FAQs

Who are you?

My name is Richard and I’m a translator and prolific learner of German. I was born near London where I spent the first 22 years of my life. At the age of 17 I decided I wanted to learn German. I was never that good at languages at school, but German seemed to click with me. I taught myself for free using the internet, and found it to be superior compared to the orthodox methods. I went on to study German and linguistics at university and later spent 6 years in Germany. I now work as a translator and German language mentor, helping individuals find their path and achieve confidence in understanding and speaking German.

What is the purpose of this site?

The purpose of this site is to help learners of German find their way. I know how confusing and frustrating learning German can be, and after 12 years learning it myself and studying language acquisition, I think I am in a very qualified position to help learners overcome their hurdles. There are a lot of false beliefs and misnomers surrounding language learning which I hope to clear up, with the ultimate goal of giving learners the skills they need to improve their German quickly and efficiently.

Do you run this site full-time?

I spend a lot of time running this site but I don’t do it full-time. I am primarily a translator and I spend a lot of my time studying as well. I also enjoy riding my bike and travelling.

My dream is to earn enough money to live off by creating learning resources and running this site. For that I need your help. Considering supporting me so that I can spend less time working as a transator and more time working on the site.

Why should I listen to you?

There are two reasons you should listen to me if you want to learn German successfully.

  1. I used to be an adult who could not speak German.
  2. I am now an adult who can speak German to a very high level (C2).

I started off knowing absolutely zero German. Up until the age of 17, I could only speak English. I had never lived in a German-speaking country, nor had any significant contact with German-speaking relatives or friends.

By carefully trying different methods, optimising my learning and studying diligently, I was able to speak German fluently within about 2 years.

I have spent approximately 7,000 hours learning or speaking German over the past 10-12 years, and perhaps half as much again reading and thinking about language learning methods.

Shouldn’t I ask a native speaker of German if I want to learn German?

You may think a native speaker would be a better teacher of German, and you’re right to some extent – native speakers are indeed a better source of natural input and would be better at giving you natural ways of expressing things. They have a more fine-tuned sense of what is correct and what is not.

The problem is, native speakers have no idea how to learn their own language, because they got it for free by being a child in the environment in which it was spoken. If someone tells you how to learn their own native language, they are not speaking from first-hand experience. As a general rule, you should listen to what native speakers say and then analyse and imitate it, but ignore what they say about their language. Asking a native speaker how to learn their language is like asking the child of a billionaire how to get rich. The exception is if someone studied a subject such as linguistics, or learned many languages themself, allowing them to give more objective advice.

Is it really possible to teach yourself a language though? Don’t I need lessons?

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Ultimately, it is up to you to learn a language. You can pay as much money as you want for lessons, but if you aren’t engaged and motivated and you don’t study diligently, then you won’t learn much. You cannot be spoon-fed a language. This is what makes it such a valuable skill – you cannot buy it. If you could, then all the richest people would speak multiple languages. A million dollars to speak French fluently? Bargain. Russian for 10 million – Where do I sign?

On the other hand, if you are a diligent and motivated learner, then you may as well become an independent learner as well.

Advantages of being an independent learner:

  1. You can learn at your own pace
  2. You can choose materials that interest you
  3. You can spend as much time as you like and it won’t cost you anything
  4. You don’t have to travel to classes
  5. There are unlimited high-quality learning resources available online

Don’t I need to speak to people and be immersed in a language to learn it?

Everyone knows that the only way to become fluent in a language is by speaking to other people and being ‘immersed’ in a country where our target language is spoken, right? This is surprisingly not the case. I know this because the first time I went to Germany in 2009 I was able to speak fairly fluently with people despite never having spoken German to anyone in real life before. I had listened to a lot of spoken German on the internet and practised speaking by myself during downtime – while I was in the shower, while waiting for and travelling on the bus to school, or while riding my bike. I used to speak to myself throughout the day or try to construct sentences in my head. Once I was in Germany and somebody spoke to me, I answered naturally, because I understood what they said and I knew how to respond.

If you have a lot of contact with the language, your brain doesn’t know which country you are in. It seems obvious, but many people seem to think that you will learn a language by magic just by being in the country. But this is not the case. If you study Spanish in your bedroom in Ohio, you will learn it much more effectively than if you spend all day on the beach in Spain hanging out with English speakers.

How well can you speak German?

You can see videos of me speaking German and see for yourself. I usually pass as a native speaker in most situations, even in extended conversations one-on-one. People are shocked when I tell them I did not grow up in Germany and don’t have German parents. Some people hear a slight accent but most never notice that anything is amiss. I have always been interested in imitation of accents and languages and it gives me a kind of thrill to try and not get ‘caught’.

How long have you been learning German?

I started in summer of 2008 just before I turned 17, so 12 years ago, but most of the learning occurred at the beginning. I learned intensely in the beginning and I was essentially fluent by 2010. I improved a lot between 2012 and 2013 after spending a year in Germany. After that my level dropped off a bit until I moved back to Germany in 2015. I then spent 5 more years in Germany and my level increased again to a near-native level. I haven’t been actively learning for some years – nowadays I mostly just use it as a daily part of my life.

Do you speak any other languages?

My third best language after English and German is Spanish, but I am no better than B1 level. I have also dabbled in Swedish and Polish in the past, both fun languages, but I don’t speak them.

What is your number one tip for learning German?

Sit down and learn the words until you know all of them.

What’s your favourite German word?

Lieblingswort.

I have an idea, suggestion, question or insult

Great! Please do get in touch. I am always open to feedback and new ideas.