So you want to know how to speak German. You’re in good company! Millions of people around the world embark on the journey to learn German all the time. There are many reasons why learning how to speak German is a worthwhile endeavor. Not only do you get to know the many people and places of the German-speaking world, but you also get to build your mental muscles by learning a new skill.
There are a couple things you’ll need to know if you want to know how to speak German. Of course, learning how to speak German takes time, effort, practice and patience. But don’t worry! With the right tools and teachers, you’ll soon know how to speak German with confidence.
How To Speak German: What You’ll Learn
Learning how to speak German means getting to know all the components of the German language: pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, among others. Each is essential in its own way to mastering German! Keep reading to learn more.
How To Speak German: Spelling And Pronouncing German Words
One of the most important things to do when you want to know how to speak German is to learn about German pronunciation. After all, you can’t actually speak the language if you don’t know how to speak German out loud!
Luckily for those learning how to speak German, the German alphabet is the exact same as the English one, with a few extra letters. And each letter of the German alphabet typically has one and only one pronunciation, making German spelling much more uniform than that of English, which can be inconsistent and totally nonsensical sometimes. (Think about how a non-English speaker might struggle with words like “cough,” “colonel” and “knight.”)
However, some of the letters sound different from their English counterparts; for example, w in German makes a “v” sound, v makes a “f” sound, and j makes a “y” sound.
There are four special extra letters that appear in German words that you’ll quickly get used to: Ä, Ö, Ü (and their respective lowercase counterparts ä, ö and ü) and ß. The pairs of dots that appear above the vowels A, O and U are called umlauts (umlaute in German), and you can find them in plenty of words in the German spelling system in words like Bücher (“books”) and Käse (“cheese”). These umlauts indicate that you pronounce the vowel sound more towards the front of your mouth with rounded lips. The letter ß, called eszett, is pronounced like the letter “s” and can be found in words like heißen (“to be called”) and dreißig (‘thirty”). It may look unfamiliar and funky, but it’s very straightforward!
There are some sounds in German you’ll need to learn that don’t exist in English — like the back-of-the-throat r sound in words like rot (“red") or the hissing ch sound in words like Mädchen (“girl”).
For more examples and to learn in more detail about how the letters of the German alphabet are pronounced — and other sounds in German — check out our guide to pronouncing tricky words in German.
How To Speak German: Vocabulary In German
Learning a new language means you’ve got to get really familiar with the words that make up that language. If you want to know how to speak German, you’re of course going to have to get familiar with German vocabulary. After all, you can’t actually use a new language without knowing the words, expressions and phrases that make up that language! The more German vocabulary you know, the more you’re able to talk about everything in your world — from what you do for work to your hobbies to your favorite colors and foods to the weather outside and everything in between. Plus, if you know authentic German phrases, you'll sound just like a native speaker.
The most effective way to remember German vocabulary and phrases is to focus on the words and expressions that interest you the most instead of wasting time on vocabulary you find boring or will never actually use. You can tailor your German vocabulary to your careers, hobbies, passions and everyday experiences and fill in the gaps where you want more words. This could include German for business or the medical profession. Or perhaps you like talking about sports, the entertainment industry or politics. You can create your own specialized German vocabulary depending on what’s important to you in your learning journey.
How To Speak German: Grammar In German
Learning the grammar of any foreign language can be tricky, especially if it’s very different from the grammar of the language or languages you already speak. Naturally, if you want to know how to speak German, you’re going to have to get to know German grammar. Luckily, many parts of German grammar aren’t all too difficult to understand once you get a grasp on them.
There are, however, some elements of German grammar that are known to be more difficult for learners than others are — especially those elements that are more unfamiliar to native English speakers, like complex verb conjugations or the fact that German nouns have three genders, tricky concepts many German learners have trouble mastering.
You might struggle with some aspects of German grammar and breeze through others. A lot of what you’ll find easy depends on the language or languages you already speak and how similar they are to German. And you can’t forget that everyone learns differently, so the parts of German grammar that give you trouble might be a piece of cake for someone else, and vice versa.
How To Speak German: The Best Methods For Learning German
If you want to know how to speak German, you might be overwhelmed by all the choices out there for how to get started. But it’s important to remember that there’s no right answer. Each method for learning how to speak German has its own advantages and limitations, so you should choose the methods that work best for you!
- Classroom learning and tutoring — You’ll get more regular, personalized feedback from an instructor and be able to practice speaking, but it can take a regular commitment of time and often money, and you might not be able to work at your own pace.
- Immersion learning — You’ll be challenged and required to adapt more quickly to a new language and culture, but the investment is quite extreme and requires money, time and the willingness to overcome major adversity.
- Software and apps — You can work at your own pace and choose content that works for you, but you don’t get as much practice in conversations with actual speakers, and you won’t get individualized interaction with native speakers.
- German-language media — Through German books, movies, TV shows, songs and podcasts, you get to hear and read the German language as it’s used by native speakers in real situations (and often for free), but you don’t get to practice speaking or learn the underlying rules and nuances of the language.
Of course, the best way to learn German is finding the right mix of all these elements that work well for you. And there’s no wrong answer! Part of learning how to speak German is figuring out which methods fit your schedule, budget, and learning style.
Find out more about the best ways to learn how to speak German.
How To Speak German With Help From Babbel
If you want to know how to speak German like a real Deutschsprachiger, Babbel has you covered.
Babbel is designed by a team of language experts, educators, and designers who know all about what it takes to get the most out of learning a new language — so you are guaranteed a top-quality German learning journey that’s educational, engaging, and yes, even fun.
Babbel’s German lessons are designed to strengthen your skills in the four areas of language learning — reading, writing, speaking and listening — and make sure the content you’re learning is committed to your long-term memory. Helpful tips along the way help you reinforce what you’re learning by making connections in new ways.
Lessons introduce new words and expressions in stages, focusing on vocabulary that applies in conversations with actual native speakers — not nonsensical or impractical words that you’ll never use. And almost every lesson features a simulated real-life dialogue to help you put what you’re learning about German grammar into context in the sorts of conversations you’d be having with native speakers.
If you want to know how to speak German with confidence, what are you waiting for? Try a Babbel German lesson today!