Itching to pull away from the ranks of beginner German leaners? Ready to take focussed action to move your German fluency decisively up a gear?
That's what I did when I feared getting stuck as beginner....and later when I was stuck on the "intermediate plateau".
And wow, was it all worth it!
I'm recently back from a week in Berlin, my first visit to Germany for a year.
I was using my German almost from the very start, with the driver when I tried to get onto the wrong bus.
Things looked up from there, as I made my way about town, in German.
At my Airbnb check-in, I did everything with the owner in German.
Then, after unpacking with Berlin talk radio on in the background I headed out to explore the local artisan coffee scene...Did the beard behind the counter switch to English? No!
I was in the German capital for two reasons:
First: to join some of the fellow language teachers, publishers, bloggers and vloggers I most admire for an inspiring conference. Most of that was in English.
Then: the birthday party German friend I've known for half of her 50 years. That, and the meal a group - friends of decades' standing - had the following evening, was ALL in German.
For me, as a learner, breaking through into life in another language is one of the most miraculous highs there is. I've done it in several languages already and I'll do it in several more.
My life is tremendously enriched by the opportunities languages have brought and, above all, the relationships.
It always feels amazing to return to Germany and reawaken my German dimension. I love being be able to "get by" in German, whether it's buying a bus ticket or ordering a coffee.
I love being able to do far more than just that: catching up with people who matter or - even - discussing the Brexit embarrassment (ok, maybe not).
I got there not because I had some magic method, but because I put in a lot of real, smart work.
I made sure got a lot of practice and....and this bit is crucial.... I kept going with all of it through thick and thin.
Nothing fires me more, as a language teacher and mentor, than helping others who are serious about achieving real fluency reach new milestones on the same journey.
If that's you, and you've already made a real start and are already an "advanced beginner" in German, you're in the right place.
It's time to break through into intermediate!
The rewards of getting "into intermediate"
Now, here's some good news: at the party I may have been using some pretty advanced German, but much of what I did on my trip to Berlin doesn't require anything like that level.
Lot's of the magic actually really happens when you enter the ranks of the intermediate speaker.
That's when you become a going concern, an "independent user" and can really start living the language.
Let's look at the amazing skills you'll master if you make a success of fluency at the intermediate level, what's called B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
The CEFR benchmarks the things you'll be able to do as a confident B1 German user:
- understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc;
- deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken;
- produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest;
- describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Yes, there's a lot to look forward to. But.....
The big risk. Why many don't make it "into intermediate"
There’s no doubt that there are not just great highs but real difficulties and potential lows as you approach the lower intermediate phase.
First, there are the problems that readers at Howtogetfluent.com and members of our Email Club tell me have dogged them as a beginner. I bet at least some of these frustrate you too:
- You maybe keep forgetting words you though you “knew”.
- If you remember them, you’ll often get the gender wrong.
- Then you get entangled in the grammar, whether that complicated German case and declension system and that German word order that can be so different from English.
- Next: you struggle with finding time to fit your language study and practice into your busy life.
- None of this is made any easier by a sense of overwhelm at sheer size of the language and all the different books, courses, apps and conflicting advice out there.
And then some!
You see, as you move into intermediate, there's a real risk you'll be overwhelmed and give up..... If you don't do it right.
That's because, to be brutally honest, you still have a lot to learn.
To succeed at intermediate, you vocab needs to expand, big time.
The Goethe Institut expects students at the end of the upper beginner (A2) phase to know about 1,300 of the most common words in the German language.
If you were aiming at the Goethe Institut’s B1 intermediate exam, you'd need at least another thousand words and (for nouns) their genders and plural forms.
As you move into intermediate, the grammar keeps coming thick-and-fast, too.
You need to be fully on top of the genitive case...
You'll have to work with more verb tenses in the past, future and the dreaded subjunctives...
You'll also need to be able to building out longer phrases to add information or explain causation or consequences.
Sometimes, you'll find the German verbs hopping around the sentence in dramatic and potentially confusing ways.
As you meet all this, and more, it'll be exciting, for sure.
You'll still feel like you're scoring big wins from week to week.
But, as "known unknowns" crowd in, you'll increasingly see those potential bear traps that you were blissfully unaware of as a beginner.
It's no surprise that you risk feeling lost in the forest or paralysed on the spot.
Your motivation risks taking a real hit.
It's especially tough if, like most Howtogetfluent readers, you're used to putting in hard work expecting it to lead to success in your social, educational and professional life.
The peculiarities of language learning seem to thwart even many bright achievers.
I just hate it when I see an able, motivated German learner abandoning all their fluency dreams, without ever becoming a confident "independent user".
A hard truth and some good news about getting "into intermediate"
Well, for one: get real.
Remember, language learning is a marathon not a sprint.
