In the City of Sisterly Love, there are so many ways to learn German. For one, Pennsylvania is the US state with the largest population of German Americans with approximately 3.5 million people claiming to be of German ancestry. Philadelphia is in fact home to an original early German settlement, Germantown, which was founded in 1683 and now located in the city’s Northwest region.

In the influx of German immigrants in Pennsylvania and later around the US and Canada a dialect was spoken, which was coined, Pennsylvania German. Around 300,000 people in the United States and Canada speak the German dialect with around 10% of speakers being in Pennsylvania alone.

Taking German lessons in Philadelphia is great as 30% of the population claims German descent
Around 30% of Pennsylvania's population claim German ancestry. (Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash)

With German culture having such a mark in the city, learning how to speak German could forge a better understanding of Philadelphia’s culture. There are several methods of learning German in Philly that will allow you to reach a high level of fluency. Hiring a private tutor, taking German classes at a cultural center or local college, or taking a self-guided approach are some of the ways you can pave the way to mastering the art of the German language.

The Self-Guided Guide to Learning German

Mastering a foreign language solo can come with its hurdles, but with the multitude of resources online and on textbooks, you can form great habits for your self-guided German quest. Below are a few learning tips to get you from zero to German novice.

  • Listening + Repeating: It is crucial that you start from the very basic framework when learning German. Even if you feel like you can skip the basics it is always best to review and repeat starting with the German alphabet and each of the letters’ sound. Once each letter sounds is mastered moving to letter combinations is the next step, while distinguishing the differences. The German alphabet also uses letters with accent marks known as an umlaut, which changes the pronunciation of the letters and the words when used.
  • Foundational Words: Once letters and their sounds have been perfected, basic German words can be brought into the lessons. These words will lay the foundation for your German vocabulary building and associations. German core word lists can be found all around the web, while the use of an online translator or an English to German dictionary is also a key tool to use.
  • Vocabulary Expansion: Now that you’ve mastered the German alphabet and German 100 core words – what’s next? Expanding your vocabulary is the answer. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives lists will help you through this next process, which can start getting daunting but just keep pushing! Flashcards with word associations and reference to its English translation can help in abundance. Repetition and memorization are key during this phase.
  • Pronunciation Patterns: Recognizing German pronunciation patterns can help you group words with their meaning and their tense. Listening to German phonetic recordings and repeating every sound will also help you familiarize yourself with the use of pauses and typical vibrations of words.
German lessons can be stressful at times but nothing worth having comes easy
Learning German can seem daunting, but as soon as you've learned its rules it's easy to pick up. (Photo by Christina on Unsplash)
  • Sentence + Phrase Structure: Having the foundational work above laid out, will help you process putting sentences and phrases together. Explanations of German grammar, word order, and sentence structure can be found online and through German learning textbooks. Once you’ve caught on to the rules you can start practicing while using resources to aid your practice. Mobile applications like Duolingo are a great source when practicing simple sentence structure.
  • Watch Movies + Read Books: As your level starts to improve and you’ve started to understand some basic foundational German, you can start moving into German media. Watching films with English subtitles and reading children’s books are a few ways to start expanding your vocabulary and improve your German comprehension.

With these few simple tips, you can easily self-guide the process of learning how to speak German and improving your fluency. And once you’ve mastered a few of these steps and are still interested in learning the Pennsylvania German dialect, the online Pennsylvania German newspaper has resources to jump-start your learning with 41 lessons that include pre-recorded videos and detailed slides.

Learn to Speak German in a Group Setting

Some students choose to learn German in group settings because it allows them to meet new people and interact with other fellow classmates that are also German language beginners. Interactions are a key component and advantage for learners in a classroom setting. Class interactions give students opportunities to not only learn in a social and collaborative atmosphere but also reflect on their use of learned grammar and vocabulary. Meaningful conversations in German, even at their most basic form, can help students distinguish their German phonetics while forming new linguistic understandings and patterns of the foreign language.

Group exercises with cooperative strategies are also a great strong suit when learning German in a group setting. German teachers along with other language instructors often use these strategies which include:

  • Asking follow-up questions and encourage continued interactions
  • Giving or requesting clarification to increase language comprehension
  • Correcting other’s mistakes and or use of grammar
  • Giving and asking for help from other fellow students

These cooperative strategies help students feel more comfortable when practicing German outside of the classroom as well. Students normally do not feel as intimidated speaking German or asking for corrections after running through the exercises in class constantly.

Practicing your German lessons with peers can be an advantage to your retention
Students retain 10% more information when in an interactive classroom. (Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash)

The German Society of Pennsylvania and the Immanuel German School offer students a variety of German classes at every level with opportunities to attend their hosted events all year round. If you’re enrolled in a local college or university the option to take German courses is also a viable option. Taking German in college will not only allow you to earn college credit, but also access to special study abroad programs around Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and more.

Private German Lessons without the Price Tag

Private lessons, on the other hand, won’t give you the chance to meet other students, but it will allow for more optimized lesson plans focused on your German learning goals. If you run a busy schedule, then working with a private tutor will also give you the extra flexibility needed to make your own class timeframes, meeting place, and the pace at which you want to learn at. Classes can also be formulated to reach a specific goal or for a specific environment such as German at a workplace or for the science and engineering industries. The more detailed you are at defining your personal goals the easier it will be to narrow down your tutor options.

Searching for German lessons near me just got easier. Online communities like Superprof make finding German classes in cities like New York and Philadelphia easier and affordable. With one quick search you can find local Philly German tutors or from around the world, test-run a lesson before committing, and pay for every lesson as you go. German lessons in Philadelphia in a classroom setting range from $250 for a six-week term to upwards of $550 for a 12-week term with payment being upfront. Whilst private lessons through Superprof tutors range from $15/hour to $50/hour with first lessons free and pay as you go guarantee.

You can also find German language lessons at either US coasts from the East to the West and every city in between including Boston, LA, Chicago, and Houston.

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A California desert-native who has a passion for baking from scratch, reading 1950-era novels, listening to soul/jazz, and global trotting.