Here’s how I’m studying right now. So far it’s been extremely effective for my specific goals.
I’m studying for a reading proficiency test and ultimately a translation test, so I’m tailoring my efforts toward passing my exams. I’m trying to improve my listening, as well, because I think that good listening skills lend well to good global language skills. But I’m not paying much if any attention to my speaking and writing abilities.
I’ll wake up and do the following before going to work:
- Drill 8 to 20 flashcards using the Readlang app on my phone (more on Readlang to follow).
- Complete two grammar drills in the book “Practice Makes Perfect: Intermediate German Grammar.”
- Read a couple articles in Huffington Post Deutschland or Bild. I’ve subscribed to those pages (and other German media) on Facebook so I pick anything that looks interesting to me.
Total time: 30 minutes
On my drive to work, I:
- Listen to German music or podcasts. My commute lasts about a half hour. I’m listening to the same stuff over and over, so I’m going to have to get new material.
- Do some language shadowing, singing along, spot translation, or repeating after the speaker. This constitutes my “active listening” activity.
Total time: 15 to 30 minutes
During my morning break, I:
- Do an intensive reading exercise with Readlang and Deutsche Welle. (Explained below.)
Total time: 15 minutes
During my lunch break, I:
- Watch a fun show on my phone, like a sitcom or cartoon.
Total time: 30 minutes
After dinner and/or after my son goes to bed, I:
- Do another intensive reading exercise.
- Review vocabulary words.
- Read more news or clickbait articles.
- Watch a German-language documentary, news program, or show on YouTube.
Total time: One hour
So for the day, I devote approximately two and a half hours to language learning. Some days, it’s a little more. Some days, a little less.
I always warn people to be careful with intensive reading. I think the risk is that you’ll obsess over every word, develop slow reading habits, and not learn the skill of using intuition and contextual clues to determine meaning.
But I can’t deny that it’s a great way to build vocab. I’m learning about 20 to 30 words a day right now from using this technique. I’m just careful not to make intensive reading my only exposure to the language.
Basically, for this I’m using the Readlang tool I mentioned above. The process I use goes:
- Find an article on the Deutsche Welle website. Right now I’m using the “Top Thema” articles.
- Copy and paste the article into Readlang.
- Double-click the words or phrases I don’t know. For each double-clicked word, Readlang offers a definition (which is usually correct, but sometimes wrong or out of context) and also adds the words to a list.
- Drill the new words.
- Listen to the audio reading of the text. (This is a big reason I’m using Deutsche Welle’s materials–they provide audio readings for their texts.) If I’m by myself, I’ll read aloud with the speaker.
So here’s the article I worked on this morning for my intensive reading exercise:
The name of this article is “Ex-Soldiers in the Paralympics.”
After I’ve gone through and double-clicked the words I don’t know (or have forgotten), the article now looks like this:
Some of those words and phrases are translated improperly, but most are fine. It’s pretty easy to spot the incorrect ones because I can’t make sense of the sentence, and then I fix them during flashcard review.
There are ten to fifteen words I didn’t know in this article, out of 241 total words. So I know about 95% of the words in this text. I can figure out most of the article’s meaning from context. But by the time I’m finished with this activity, I try to make sure that I can understand every sentence pretty precisely.
I’ll drill these words using flashcards, listening to them on Forvo, employing spaced repetition (which is built into Readlang), and whatever else I can think of to make them stick. I’ll also read and listen to these articles again and again to make sure I’m reviewing the new words in context.
With two articles a day, I’m getting about 20 new words. I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks and have noticed that I’m starting to see some newly learned words over and over again.
I’m also able to understand newspaper articles much better than I was before. This is after two weeks or so. Hopefully, by the end of 90 days, I’ll have made some significant improvements.
So that’s it. I know it’s boring and tedious, but that’s the reality of serious language learning. If you’re trying to make improvements in a short period of time, you have to sit down and put in the effort.
Good luck with your own studying! Let me know in the comments what your own schedules look like.