Build exposure into your life. Without extensive input and all that practice, you'll never make it.
It's not glamorous advice.
It's not a quick fix.
But it's true.
You can't buck the system.
What you CAN do is stack the odds in your favour.
You can give yourself a real boost with the accelerated momentum that comes if you put in effective, focussed effort.
The chance to help you do that is why I'm so excited to be offering you my Focus for Fluency "Into Intermediate German" course.
For me as a language teacher and mentor there's one thing that's nearly as bad as seeing German learners give up.
That thing is talking to learners who want to join the ranks of confident, independent German users but:
...are not sure what to do next to make real progress...
...feel that overwhelm or paralysis...
....or who are still taking action, but not sure if what they're doing is working.
Focus for Fluency "Into Intermediate German" is our chance to overcome all that together; to harness the power of consistent effective focus to turbocharge your language learning and take your German to the next level.
Introducing Focus for Fluency (open till Friday only)
The Focus for Fluency mentored self-study course is centred on carefully crafted audio and written learning materials, delivered online and via email over ten weeks. It sets a clear, paced framework within which you can make real progress into intermediate German.
The content is designed to be used to maximum effect with my brain-savvy "Focus for Fluency" study routine.
It'll help you to ensure that you precious time and effort is used to get you real results.
Add to that mentoring from me, our group German teacher's encouragement and the support of your fellow students and you're all set to burst into B1.
What you'll get as a Focus for Fluency member
Here's a quick overview, followed by more the detail:
- Real everyday conversational German in engaging, quality MP3 native audio recordings. One for each of the nine units, delivered on Mondays, to get you straight into action.
- German only transcripts of each conversation (pdf) to help nail your listening skills. These and rest of the units delivered in stages each week to prevent overwhelm and keep you FOCUSSED.
- German/English parallel translation to check your comprehension.
- Clear guide in simple German to new phrases and vocab in each unit (pdf).
- No-nonsense explanations of the essential new B1 grammar patterns in each unit (pdf).
- Extensive exercise worksheets with self-correct answers (pdfs) covering the new patterns.
- Three language learner pro skills webinars where Dr P shares his key language learning advice.
- On-boarding and wrap up webinars from Dr P.
- Community support in the members only Facebook group, with your language questions answered by our "Profi" German tutor Sabrina.
- Unlimited email mentoring (learner skills) from Dr P.
- Goal-setting and logging sheet (Google docs) for clarity and accountability. No place to hide!
- Enrolment only open until end of Friday 28th June (24:00 London time).
We start off with my initial onboarding webinar and intro to the materials. I'll help you to focus in on your aims for the course and make sure you're set to dive in.
Then each week for nine weeks you receive a complete set of lesson materials - online and as downloadable .pdfs and .mp3s.
Why ten weeks? It's long enough to feel progress, but not so long that it becomes easy to put action off till tomorrow, next week, never.
Just as the lessons are drip-fed, each week's materials will be uncovered day by day.
Why? It's all about stopping overwhelm and maintaining focus on the next task in hand.
At every stage, you'll have just one thing in front of you. That it itself really simplifies language learning and can be an energising relief. Real, consistent focus can start to work its magic.
You'll have a clear study routine to focus on each week to unlock your German.
It boils down to this: listen > clarify > internalise > live it!
Phase One: become a master listener
The core of each module is an audio dialogue. You'll hear two native speakers (a man and a women) using real, conversational German at natural speed in a variety of interesting, everyday situations.
The narrative develops from episode to episode...that'll draw you in and provide you with useful context as you approach each new instalment.
You'll be surprised how much you'll get out of each conversation even though the dialogues are quite short.
That's deliberate. Remember, in this course the power of focus is key.
It's no accident that sound is central to the course, either.
Listening skills are a key source of the input you need to widen and reinforce your vocab and grammar and, in turn, to speak well yourself.
Plus, you're just not going to get very far if you can't understand the response of native German speakers, however confident your own actual speaking skills are.
The first time you listen to the dialogue, you'll understand quite a bit.
You won't understand everything, though.
Again, that's deliberate.
We've carefully graded the material because language acquisition magic happens when are stretched a little beyond your comfort zone but not so far that you're all at sea.
I'll show you techniques to augment your listening and prime yourself to start to really prick up your ears and notice what you do and don't yet know.
Phase Two: get real vocab and grammar clarity from the inside out
In the next phrase, primed from your initial work with the audio, you need to clarify.
This is important because you won't remember what you don't understand.
You'll get a German transcript and English parallel translation of the audio recording, so that you can check your understanding.
Then comes the "Wortlabor" or "Word Lab".
In clear, written German we explain new vocab from the dialogue.
We'll often pull out individual words, but we'll also put a lot of emphasis on common combinations of words or short phrases, so-called "chunks" of language.
