Whether at the deli stand or at a kiosk, early language learners know the struggle of having to quickly come up with the right words in their target language for day to day needs. If you're still struggling with beginner phrases out loud and pronunciation, this article will be a game-changer to get you practicing and confident for your next shopping trip!
Battling Conversation Anxiety as a Beginner German Learner
As you stand at your local deli, you watch the server slice smoked ham for the elderly lady before you in line. You fidget with your sleeves knowing you’re next, so you practice the sentence asking for 100 grams of salami in your head over and over. Mustering the courage to utter those newly learned words out loud is certainly no easy feat and we know this. We scoff at ourselves in frustration as we continue painting vivid linguistic worlds in our native tongues, only to stumble over something as minuscule as sliced meat.
As frustrating as it might be, it’s perfectly normal. It really isn't easy finding the right words at the right moment when you're beginning to learn German. Even as intermediate speakers, in stressful or worrisome moments, the right words and phrases can just as easily elude us.
Insecurity of mispronouncing a word or mixing up an article is often times the pesky culprit of conversation anxiety, which causes a lot of German learners to stay timid in their speech. This leads to beginner learners not putting the newly learned words and phrases to good use, which is unfortunate if you are spending a lot of time at intensive German courses.
Fret not, conversation anxiety is perfectly normal and there are many ways to battle it. This easy tip will get you used to speaking out loud, boosting your confidence—and automatically your language speaking competence— for any occasion.
Getting Used To the Basics: Practicing With Yourself.
While initially counterintuitive, one of the best ways to solidify your pronunciation, practice new words and phrases, and get used to saying more complex syntactical structures is simply to talk to yourself. Perfect if you live alone, just as great if you live with others. Although if you live with others, it is probably best to let them know what you are doing to avoid any confusion. If you are generally somebody who benefits from self-reminders and speaking aloud, this will be a very easy adjustment. Practicing language with yourself is a great and hassle-free way to get used to the tone, phonology and general feeling of a language. Most importantly, it allows you to focus on what you want without any extra pressure or anxiety speaking to strangers might cause, especially as a beginner.
Solidifying Vocabulary and Pronunciation: Be a Human Label Maker
If you struggle with vocabulary and pronunciation,
one great way to practice new and even already internalized vocabulary is to continuously
name the things around you out loud. Think of it as you being a
verbal label maker. Make mental notes to label things as you see them. This
works wonderfully at home and equally as well at the supermarket or around
town. Don’t be afraid to say things out loud; it’s integral if you wish to get
more comfortable with pronunciation.
One instance of this could be if you are at home and are about to make yourself a cup of coffee. Name all of the things you will need for your coffee. Make sure to include articles as well!
If you happen to learn a new vocabulary topic at your courses, use this label maker strategy to implement as many of those new vocabulary as you can.
After a while you will notice that certain words and topics become repetitive if you’ve already labeled your entire kitchen and bathroom more than once. Challenge yourself with new topics and get creative. You could even label things you see on the internet or things on your online shopping wish-list. Nonetheless, practicing will enforce extra pronunciation preparation.
Implementing the strategy for pronunciation
When it comes to pronunciation, the label maker strategy is incredibly helpful to familiarize yourself with basic and also more complex German phonology. What better way to get accustomed to pronunciation than while verbally practicing vocabulary? This gives you the chance to really get into sounds and tones that might be difficult for you and cause shyness when talking to others.
German phonology can be very foreign if your native tongue doesn’t feature mid-open vowels (ö/ü) and palatal/velar fricatives (ich/ach). Primary and secondary stresses in longer words and phrases vary greatly from languages like English or Russian, for example. Therefore, it is important to exercise the tongue and mouth movements to grasp the phonetic code and stress patterns early on.
To successfully practice pronunciation, make sure you already have a rather clear memory of how the word is stressed and pronounced. In times of confusion, feel free to refer to notes and material from your courses to remind you. Enunciate clearly, speak slowly and repeat as often as necessary. You will notice sounds become easier and less foreign the more you say them.
From crawling to walking: Playing with syntax for German beginners
The next step after solidifying the label maker strategy is to start playing around with sentences and actual conversational phrases. Naturally, in order to excel in useful conversation it’s important to speak to linguistically proficient people. However, for extra confidence and stability, it’s very helpful to continue to expand on self-practice and label making.
If you get rather nervous with larger syntactic structures, start with talking through your daily life. Say aloud what you are doing and what you are about to do, and do this often. Treat your current situation like a talk-through tutorial. If you just learned new grammatical structures and new vocabulary, try putting as much of them to use. One way to break the ice and start speaking out loud if you aren't necessarily ready or want to use new words and phrases, is to simply talk through your life routine. You can do this in the morning as you get ready, for example.
“I am now going to brush my teeth.”
“Jetzt werde ich meine Zähne putzen.”
“Next I will find something to wear.”
“Als nächstes suche ich mir meine Kleidung aus.”
Once you feel as if you have those sentences internalized, try adding some extra words or adjectives to spice the sentence up. This can give you incentive to look up a word that doesn't come to mind right away, which obviously helps with vocabulary learning.
“I am now going to brush my teeth with my red
“Jetzt werde ich meine Zähne mit meiner roten Zahnbürste putzen.”
“Next I will find something warm to wear. It
is cold outside."
“Als nächstes suche ich mir etwas warmes zum Anziehen aus. Draußen ist es kalt.”
These are examples for routine situations which
are not only internalized actions, but completely internalized basic language
in your native tongue. Using basic situations like these can help get
comfortable with casual conversation. Along with getting used to conversation,
it is a great way to practice longer sentences and experiment with new
grammar you learned.
Feel free to use whichever situations or topics
you feel you need extra practice in, or ones you feel most familiar with. The
important thing is to speak as much as possible. Using situations like
these offer wonderful segues into confrontation with deeper syntactic
structures and more difficult vocabulary without the stress of being in public
with others. You decide what you want to talk about. If you feel you want to
boost your comfort speaking about food or dining, do this self- talk-through
while you cook, for example.
“I am going to wash the vegetables.”
“Ich werde das Gemüse waschen.”
“I need to boil the water for the noodles.”
“Ich muss das Wasser für die Nudeln kochen.”
Self talk-throughs as stepping stones for future conversation
We all know how truly difficult it can get to just start talking in your target language. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it can certainly cause discomfort if the first experiences you make are with native speakers you don’t know, in situations you are new to. As important it is to spend a lot of time practicing with proficient German speakers and receive correct feedback and corrections, it can sometimes be intimidating.
Self-practice can show itself to be the least intimidating and easiest way to get to know language without prying eyes or ears. The repetition and even self-challenge allow your first verbal experiences to be with yourself, so next time you want to order that salami, you will have everything you want to say ready to go with confidence.
Getting to know the nooks and crannies of language takes time, but starting small and building up over time makes all the difference. Practice does indeed make perfect, and who better to practice with, than with yourself?
How do you practice German the best? What strategies work best for you, and which don’t work as well? Let us know!
For any questions or interests, feel free to check out the and take a look at the variety of different course options. From beginner, to proficient, there is a program perfect for anyone looking to spice up their German.