German is a fascinating language, and, as one of the most widely spoken languages in the European Union, truly rewarding to learn. Like any other foreign language, it can be difficult at the start - I remember feeling totally out of my comfort zone in first year! There seemed to be endless rules to learn and words to remember - but don’t let that throw you off! I like to think of learning a language as the same as climbing a mountain - it’s a bit of a journey, and takes time, effort and perseverance. You can’t jump halfway up that mountain in a couple of weeks - you need to work away little by little, but before you know it, you’ll notice yourself improving and reaching those high grades at the top! Plus, you have three full years to get there, so don’t worry! And, in spite of the work you will have to put in to get these grades, learning German can still be a really enjoyable experience. I found the following to be fun and effective ways of helping me improve my German.
Learn vocabulary regularly
Set yourself a daily goal - learn as many words as you can every day. Even if it is only a small amount, it will pay off massively in June. If you come across a word you don’t know, use your dictionary to find the meaning. Write the new words down in a vocabulary copybook and learn them off. Learning vocabulary in phrases can help you become aware of where vocabulary fits into a sentence. Phrases can also be used in your writing in the exam. Make sure to write down new vocabulary in a different copybook to your class copybook. This will help organise your classwork from revision at home. Speaking of classwork, look over the vocabulary you learned in class as regularly as you can.
Listen to German
In today’s world, there are lots of online podcasts for language learners. I would advise you to listen to these podcasts in your free time. This will improve your understanding of pronunciation and how native Germans speak. Even though you may not understand everything you hear, you may be able to use the vocabulary you already have and contextual information to understand. This will greatly benefit you for the Listening Comprehension, as I mentioned before. However, if you are not a fan of podcasts, do not fear! Music is another great way to improve your listening skills. You can find subtitled videos on Youtube if needed. Find a song that you like and get dancing!
Download German language learning apps
There are some great apps out there for language learners, such as Babbel, Duolingo, and FluentU, that allow you to do daily challenges to improve your language skills. You can develop grammar skills, learn vocabulary and listening skills through short, fun lessons!
Practice speaking German
School and home are great places to practice your speaking skills. Pose questions in German to your teacher. Chat with your classmates in German for one lunchtime every week. Speak German at home, even if your parents can’t speak German, why not teach them?
Try to book a German holiday
This won’t be an option for everyone, but next time you are looking for a break away, look to Germany! It is a great way to put your German to practice. You can try to speak to everyone from the taxi driver and the barman to locals!
Employ alternative study methods ... and some traditional methods!
Why not learn and study in a fun way? Write down the names of some household items in German on sticky notes. Go around your house and stick sticky notes on the relevant food, furniture and other objects. This is a fun and easy way to recall learned vocabulary and it may also help your family to learn! Mind maps can also be used effectively for German learners. Write your topic you want to revise in the middle and then write words around the topic. This is a great way to revise. You can also highlight the words using a highlighter to make them stand out. That being said, exam papers are still very important. The more you practice them, the more you will become familiar with questions and time management. Practice them under exam conditions. Follow the time suggestions and practice the order in which you will answer the questions.
Timing is crucial in the German exam. The Listening Comprehension takes 30 minutes, so you will have only 90 minutes to complete the rest of the exam. Even though this may sound like a waste of time, I believe you should take 5 minutes to read over the paper before you start, as I found it helped me save time in the long run. This will leave you with approximately 45-50 minutes to spend on the reading section and 30-35 minutes on the written section.
Read before answering
Make sure you are answering the question you are being asked. This requires an understanding of the question, so my recommendation would be to read each question very carefully before you write a thing. If you do not understand a question, move on to the next one and come back to it if you have time at the end. If you do end up coming back to a hard question at the end of the exam and still don’t feel like you can answer it, put something down regardless. I always say to answer every question in the exam, because you might just be lucky and pick up a mark or two!
Quality over Quantity
Scoring high in the German exam comes down to showing off your knowledge using as much rich vocabulary and expressions as you can. However, it is important to note that the examiners are looking for high quality German blogs rather than pages and pages of lacklustre work. So, instead of playing it safe and using loads of short, basic sentences to fill up all the space provided for the written piece, try to impress the person correcting your exam by throwing something a bit more complex into the mix. You will be rewarded!
Viel Glück! Best of Luck!
Killian and the Studyclix Team :)