That's a brain-savvy way to overcome those problems we all have remembering words and phrases and noun gender. It's the way kids learn a lot of language. Context is king.
Chunking is also, it seems, how adult native speakers are able to process and produce fluent speech.
In the course, I'll explain in detail how to use chunking and other techniques to expand your vocab to maximum effect.
You'll put all the training into effect on the dialogues and in your wider exposure to German.
Next: the "Musterwerkstatt" or "Pattern Workshop".
Here full of nuts and bolts that hold those words together are explained in clear German (again, to maximise your real use of the language).
It would be silly to leave everything to context. We're not kids learning naturally over a period of many years. We can move much more rapidly than that.
Why? Because we already speak one language. We've a wealth of experience and more developed powers of reason.
Some solid explanation of each module's new grammar. makes sense.
All the same, we keep the explanations light.
That's not because you can't get your head round grammar.
Of course you can, if you put your mind to it.
Here's the thing: grammar rules just won't help you much as you listen and speak.
There just isn't time to apply them.
Also, if you try and cobble together your own sentences from abstract rules, you may be understood but you probably won't say things like a native.
What you can use as you speak are the patterns that you've noticed and clarified.
The deeper understanding you'll get in the Musterwerkstatt will really help with that....providing you're internalising the content.
Phase Three: nail forgetting as you work smart with your memory for the long term
In the internalising phase you take focussed action to remember what you've understood.
I can't learn for you. The truth is, you can't buy fluency. Not even from Dr P.
You have to do the work!
You need to make really sure that you move from understanding to getting the vocab, phrases and patterns into your long-term, "procedural" memory, so that you can really recall on the hoof as you speak.
I'll show you how to use spaced recall to maximum effect to make real progress here...and other pro techniques that will help.
In each module, you'll also get a wealth of (optional) exercises to give you more opportunities to "elaborate" what we've covered.
The exercises give let you apply another brain-savvy technique: the simple precaution of testing yourself to avoid any mere illusion of learning.
So far so good. You've had listening practice, noticed and understood new language and started processing it for long term use. You've followed the story on a step.
Then you're ready for the next week's instalment: a new dialogue which takes the narrative forward with more listening practice, new German vocab and language patterns.
Phase Four: acquire yet more German as you build the language into your life, naturally!
So far, so focussed. But what was that about living your German?
Well, I'll guide you as you find your own ways to increase your incidental, passive exposure to German in your daily life.
As Focus for Fluency is a very full programme, you may want wait to ramp up the more active speaking and writing until after the ten week's focussed listening and reading practice are under your belt.
As you graduate from Focus to Fluency, you'll be ready to relax back in a less conscious, more leisurely "learning by doing" phase.
Real, deep language acquisition requires periods of consolidation, practice and just living it, after all!
It's just that after you've completed Focus for Fluency, you'll enjoy this as at higher level than before.
Now, you may be thinking "Sounds great in theory, Dr P, but how will I fit this in to my busy life and how will I keep going?".
Use habit to beat those German learner ups and downs
I'll help you to build and maintain the language habit that will be essential if you wan't to transform your German in the coming ten weeks.
You'll need to commit to at least 30 mins a day on your Focus for Fluency workout, five days a week.
You won't always do your daily, focussed German, of course. Life will sometimes gets in the way. It has to happen more often than not, though.
So, you'll need to get serious about carving out the time from your busy life. Yes, you may need to give something else up to fit in the focus.
Real life and real language learning do involve trade-offs.
I'll give you some tips on habit forming and effective time management.
You'll find that the gradual release of sections of each lesson during the week will also help create a rhythm.
You'll share how you're fitting in your slot with me and the other participants.
You'll log what you've done each day on the shared logging sheet.
This is where habit starts to meet another great sustainer of focussed action: accountability.
Get guidance and inspiration from Dr P and our community
Habit combines, then, with community. It's not just about increased accountability.
In the Facebook group you and other participants will support each other.
Sabrina, our native-speaker German teacher will drop by to answer your questions about the material or your wider German learning questions.
There'll also be mentoring from me: in three group webinars I'll cover motivation and methods plus my unlimited personal email support on these aspects for the duration of the course.
All-in-all, Burst into B1 German Focus for Fluency offers you the chance to bring the power of consistent effective focus to bear on your language learning.
With my quality materials, brain-savvy methods and mentoring, and our community's support, I'm excited to offer you this great chance for real ACTION take your German to the next level.
Don't miss it!
Let's roll up our sleeves together to ensure that you become a confident German user in 2019.
Registration is now open until midnight London time on Friday 28th June, so join up now for "Burst into B1 German Focus for Fluency".
Don't delay, the closing time is strict!
The course itself starts on Sunday 30th June. I can't wait to get to know you on the course and help you achieve your fluency transformation!