As a graduate of a linguistic program, I had no doubts in the efficiency of my language learning methods. I have encountered huge struggles, when learning Hungarian and truly enjoyed my experience of mastering Spanish and French. I arrived to Germany with the lowest level of language knowledge ever imaginable, and soon found myself quite unconfident to speak even the simplest German phrases, especially in the context, when my fellow volunteers had a pretty high command of expression. I was very delighted, when my language course finally started and paid tremendous efforts to get maximum of it. From the beginning, I decided to ask for joining the group with A2 level, trying to catch up with all the previous material on my own at home. The experiment turned out successful, and I continued with A2 without any previous enrollment into German language courses. Largely, the following techniques helped me to succeed and keep motivated.
1. Studying out of home. When I stay at home, I often find myself too unmotivated and deconcentrated to proceed with learning. I easily get distracted by the possibility to go to the kitchen, talk to the flat mates and check social media. However, as soon as I leave my comfort zone, I try to remain a better version of myself and actually pay efforts and time to study. I soon found out that my learning efficiency increases, when I study at the library, in the park or any other public place. Usually, I plan 1-2 hours for learning with the main emphasis on reading and writing skills.
2. Watching movies in German. This is a well-known and actually working technique. I have accounts on Netflix and Amazon.Prime, which (sometimes) allow switching audio and subtitles. Recently, I have been watching movies in German with English subtitles. In some rare cases, when no English was available, I watched completely in German and managed to understand the main idea only. This is not the most successful language learning strategy, though definitely helpful in mastering some phrases and catching up with the melody and intonation of the language.
3. Texting with German-speaking friends in German. This must be a lot of fun for friends, and a lot of patience and comprehension from my side. I use the technology of predictive texting and frequently consult with the dictionary, though I have also made it clear for myself that making mistakes in spelling and word order is not a big deal. It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to understand the response without any external support! However, in case with this technique, there is often a big temptation to switch to English for the sake of time saving.
4. Sticking around posters with German texts. I was lucky enough to get a fantastic set of postcards from my hosting organization, which describe different moods and feelings in German. Apart from that, cute German postcards can be easily found in numerous art exhibitions, museums, galleries and bars. It does not cost anything to pick up some and pin them around in the flat.
5. Keep writing and rewriting. Every time I get a homework from my teacher, I try to write down as much as possible to use all kinds of memorizing mechanisms available. It is scientifically proven that memory is not a mere cognitive result, but rather a complex of different mental and physiological processes. Muscle memory, which get activated as soon as you perform certain movements with hands/body contributes largely to memorizing the text. Apart from that, this is also a good exercise for checking word spelling and get used to the word placement within sentences.
6. Using aesthetically appealing stationary and notebooks. Surrounding myself with the beautiful objects keeps me motivated and enthusiastic to proceed with learning. With this purpose, when learning German, I am using a wide range of stationary, including stickers, colorful papers, glittering pens and pencils, bookmarks, erasers and several notebooks. Being creative, when learning, helps me to stay tuned and eager to study. I widely use mind maps, tables, graphs and charts, when making notes. Visualization of the material helps me keep track on what has been learnt and what needs to be improved.
7. Attending German language cafes. Thankfully, this option is widely available in big cities. In Berlin, it is pretty easy to find a language cafe, according to the sphere of interests, mother tongue, place of residence, etc. Normally, I am searching for opportunities at Couchsurfing and MeetUp! Berlin. A number of free language cafes are also provided by charity organizations, churches and non-governmental agencies, working in the sphere of human rights. A mere googling to language cafes is also helpful. That is how I found free language practicing meetings for FLTI*, organized by a feminist organization and language cafe for refugees and asylum seekers, held by the protestant church in Neukolln, Berlin.
8. Attempting to start liking German music. This is tough, but I keep diversifying my playlist with German songs and listening to at least some of them daily. In this case, help of the locals or German-speaking friends would be definitely an asset, as trying to find decent songs on my own was a challenge.
9. Using commuting time for reading. I spend more than an hour daily to commute to the workplace/ language course. This time can be used for reading. My friends have gifted me some easy German books for beginners, which are fitting well for this purpose. I have also received a book with quizzes and riddles for learning German, and some of them are pretty good. Otherwise, commuting time can be used for audio practicing, and here I definitely recommend Pimsleur Course - Read and Speak Essential German (1,2, 3, 4). This course is dedicated mainly to German for business and employment, though some phrases are useful in daily life, as well. The course is, unfortunately, not free of charge, but I am sure alternatives can be easily found.
10. My project as a source of inspiration! Needless to say, that the biggest practice and learning occurs, when working. This is a great chance to start speaking and actually using obtained knowledge in real situations. I sometimes find the language barrier, which keeps with distracted and shy to speak up. I am gradually trying to get rid of it, but this is another topic for discussion.
The final result of all these attempts will be visible at the end of my volunteering year. However, already now, I feel more motivated to engage in simple conversations and use German words, when applicable. In a week, I am starting a B1 class, which is also a great progress for me.