“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”: A quick guide to managing life in German despite messing up all the declinations


Sprechen Sie Deutsch? sign

Ok, we admit it. German can be hard to learn. The centipede-long words, the tongue-twisting pronunciation, the puzzling declinations… However, as soon as you overcome the very irrational thought of fearing a language, and you actually start putting some effort into learning it, you will soon realize that the long words are nothing but very logically composed words, that your pronunciation gets better the more German beer you drink, and that you still don’t get the declinations but somehow you have unlocked an unknown skill to solve complicated escape rooms. While at KLU you won’t need any German skills and while Hamburg is a very international city where you can get by pretty well speaking English, getting a grip on the language will make your experience in Germany way nicer. Some of the scenarios where knowing some German will really be an advantage are: navigating bureaucracy, getting more and better job offers, and making friends. Good for you, there are tons of methods for you to learn without it becoming a boring task.

(Reading time: 6 minutes and 35 seconds)

Getting a good foundation

The good traditional “going to class” will not feel like the most innovative way to learn a language, but it is still in fact a very effective way to gain and improve your German skills, even more so if you are starting from scratch. Having a basic knowledge of the grammar and rules of the language is important and will speed up the learning process later on, and believe us, in German you want to have the basics of grammar. KLU offers German courses at no extra cost to its students. Your level is assessed, and certified teachers come to Campus once a week to teach these German courses. The maximum number of students per class is 20, and spots are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis.
Of course, Hamburg also has plenty of other schools that offer German courses. A good overview of the schools can be found here.

German lessons on-the-go

Added on top of regular classes or for those who don’t have extra time to sit in a classroom, language apps are a great resource to keep learning during their commutes, waiting in line, or while sitting on the porcelain throne. In addition to well-known apps like Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone, Hamburg city provides a specific app called “Ankommen”, which is meant to accompany you in the first steps of the learning process, to get you by in the most basic life situations. Beyond that, the city also highlights other apps on this website. The next step in the language app world is putting your knowledge into practice and start interacting with people in German. For this, a bunch of social networking apps are available: Tandem, HelloTalk, Busuu, Hoop… With them you can chat, send voice notes and have video calls with native speakers, they can correct your grammar and spelling, and it’s a nice way to break the ice and start putting yourself out there. Also, a good way to make some connections on a personal level!

The infallible “blah blah blah” method

Following on the previous idea of the language exchange apps, there’s nothing like real human interaction to bring your language skills to the next level. And why not make some friends along the way? Here’s where the whole learning German experience gets juicy. Some options are:

  • Talk groups in Hamburg: Hamburg is a great city to practice your German on a daily basis in conversation groups and for free! Several public and private institutions have Stammtisch (meetups) and talk groups where a moderator (normally a German native) leads a conversation for the participants. The Central Library and other public libraries offer “Dialog in Deutsch”, and you can find many other groups around the city thanks to the project “Sprache im Alltag” by the association Sprachbrücke Hamburg.
  • Tandem partners: learning through tandems is one of the nicest and most easy-going methods of practicing German for free. The tandem websites and programs connect people who are interested in learning languages so they can help each other. This way, for example, a Mexican living in Hamburg can meet with a German who wants to improve her Spanish. The deal is having a casual conversation, not topic specific (just like meeting with a friend), and talking some time in one language and some time in the other, correcting each other. One big perk is that tandem partners have a lot of patience because they are also on the journey of learning a foreign language and they’ll be very empathetic of your struggles. Many good friend relationships start with a tandem exchange, too! Some recommendations to find a partner are sites like tandem.net, vhs-tandem.de, tandempartners.org, ESN Hamburg, and the international offices of some universities.
  • Hobbies in German: Germans in general take some time to build relations, and one of the best ways to meet and connect with them on a personal level is by sharing some hobby or passion. Whether you like hiking, playing football, painting, knitting, or simply hanging out, you can join some groups that meet for your favorite hobby and interact with locals. Two apps to find some events and groups are Meetup and Nebenan (this last one is meant to connect with people specifically in your neighborhood) but Facebook also has many groups based on interests. A good group to check out when you are a newbie is “Neu in Hamburg”.

The language of love

Although it may sound cheesy or cliché, falling in love with someone who has another native tongue is still (proven!) one of the fastest and most effective ways of learning a foreign language. It takes willpower, too, though, mostly if you both speak other common (non-native) language, such as English. There are plenty of wonderful and attractive single Germans in Hamburg. So, with a little bit of luck, you may find your personal breakfast-sharer tandem partner, and your German level will skyrocket. If you are single, I’m sure you don’t need our recommendations on dating apps, you probably know them much better or will find them in the first two weeks in Hamburg. But we can recommend that you go out of your comfort zone, and engage in activities inside and outside the university, that will allow you to get to know new people, as often as you can. Don’t limit the love world to dating apps.

Make it a habit

One last tip from our end to make you an expert in German is to connect the language to your daily routines. Things as simple as changing your language settings on Netflix can go a long way: you get to read small synopsis of the shows in German, slightly pushing you to do a mini exercise in the day. Other ways you can integrate German into your day-to-day in a fun way is by following accounts on Social Media (Instagram, TikTok, etc.) that post their content in German, watching German shows and movies, or watching shows you know by heart (that favorite movie you have watched 20 times and can almost recite line by line) and set them in German.

Now you are ready

Putting into practice some (or all!) of these tips, and taking into account that your Bachelor’s will take you 3 years and your Master’s 2 years to complete, we are positive that at the end of your study program you’ll have a great level of German, that will open many doors in your future. Many employers are interested to see the efforts you put in during your time in Germany to learn the language and better offers will come your way if you can use the language on a B2 level (the Goethe Institute and Test DaF are the most common tests to prove your level of German). Now, you only need to buy a bunch of Versicherungen (insurances) and a summer holiday in Mallorca, and you’ll be one step away from becoming a true German. Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

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