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How to learn German! Best of German study tips!

Create your own dictionary.

When you learn a new noun that is relevant to your life, write it down in a small notebook divided into sections for nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases.

Use flashcards.

On one side write the German word (without gender), on the other side write the abbreviation of the gender (M = masculine, F = feminine, and N = neuter) and the translation (if necessary; avoid if possible).

Color coding for German genders.

Choose three contrasting colors for the masculine, feminine, and neuter. I use red, blue, and green. Write new nouns in your dictionary in the color of the gender of the noun. For example, write "der Hund" in blue, "die Katze" in red, and "das Pferd" in green.

As an alternative for your flashcards, you can write the word in the color of the examples above and just the translation (or better yet, a picture!) on the back.

For each noun group, memorize a small selection of words.

Example: imagine BLUE (<- for masculine nouns) mountains while reciting some mountain names, der Himalaja, der Taunus, der Mount Everest

Example: imagine RED (<- for feminine nouns) numbers while reciting the one, the two, the three, etc.

Example: imagine GREEN (<- for neuter nouns) letters of the alphabet as you recite the A, the B, the C, etc.

You don't even have to memorize the actual vocabulary to make this a useful visualization exercise. Just picture the different noun groups (rivers, hotels, transportation, etc.) and see these items in the appropriate gender color. For example, imagine walking down a street and seeing hotels, cafes, restaurants, and movie theaters that are all green because that noun group is a neuter.

Memorize single-word examples of noun forms.

For each suffix or other noun form, memorize a word (that is useful to you or easier to recall for some other reason) that stands for that noun form. Then, when you come across another word with the same form, it's easier for you to know which gender to associate with it.

Think in pictures!

Several examples have already been given above of why you should work with pictures as much as possible. Not only do colors stick better in your memory, but if you can train yourself to think in pictures (e.g., associate the new German noun with a picture of the person/object in your head) instead of translating it into English, you are well on your way to true fluency.

Example: When you learn "the table," you see a BLUE table in your head. Also, when you learn an abstract noun like "freedom", you can think in pictures - imagine you have been freed from prison. You're standing outside the gates (all in RED, of course), raising your arms in victory and shouting freedom!

If you think in pictures - a still image or a short movie clip - you can connect the German word directly to the concept and bypass the English altogether. By training yourself in this way, you develop a "German brain" that you can switch from your "English brain" as easily as turning a lamp on or off. As your language skills become more advanced, you won't be slowed down by tedious translating in your head before you can produce the German you want. Trust me on this point!


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