The biggest hurdle that I hear from people trying to learn German is how to pronounce the words. That’s understandable. After all they have a lot of hard sounds that we are not used to in English. I want to impress upon you how much LISTENING to German will impact your pronunciation. You cannot imitate something that you have not heard. So let me give you the sure fire way to improve your accent and pronunciation.
Step 1: LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN
This is important. So important that if you did nothing else but listen to German for a year you wouldn’t have wasted your time. And that goes for any language. Think about how often a child hears their mother tongue before they even begin speaking it. So that’s where you are – baby ears. So what do you listen to? ANYTHING that interests you.
- German radio
- German cartoons
- German music
- German movies
I want to talk to you about the music. I think that this is an awesome way because you are eventually going to be singing along with it. Take one of my favorite German band AnnenMayKantereit. They have this awesome song called Oft gefragt. If you like Mumford and Sons it is right up your alley. It is a song once you hear it you want to sing it. So like when you are singing something you tend to go right along and it is easier to pronounce so it comes more naturally. Think about how opera singers sing in so many different languages but may not be fluent. That is a learned skill and you can totally do that. It will help you. Find music you like and go wild. Music comes in small snippets so it is easier for you to digest as well.
Music also gives you common words and slang. You know- words that people are using that you may not find in a text book.
Step 2: MIMIC
One of the coolest things that happens after you listen to a lot of content is hearing a word that you know used in a different context. When that happens it stays with you and you start to really take on the language. That happens a lot when you are watching a movie or listening to something in German. So if you are listening to a song in German and have the lyrics down and you are watching a movie and something comes up that you have heard before it is like a lightbulb going off. Think about how many words have different meanings in English and how you can easily grasp those differences. That’s because you own the language. So being able to do that in another language is the beginning. And when you find those pieces you WRITE THEM DOWN and you PRACTICE SAYING THEM. It will be a lot easier because you have already been singing these words and your mouth is used to saying them. You have to practice forming your lips around a different language. Your mouth will get tired and your head will hurt but you have to practice. Recording yourself and listening back will help a lot as well. And when you are watching people on tv see HOW they say these words. For example when people speak French their lips are kind of pouty. It affects the way the words are formed and it may be easier to sound French if you push your lips forward a bit. It helps.
Don’t Be Discouraged
This takes time. Listening and allowing something to become second nature takes time. But I promise you it will happen. Your mind has no way to avoid it. If you blast it with German over and over it will pick up the sounds and you will end up hearing the same things over and over.
When you find a song you like write down the lyrics and try to figure it out. Check out my method here on how you can decipher words without always going to direct translation.