5 useless habits of would-be German learners

As somebody who has been teaching German for 30 years I have come across many habits, thoughts, ideas that would-be German learners have.

Here are the five most useless habits of would-be German learners:

  1. They buy a ‘teach yourself’ type book!
  2. They buy an online course!
  3. They download an app!
  4. They plan to learn German for at least an hour every day!
  5. They book lessons with a tutor!

“Hang on!” I can hear you shout. “How can you say that these are useless habits? You sell books and courses and offer tuition. Surely that’s what they should do.”

And you are absolutely correct. They should do these things, and if they want to buy my books and online courses or book lessons with me, even better. But – and here comes a big BUT – doing these 5 things and nothing else isn’t enough.

Let’s look at these 5 habits again in more detail:

They buy a ‘teach yourself’ type book!

And that’s it! They buy it, look at it excitedly and imagine getting to the end and being fluent in German … And a few weeks or months later they haven’t done anything. Years later, those books are somewhere on the shelf waiting to be used or they end up in a charity shop.

These books are a bit like those cookery books I have in my kitchen. They look good on a shelf but they don’t improve my cooking. That only happens when I work with those books, when I find a nice recipe and cook it!

Language books are not designed to look good on a shelf. To be effective they need to be read, scribbled in and worked with, again and again!

They buy an online course!

This is similar to the books. They buy an online course and either don’t watch it at all or they spend an afternoon watching all the videos in one go and are surprised that the next day or week they can’t remember anything. These videos aren’t designed to be watched like a film on Netflix or a favourite soap. Students need to make notes about what they’ve learned. They need to learn the new vocabulary, complete listening exercises and be prepared to write and speak in German. Just watching the videos won’t work.

They download an app!

They download an app like Duolingo and start enthusiastically learning for a few days. Then they forget and a few weeks later, the owl makes them go back to the beginning. How unfair!

Or they find they don’t like Duolingo (or whatever app they used).

All of these are designed to be used frequently. And amongst all the choices there will be apps you won’t like. On the other hand there is most likely an app you will like. You just need to try them until you find the right one for you.

Even worse if you pay for an app and then don’t use it. Although cheaper, it’s like paying for a gym membership and not going. It’s great for the app makers but not for your purse.

They plan to learn German for at least an hour every day!

… and never do it! Or maybe once, but that was hard work and the next day there were more important things to do. And gradually life got in the way and they gave up.

It is far better to start with a few minutes each time, maybe 5. That is very doable, and then increase that time, if that is possible.

They book lessons with a tutor!

… and find that the tutor isn’t doing the work for them. How awful! They pay somebody and that somebody isn’t spoon feeding them!

Of course, none of you are like those would-be German learners. You know that, whether you buy a book or a course, have lessons with a tutor or learn with an app, it requires your input and your regular study.

So, I’m probably preaching to the converted. In which case, please pass this post on to those who might need to read it ☺

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