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3 common mistakes people make when learning German ... and how to avoid them

Imagine being in the Alps on a warm, sunny day. You want to go for a hike and climb a huge mountain.

German language learning is like climbing a mountain with a beautiful view

Now, there are several trails leading to the top to choose from:

  • Some that might be a bit more steep at the beginning but will quickly lead to a beautiful view.

  • And others, much longer ones, that seem to be slightly easier at the beginning but will become very winding with muddy parts, threatening you to get stuck.

Easy choice, isn't it?

With languages it is similar. If you understand why you should take the road that is slightly steeper at the beginning, you can avoid getting stuck so many times along the way.

Learn from the 3 biggest mistakes other German learners have made and speed up your language journey:

# 1 Not learning the articles along with new nouns

When you’re just starting to learn your first German words and sentences, you might think that people will understand you anyway.

Artikel lernen: der Löffel, das Messer, die Gabel

At that stage, whenever you get mixed up with articles, people will either pretend not to notice or cheer you on for making the effort to speak German at all - They might even tell yout that "it doesn't matter".

And really, why should a fork be feminine, a knife neuter, and a spoon masculine?

Why bother with this illogical, boring stuff?

If you think about grammar being the framework for a house, then the nouns might be the walls. The great thing about walls in this ‘house of German’ is: you can move the walls around to new places.

Wouldn’t you love to be able to move walls within your house? Create a bigger room, when needed? Change the feeling of a room by choosing a wall with a different shade in the morning than in the evening?

Well, this is what you can do with German sentences.

For example:

  • Die Mutter gibt dem Kind den Stift– the mother gives the pencil to the kid.

You could also say:

  • Dem Kind gibt die Mutter den Stift.

  • Den Stift gibt die Mutter dem Kind.

As the main stress is usually put on the first noun, each of these sentences will have a slightly different meaning – but it will always tell us that there is a mother who is giving a pencil to a kid.

If you are using the wrong articles, people may be confused if the context isn’t obvious.

Or you might be confused about something that someone else is saying if you can’t identify the articles: why would a pencil give the mother to the child??? This will make your communication so much harder.

Not having learned the articles at the beginning means you will need to go back to studying them later. In the worst case, you’ve already associated the wrong article with a noun and really have to work on that.

Therefore: save yourself from this frustration and learn the article + noun together.

Even better: put in the plural form as well and you'll be perfectly equipped for your language journey:

article + noun + plural - e.g.:

  • der Stift, Stifte

  • das Kind, Kinder

  • die Mutter, Mütter

Think of it as some sort of study one – get two free!

# 2 Not working seriously on pronunciation and intonation right from the start.

This doesn’t mean at all that you should try and sound exactly like a German!

But in any language, using intonation patterns (like the rising or lowering of the voice or emphasizing the right part of a word) and good pronunciation will make you sound much more competent. Locals will also perceive your language level as higher.

The reason is that while we pick up mistakes like the wrong articles consciously, we tend to take in the pronunciation and intonation subconsciously.

This is particularly important if you are working in a position where people look up to you as a leader or an authority like a manager, a doctor, or a nurse: people will not trust you as much if they “feel” that there is something odd in the way you're saying things, even if every single one of your sentences is grammatically correct.

Fortunately, this is not difficult to learn. I am always amazed at how much more competent and ‘German’ my students sound after just some exercises!

#3 Taking long breaks from studying.

As with so many things in life, consistency is key when it comes to learning languages.

It can be extremely frustrating and discouraging if you have been studying German diligently for many weeks, then go on a well-deserved holiday and come back having forgotten so much.

Fortunately, you can avoid this quite easily:

How about simply reading a book in German, or listening to an audiobook or podcast while spending time outside?

Just 15 minutes every other day will do the trick of reminding your brain of this strange new language it is supposed to learn.


One very easy way is: to follow some German accounts on Instagram. This way you are reminded of many things you’ve studied and maybe even learn a few things in addition. My account is @deutsch.charlingua and I’d be thrilled to welcome you to our language learning community!

It will also be helpful if you establish a daily routine – habits that will help you improve your German almost on autopilot.


Now you know the 3 biggest mistakes people make when learning German.

You can now easily avoid them!

If you‘ve got any questions or want to learn German with me, just send me a message! I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


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