Now there are more people in the world speaking English as a foreign language than ever. This has brought people many advantages as people are able to have a common language to learn rather than having to learn many languages, or not being able to understand eachother at all. 1,500 million people worldwide speak English with 375 million being native speakers. For English native speakers, this means we are outnumbered out but it also provides new opportunities to be undercover by learning new languages and making the most of the vast amount of international cities there are today.
Berlin is wonderfully international. Just like London.
In a large city full of start-ups, graduates from all over the world and international enterpreneurs, English has become so wide-spread not only as a foreign language but also as a second language as globalisation means there are more bilingual children than ever.
Everyone wants to know how to become more fluent and make fewer mistakes. I often have had lovely comments on my accent or vocabulary from expats in Berlin or even native speakers. One of the questions which always comes up is how I learned to speak more fluently since moving to Berlin in July 2015.
My guide here is for those who reach a level where they are able to understand 50% when listening to someone is speaking or read a text and manage to understand most of it and recognise the tenses used. For beginners I recommend starting at the basics for grammar structures then repeating, listening, reading and speaking by finding out what makes it fun for you.
Native speaker influence
The best way to pick up a language is to listen to native speakers. I would recommend doing this more often once you reach B1 and B2 level as knowledge of basic grammar structures and how they’re used is needed here.
When I lived in Paris I used to go to soirées and just be an active listener. With my glass of wine. I was too slow to react and contribute to any conversation but this way I managed to pick up how people my age were using language conversationally, and also colloquially.
If you’re more digitally inclined get Evernote and start a vocab list. In iPhone there is a Notes section – this is how I started compiling lists of words which I came across and wanted to remember. You can write down the gender and even have pages for different languages. I use it for so many things. Best. thing. ever.
Use technology to your advantage
The more you read, the better your genders will become. I now have it in my head that anything ending in -ung is feminin -um is neuter and -ling -us -ant is masculin.
– Buy a TV for your time in Berlin and watch ARD, cooking shows or anything that interests you. I bought a box with a few channels and the picture quality was excellent for a TV lent to me from 1995.
– Downdload a news App in German on your phone so you can learn new vocabularly in context here and there.
Don’t be afraid to read something very simple. Read up about German as a language so you can clear up any grammar questions you have.
Read blogs, watch Youtube videos or even start with radio. I used to like some of the light-hearted radio stations in Braunschweig in the mornings. Points if you get the jokes, of course.
For someone with a short attention span, if I don’t understand much of the language its very hard to stay focused or interested. Check out Tagesschau for quick snippet of news in video format.
Be patient and allow yourself to make mistakes
Learning a language is a slow ongoing process. Although you can speed it up only if you practise everyday. Apps like Babble and Duolingo are perfect for practising those verbs, nouns, sentences whilst travelling on your way to work. My best advice, especially whilst living abroad, is to go out as much as possible and speak to lots of different people. You’ll be surprised at how many people really are patient with you and won’t judge you for mistakes. My best advice is to spend time with native speakers and really make an effort – it will pay off. In a year I would say I improved 40% by talking to natives and putting myself out there instead of staying quiet.
I would recommend getting a notebook for vocabularly along with some different coloured pens. I find it really encourages you to go back to your notes and you can re-read old vocab.