10 Tips For Successful Online German Speaking Lessons
So you want to start having online German speaking lessons. Congrats!
In the era of globalization, where the internet makes everything possible our physical presence is no longer a necessity for learning a foreign language. Now we can simulate an almost total immersion without moving from our living room.
But talking to a native via Skype or italki can be intimidating. That’s why I wanted to give you a few tips to consider before having those first virtual encounters.
1. Prepare The Topic
If you know what the topic is going to be about, prepare some notes and keywords.
Or if you already know what you would like to be able to say in German, tell your tutor beforehand, this will make things a lot easier.
Also, it’s useful to have a note-taking app or google document ready, with words or sentences you would like to learn or use during the lesson. This is why it’s important to previously talk about the topic with your tutor, as she might want to talk about something completely different than you had prepared for.
But keep in mind that you can’t always prepare for every lesson. Some tutors, including me, sometimes don’t need their students to prepare anything as the point of the lesson can be teaching you the vocabulary of a specific topic.
2. Have a Tab With Google Translate Ready
Sometimes in the middle of your German speaking session while the conversation is already flowing (even if slow) it’s a lot easier for you to quickly say “einen Moment, bitte” and look up the word yourself, than interrupting the conversation and asking your tutor.
3. Use a Computer
Take the lesson calls from your computer instead of your phone. Not only is a computer more stable which helps with concentration, but many teachers will want to use a variety of multimedia files like video, audio and text documents during the lessons. On the phone, you won’t be able to navigate as seamlessly between them.
4. Use headphones
Use headphones to avoid bad sound quality. They are not only important to reduce background noises but also to avoid the speaker hearing their own voice. This echo effect can be so pronounced that it becomes impossible to follow the conversation. So always keep your headphones within reach.
Also always do a quick camera and sound check to avoid an uncomfortable situation or losing valuable lesson time.
5. Don’t Worry About Grammar and Errors
Your tutor isn’t expecting you to have great German skills, because why on earth would you want to book a lesson then?
What’s our goal when speaking German together? To use the language! No matter how many errors you make, if you have used the language you have succeeded!
Worrying too much about the right structures and grammar couldn’t be any more counterproductive and less effective.
Also, keep in mind that no level is too low. Every effort counts and is usually highly admired by a caring tutor.
6. Say it simply
When you first start talking in German your vocabulary will be quite limited, that’s why you have to try to use what you have and explain the best you can. I always tell my students to imagine speaking to a four-year-old. If you’re a beginner or low intermediate student and you most probably won’t be able to say anything a four-year-old wouldn’t understand.
What is taking a leave? A work pause.
Of course, you want to keep learning new words, but this process requires you to find a good ratio of new ones and using those that are already in your vocabulary.
7. Speak Slowly
This doesn’t apply to every learner, but many tend to speak way too quickly.
Speaking, in the beginning, is a hard task.
You have to focus on so many things at once: you have to think of the words in German, remember their gender, think the sentence structure through, maybe decline some nouns, twist your tongue to actually make them sound German…
There are so many things to take into account!
If you accelerate that process you’re going to be constantly stumbling over yourself. There’s no one rushing you (or there shouldn’t be) so take as much time as you need to speak slowly, pause and think.
8. Awkward pauses and thinking
Speaking about pausing and thinking, these are perfectly normal behaviours that every native does. Saying lots of uhm’s and ehr’s is just natural. Some Germans use them more, some less. Although using these sounds is a matter of choice, they are more natural to hear than silence. Just pay attention to how you would speak in your native language when you’re having a hard time explaining something.
9. Don’t be nervous
Many people that would like to have online lessons don’t ever dare to take the first step because they just feel too nervous and uncomfortable at the thought of it, especially if it’s your first German speaking lesson.
You have to understand that everybody gets nervous in this kind of environment from time to time. Of course, there are some students that appear to be so relaxed that I’m inclined to think that they do nothing else all day, but these cases are rare. Many of my recurring students tell me that they still feel a little nervous before our lessons.
But you can control that by diminishing the pressure you put on yourself. It’s just normal, in one on one lessons every lesson feels like a little test because there is only you and your tutor. But the seriousness of the lesson is just a matter of perspective. I’ve had students having a quick meal in a gas station, hurrying after their children and only listening to me half-heartedly or even driving to work.
It’s also useful to remember that your tutor hasn’t met you either and might be just as nervous for your first meeting. Whenever I meet a student for the first time I am excited and a bit nervous, too. And sometimes I still get nervous with recurring students. That just means you are taking it very seriously
Also, remember that this is not a school room in 1965. Online tutoring is usually a lot more relaxed than traditional environments used to be. Most tutors are really fun and easy to talk to. They make mistakes and they laugh and they expect you to be just as human as they are. No one expects perfection.
If you had an uncomfortable or awkward encounter don’t give up on the idea of online lessons. There are tutor-student matches that work so well they have a hard time not becoming friends, whereas others just feel wrong. Some matchings just aren’t meant to be. Move on and find a different tutor. Now at least you know what you don’t want and you can narrow your personal search preferences.
10. How to Find a Great German Tutor Online
Write them your questions and doubts. A good teacher won’t be bothered by you requesting a bit more information but will be happy to help.
Always try to get a trial lesson. You can’t know before you haven’t tried it. It also might be a good idea to try out a few different teachers until you find the right one for you.
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So these were my 10 most important tips for taking German speaking lessons but we’re not finished yet, let’s add one bonus tip!
11. Some Useful Expressions When Talking in German
Entschuldigung – Excuse me, sorry
Der Unterricht – classes / lessons
Wie, bitte? – I beg your pardon?
Ich verstehe nicht. – I don’t understand.
Kannst du das wiederholen? – Can you repeat that?
Einen Moment, bitte – one moment, please
Ich will sagen… – I want to say…
Ich meine… – I mean…
Keine Ahnung. – I don’t know / No idea.
Ich weiß nicht. – I don’t know.
Ich muss (kurz) nachdenken – I have to think (for a second)
besser gesagt – better said, more precisely
sozusagen – so to speak
also – so (As in “So I went to the doctor the other day.”)
tja – well
naja – well
und ja – and yeah (in pauses when you are thinking)
Done! You’re all set.