I’ve been working on German since I made my New Years Resolution. However, i’ve mostly been doing things like: importing frequency word lists from GermanPod101 into Anki, and adding audio files (via Forvo) to the flashcards. I’ve been trying to iron out my actual set of goals for how to reach this level of fluency (A2) in German by July. After going through a lot of potential resources, breaking them up into language skills, which you can find here.
I’ve (finally) got a plan.
It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a plan.
I was reading on Reddit the other day, of a user who followed the deutschkurse.dw.de from start to finish (50 lessons), and passed the CEFR A1 test upon finishing. Now, one thing is that that’s really interesting for a web course, especially a free one. Another thing, is that they tell you that the course will get you to A1 and so on. But to actually see it delivered as someone’s experience that it works, is something else all together. As you can read here, if you feel so inclined. He did it in three months.
I thought to myself, “well I have three months, what if I get to A1 in three months and A2 in three months? I’ll reach A2 by July!”
So essentially, that’s my plan. Of course, i’ve gone more in depth than that and i’ll share that with you in a moment.
But i’m willing to bet a lot of my readers, or at least some, have no idea what the CEFR is, or what an A1-A2 level indicates and how it related to language learning!
Here’s an overview of what all of this jargon is saying.
The CEFR is an acronym for “the Common European Framework” of language learning. Every language is held up to the standards of “Can-Do” statements at each level. They assess these statements in all four areas of language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking).
Now, each level is broken up and largely influenced by exposure to the target language and how aware the learner has become of the language. There are technically three main levels which contain two sections, some schools of thought add another level between A2 and B1, and other places focus a lot on pre-A1 as having it’s own distinct system of sorts. But for this, i’m just going over the basics of the CEFR itself. So below you’ll find the three levels, and each of the sections that they correspond to
Those are the levels you’ll commonly hear people referencing in language learning, and the levels that you’ll be tested at for proficiency. Here is a really basic idea of what those ‘Can-Do’ statements are at each stage.
It gets a lot more thorough than that, and you can find a lot of charts for self assessment and general assessment on Google, for example. If you’re curious how each language skill breaks down at every level.
Back to my plan, so as you can see i’m shooting to become an “upper beginner” or an A2 in German, essentially in six months.
Shouldn’t be too hard, right?
When making a language learning plan you need a really solid foundation in the language, so the first few months are really crucial to keep building. Remember what I said about making those flashcards in Anki from GermanPod101’s 2,000 core words in German? Oh right, I didn’t tell you it was 2,000 words! Well, it’s actually more than that for me, but that’s only because i’m really thorough. The idea is that core frequency words in a language will help you to understand context and once you reach around 1,000 you should be able to understand around 70% of a basic text and 2,000 should land you somewhere around 80%. Now, I didn’t make up these numbers, they’re presented from Gabriel Wyner in the article “I Learned to Speak Four Languages in a Few Years:Here’s How.” He breaks down his method for rapidly learning languages, and i’m applying a few of his ideas and mixing them with some of the other language learning tips i’ve found while scouring the internet.
Another important part of language learning is having both primary and secondary sources of the language. Meaning, you can’t JUST learn a language from a secondary source (things like: Duolingo, CoffeeBreakGerman, Anki etc.), you need them and they’re valuable sources. But you also need a primary source of some sort, this is where things like structured textbooks, classroom teaching (or if you’re like me and you’re really not into that, individual teaching through Skype or in person), well structured online courses etc. come in.
So what am I doing?:
1. I’m learning the pronunciation of German first, and i’ve been working on it loosely for a little bit now.
2. I will finish the deutschkurse.dw.de, that I already started, and at 4 lessons complete every week, I should be done with it and at an A1 level by April 16th (14 weeks), which gives me till April 20th to study the A1 test before I start my A2 training.
3. I listen to CoffeeBreakGerman twice a week, and since i’m only listening to the podcast and I don’t have the Premium membership. I focus a lot on using it as a listening tool, so I write out any German dialogue, or German words and phrases in a notebook. There are 50 podcasts, and at two 30 min podcasts a week (i’ve already finished two), I should be over half way through the podcasts and 30 podcasts by April 16th.
4. I’m starting to make videos of me speaking German, to try to become “okay” with speaking it a bit more. However, I fully plan on using the language exchange platform Mixxer, to skype exchange with a native German. Let’s try using Sundays for videos, every other Sunday a video. But I will shoot for every Saturday and Sunday doing some form of speaking.
4. I’m using Lang-8, for writing purposes and then importing any corrected texts I create into Anki for review.
5. I use filler programs a little each day (Duolingo, Memrise, Wordpic German, Vocabulix), more so if I have a day where i’m not doing one of the structured lessons from deutschkurse.dw.de.
6. I will also be buying some ‘easy reader’ books that are made for the A1 and A2 levels. A good rule of thumb is that reading material for A1 includes approximately 600 words, A2 around 1,000 words, B1 roughly 1,800, and B2 contains 2,400 words. With that in mind, i’ve found a few texts that i’m going to purchase once i’ve gotten through 600 words.
Once I finish this portion and start my A2 training, I plan to implement a course book either Delfin A2 or Eurolingua A2. Hopefully, i’ll also have ironed out a teacher by then. I understand italki gives new users three reduced trial lessons with an instructor of your choice to test the system; so I might take advantage of that before July. Then blog about italki as a language platform.
Oh, and the most important part of this.
Stop relying on your native language to try to unravel your target language. You won’t retain nearly as much if you’re spending all of your time translating, why? Your brain still has the stronger association of that item in your native language, so it will take you longer to remember what it is in your target language.
I’ve ruled out English on my Anki cards and I only use it minimally in my German notebook.
How can you learn another language if you’re piggy backing off of the language you already know?
It’s that easy!
Are you learning a language this year? Are there any programs or websites you’ve found helpful or would like more information about?
Leave me a comment below!
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