Tips for successful study of the German language
Practise, practise, practise!
Practice makes perfect, even after the you have mastered the basic vocabulary. Your mastery of the language will improve much quicker, if you are subjected to an exclusively German-speaking environment for a period of time.
In Switzerland, people from foreign cultures tend to mix with people who speak their native language, mostly with people from their own country of origin. Although this can be a useful survival strategy in a foreign country, it does not really serve to promote language skills. Ideally, students should spend periods of time solely devoted to reading Swiss newspapers, watching Swiss television and listening to Swiss radio. And, of course, they should seek contact with Swiss people whenever possible – even a quick conversation with the baker or the neighbour advance the cause.
Trying to “control” grammatical mistakes from the outset is ineffective. Although grammatically perfect German is theoretically desirable, it is, unfortunately, a rather implausible aspiration. The ability to conjugate every single verb form will add very little to your communication skills! To start with, it is much more effective to cast off the shyness and just talk as much as possible, even if it does sound awful!
Watching Swiss television is a good way of improving your understanding of the language Television is free and provides the “real” (and above all “fast”) language, that you would hear on the street. The more you watch, the more you will pick up words and turns of phrase. It is astonishing how much you can pick up by using this “passive learning” method.
Reading texts or repeating spoken texts are good ways of improving vocabulary.
You could try repeating what the television presenter says. It is not important that you
understand every word. Speaking out loud will help you become acquainted with the phonetics of the new language. You will be astonished how quickly you “assimilate” certain words and phrases.
According to our experience, most participants soon lose interest in courses that last for several hours a day. The initial euphoria evaporates quickly when the intensive lessons are accompanied by several hours of homework. Shorter sessions mean that it is easier to compensate for sporadic absences. Conversely, it is extremely difficult to make up for lost time on courses with several hours of tuition per day. Most potential language students would be wise to adhere to the following instructions: It is better to study for a few hours a week over a longer period of time than to do an intensive course, with many hours a day, which is abandoned after a few weeks.
Homework is a integral part of the course and must be treated accordingly. Whether you are entrusted with learning vocabulary or with performing grammar exercises. Homework is important. Those who ignore their homework will soon fall behind and lose interest in the course.
By the way, the same applies in this case: speaking aloud during assignments facilitates the learning process and vastly improves the quality of learnt material.
Private tuition is also available. Whether you need to make up for lost time or just want to reach your goals faster. A good teacher should be able to rapidly accelerate the learning process. Before you choose a tutor, you should make sure that you are comfortable with them and their teaching methods. You should not hesitate to tell your tutor what you want and what you expect to do, right from the very beginning.
Language exchange (tandem)
So-called language exchange offers yet another interesting and free alternative. This method is especially good for practising conversation. In this case, the foreign student pairs up with a Swiss student, who is eager to learn the other student’s native language, and the two of them hold conversations, alternating between the two languages. This is also a good way to meet new people and to make good friends.
There is an information board at the school where people seeking tandem partners can publish their names. This service is entirely free of charge.