertheless, there is still quite a lot of German music. Just check out the German charts and find a few artists that you like, for instance MTV Top 100 for Germany (not many German songs, I know).
Now comes the fun part! Find a song on YouTube or Spotify and let the platform find similar songs. For YouTube you just use the “50+ mix” button. Here is an example with one of my favourite songs “Superheld” by Rob & Chris.
Aaand now you have a mix with great music that fits your taste.Now that you have music, how do you proceed?
Books, newspapers, radio, podcasts, the list goes on and on. Anything you do in your native language try to do it in German. It would be rude to leave you without further resources right? So keep on reading!
What do Germans use every day?
Who doesn´t appreciate a good stack of old newspapers in his home, to give it that refined touch.
Let’s start with newspapers. Why is the best newspaper the “BILD” if you’re learning German? It’s by far the most popular tabloid in German. While the quality may not be the highest, it boasts with easy German. Therefore, it is super simple to understand. Once you feel you’re more advanced, check these out too:
- Süddeutsche Zeitung
- Frankfurter Allgemeine
- Die Welt
Since we are already on the topic of reading, let’s continue with books. Basically, you could read any book in its German translation. Here is the SPIEGEL bestseller list. You will find the current bestsellers in Germany sorted by several categories (children books, novels, non-fiction and so on).
What’s SPIEGEL? I’m glad you asked. It’s one of the most popular German magazines. But you might also enjoy Stern and Focus.
Alright, so we are through with reading. We covered TV. We covered music. I guess we’re set?!
Feeling German yet?
Gabriel, the guru of German and proud blogger of Sprachheld, describes himself as a:
#languagelover #entrepreneur #frequentflyer
He launched his blog in the fall of 2014 due to his love of languages. He is passionate about helping others reach their goal of learning a foreign language. His aim is to give the most useful and actionable advice language learners can implement right away.
Gabriel speaks German, English, Russian, French, Spanish and Hebrew. As a sun-lover his challenge for this year is to spend as many days in sunny countries as possible.