Imagine the following: You want to apply for a dream job in Germany. There is only one problem. You need to speak German, but you only know "ja, nein" and "eins, zwei, drei..." and time is not on your side.
It may sound like an impossible task, but according to language experts, you can learn basic communication skills in a few weeks and master the basics of a foreign language like German in a few months. You may not master the language quickly enough to understand the great classics of German literature, but you can quickly pick up the phrases and jargon you need, whether you work for the diplomatic service or a multinational corporation.
It won't take most people long to discuss current affairs with a native speaker in Berlin or to talk to new German work colleagues in Munich.
The first steps
When you travel a lot for work, you sometimes have to come up with ways to master conversation in multiple languages. Phrasebooks and online tutorials can be very helpful in this initial phase. They provide the vocabulary and confidence to hold simple conversations with native speakers - the crucial first step in learning a language.
The biggest obstacle in the beginning is lack of confidence.
To make progress in a foreign language, you simply have to have the confidence to speak.
Unfortunately, many people don't make progress if they don't speak. If you are not willing to take a risk and jump into the deep end, you will progress more slowly.
That means not being afraid to take risks or make mistakes.
Total immersion in German is the key to learning the language quickly. The more you immerse yourself in the foreign language - for example, by reading, listening to the radio, or speaking with others - the faster you will progress.
Basic conversational skills can be achieved in a very short time, especially if you can speak regularly.
You need to invest not only your head, but also your heart.
In larger cities, there are often regular language meetings that meet several times a week where people come together to practice a language. There are also online alternatives.
If you regularly interact with language experts or native German speakers, you'll also have someone to check - and correct - your progress.
Practice makes perfect, we know that. But practice without feedback only makes perfect what you practice. The uninitiated learner has no perspective on what they are doing. It's really important to have someone tell you that you're on the right track.
Ask your conversation partners for feedback and make sure they know it's okay to correct your pronunciation and grammar, although experts say you shouldn't worry too much about grammar in the early stages.
Apply the language first and focus on grammar later. When you're ready to tackle grammar, it's ideal to use podcasts on websites like radiolingua.com or languagepod101.com. They are especially useful for learning grammar and analysing the language.
When learning, make sure to consume media in the foreign language. When you start learning, read illustrated children's books or watch popular movies in the foreign language.
If you have a specific goal, such as talking to a partner or using the foreign language at work, this motivation may be enough to get you started with conversation. However, beware of lofty goals. If you say you want to be fluent in two months, you'll probably be disappointed. However, if your goal is to reach a certain level of conversational fluency, especially for a work assignment, that's entirely possible.