My German abilities are in kind of a weird place. Since both my parents are German, I grew up speaking it at home in the US.
While I speak German fluently, I never had a formal grammar education. After retiring, I wanted to finally fill that gap. Additionally, I wanted to pick up more current German slang.
Here are my tips for how to learn advanced German:
Advanced German Grammar
I was in the unusual position of being a fluent speaker but with virtually no formal grammar knowledge.
After reading Amazon reviews, I purchased Schaum’s Outline of German Grammar, an excellent, thorough text. I spent half an hour a day working through the exercises.
There were lots of light bulb moments for me since I had never formally studied the grammar previously. Working through the exercises, I realized that despite being a fluent speaker, there were times I was using the wrong case.
Easy Languages is a fantastic non-profit that helps people learn languages through authentic conversations in natural, everyday situations. The Easy German channel has videos for all levels, from absolute beginners to advanced.
Don’t miss the Learning German from the Streets series, which will give your ear a chance to become accustomed to the sounds of the language. Also, the insights into the culture are absolutely fascinating!
The show follows the adventures of Jojo, a Brazilian student in Cologne. Episodes are only a few minutes long and the storyline is entertaining. For a C1/C2 speaker like me it was an excellent vocabulary review.
There are three seasons, with the first two being the best in my opinion. I watched the episodes on YouTube, which made it easier to skip the intro and credits.
Deutsche Welle also has a great collection of short videos on current topics for advanced speakers. The most recent releases include German subtitles.
Netflix is one of my favorite ways to practice languages. Don’t miss my lists of:
Here are also a couple of German-language movies I really enjoyed by renowned Turkish-German director Fatih Akin, both available on Netflix DVD only:
Gegen die Wand (Head-On) – DVD only
A strange and touching romance blossoms between two Turkish immigrants in Hamburg who enter a marriage of convenience. Powerful examination of the search for identity by second-generation Turkish immigrants in Germany by Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin.
Auf der Anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven) – DVD only
Another tragic and compelling drama by Fatih Akin that follows the complex interconnected stories of six people, four Turks and two Germans.
Podcasts and Apps
Plenty of contemporary slang, and the guest interviews provide exposure to a variety of regional accents.
Fascinating Bayerischer Rundfunk radio program that tackles one controversial topic in depth per show.
Some sample episode titles: “War Opa ein Nazi?”, “Darf ich für Sex bezahlen?”, “Warum haten wir so viel im Netz?”, and “Wie porno sind wir?”
Fast-paced discussions by youthful reporters are thought-provoking and entertaining and a good opportunity to brush up on colloquial German, including Denglisch, the Anglicisms that have spread virally across German-speaking Europe.
The accompanying YouTube channel is also a great watch.
Tagesschau – ARD App
When short on time the “Tagesschau in 100 Sekunden” news summaries are a convenient option.
German Conversation Practice
In order to practice German conversation with native speakers, I set up regular sessions with tutors on iTalki.
iTalki is a convenient, affordable way to connect online with teachers all over the world.
iTalki’s lessons offer the choice of community tutors or professional teachers. Professional teachers have an official certification and classroom experience, while community tutors are advanced or native speakers who provide informal tutoring or speaking practice.
I decided to work with community tutors rather than professional teachers since I planned to review grammar on my own; it was conversational practice I needed most. Community tutor hourly rates are also much more affordable.
I met with three German iTalki tutors before finding one that really clicked for me. For me, the most important thing in my classes is the chance to speak, since I have plenty of opportunities outside of class to practice my listening skills with podcasts, movies, etc.
Unfortunately, in my experience many tutors tend to dominate the session, turning it into more of a traditional lecture. What works for me personally is an engaged conversation where I get to speak at least 50 percent of the time, so I found a fantastic tutor with a collaborative teaching style who kept the class focused on my conversation practice.
I attend a free German language Meetup in my city that attracts many native speakers from German-speaking countries as well as non-native speakers with a high level of German.
A great opportunity to practice conversation and make new friends.
Some excellent reading suggestions from my iTalki tutors:
Thoughtful and humorous travel memoir by beloved German TV comedian Hape Kerkeling detailing his adventures and insights walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago.
This popular German bestseller helped kick-start the current popularity of the famous pilgrimage route. Available inexpensively used on Amazon.
Imaginative and chilling psychological thriller by bestselling author Sebastian Fitzek. A compulsive read with many twists and turns that makes practicing German fun.
Check your library — I was impressed that my local branch in the US had several of Fitzek’s books in the original German.
Anki is my go-to flashcard program for spaced repetition vocabulary study. The interface for the PC software is fairly dated but it works well.
I have a deck for each language I’m learning (currently Spanish, German, and Portuguese). Any time I come across an interesting new word or phrase, I enter it in Anki.
I create my own vocabulary decks because random lists compiled by others don’t work for me; I’ve found I need to be able to associate the vocabulary mentally with the context I learned it, whether in a conversation I had with someone or in a movie scene. That emotional connection really helps me remember. I review the decks daily.
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Note: If you sign up for iTalki using one of the links on this page, both of us will receive a credit of US $10 after your first lesson. Thanks for helping to support this blog!
Have more suggestions for learning advanced German? Please share your tips for the best ways to learn German in the comments.