Monday, 5 April 2010

General Tips & Tricks

This podcast gives you a wide range of tips and tricks for learning a language. It focuses on German, but these tips and tricks could be applied to learning any language.

To listen to this podcast on your computer, click here.


Potester said...


I've found the Harry Potter books translated into German to be very useful in helping my German. It is absolutely true that you will learn many words--like Magic and Wizard--that are pretty much useless to adults*, but I think that (a) the books are particularly well translated (so well that you can follow along, sentence for sentence, with the English version and pick up good translations of idiomatic phrases) and (b) the majority of dialogue in the books are both easy to follow and casual, so that you learn useful everyday phrases and reinforce simple classroom scenarios.

Not to mention that you can find German audiobooks of them on Youtube.

However, I think what's most important (for me anyways) is that I'm familiar with the story, so that I can guess at what's going on without constantly looking up words. This makes it a little more like learning by conversing: you start to figure out what words are most useful to you and how to properly use them.

That's my two cents anyways!

Keep up the great work! GermanGrammarPod has been as useful as the Harry Potter books for me!

Potester said...

I forgot about that asterisk...

*You might be surprised at how often those words come in handy though.

Joe said...

I have started reading 'Wilde Schafsjagd' by Haruki Murakami, having already read the English version 'Wild Sheep Chase.'

I was surprised I could actually understand most of it, despite not being familiar with some of the verb forms. There's something about the simple sentence structure that I also noticed in English, as a result of the fact that it's been translated from Japanese, that makes the job easier and fun.

I have a suspicion the German versions of his other books will be similar!

Thanks for a great podcast


Roslyn said...

Hi, Laura,
I have found the novel "Momo" by Michael Ende very worthwhile and enjoyable to read in German. It is probably a little easier to read than the Harry Potter books, which like Potester I find I can follow more easily because I know the story so well. With "Momo" I can figure out the gist of the story fairly well without looking up words, but of course I have to look up lots of words to get a complete grasp of what's happening.

What I especially like is that "Momo" has many beautiful words in it that I'm HAPPY to look up (even if they're sometimes too literary for me ever to use them). It also has some simple and moving dialogue and story-telling. There is a film of the book too (though I haven't been able to find that in German yet).

The other recommendation I'd like to make is the podcast called "Gruesse aus Deutschland". It is available through i-Tunes and you can download the transcripts from the Goethe Institute in Germany. It is purely in German but very clearly pronounced, humorous and well designed, with 60 podcasts in total and three episodes on each theme.

Laura, thank you very much for your brilliant podcasts. The Goethe Institute should give you a medal or a lifetime scholarship or something. You deserve it!

Ros from Australia

Mike said...

I am surprised that you did not mention language programs for the computer as a tool for learning language. Do you not thing them worthwhile?

Laura said...

Hi Mike,

I didn't know about language programs - unless you mean things like grammar exercises you can fill in online (which I'm guessing you don't, as I mentioned those). What sort of thing do you mean?


Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,

Do you offer German lessons?



Laura said...

Hi DS,

I'm afraid I don't currently have enough free time to be able to offer German lessons, but I very much recommend taking lessons if you can find a teacher.


Anonymous said...

Ok. Thanks for getting back to me so soon.

Thanks also for the great podcast!


Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,
nice work once again. I enjoyed listening. Just a suggestion for a future podcast: the passive. I am quite an advanced learner but some formations of the passive kept throwing obstacles in my way. Still do!

Keep up the good work,


Mike said...

There are multitude of commercial language programs for the home computer. Probably the most popular is Rosetta Stone. I use a program from Instant Immersion that does have fill in the blank grammar exercises which I do not like because they are not well done. But the program has very helpful pronunciation capabilities with a large grammar - over 4000 words. It has voice recognition capabilities and can indicate if you are pronouncing words correctly. It also has many cultural videos with transcriptions in German that help you learn vocabulary.

Bel said...

Hi Laura,

Ive got my German A-Level exam coming up and Im still confused about some grammar aspects. My teacher is a native speaker and speaks impeccable English but he complicates things so that I end up more confused.

Unfortunately, my laptop wont let me listen to your podcasts, otherwise I would use them. I was wondering whether you could give or recommend some simple written explanations on the passive and the conditional (both in present and past tenses)?

It would be great if you could help me out with this.

Bel :)

Laura said...

Hi Bel,

All of my podcasts are available as transcripts. Go to this site (here's a split up version of the address in case blogspot deleted the end - it seems to do that with longer strings of letters: germangrammarpod/ Click on the topic you're interested in. You should see links for a pdf and an html version of each transcript at the top of the page. I've partially covered the passive under the podcast on the future tense.

Other than that, I recommend, for instance

(Broken into sections in case blogspot cuts off the end: weekly/aa012901a.htm )

and Canoo (possibly a bit hard to understand in places, but very accurate and thorough, so perhaps best to use after you've read me and/or, if you're looking to follow up on something more thoroughly), for instance

(Broken into sections in case blogspot cuts off the end: OnlineGrammar/Wort/Verb/Genera/ Vorgangspass.html?lang=en )

Good luck with your German A level!

Anonymous said...


I've been learning German on my own for almost a year now and I enjoy learning grammar. However I am not that strong in my vocabulary and I was wondering if you know vocabulary that is used in everyday conversation that would be very useful since I don't know what words to learn now and what to learn later. This Summer I was hoping that I could focus on learning vocabulary since I do not have to go to school.

thank you,

Laura said...

Hi Josh,

I have two recommendations for learning words:

1) Get a beginners' text book for German (for instance from you local library) and, starting at the beginning, learn any words and phrases that sound either like things you'd say or like things you might expect to receive as answers to questions that interest you. This is a useful approach, because it'll teach you phrases as well as words, and how people phrase things varies a lot between languages.

2) Learn the top 200, 500 or 1000 (depending on how much time you have) most common words. provides this useful list: (here's the link again broken up into sections in case blogspot cuts the end off: library/blwfreq01.htm) Its problem is that it doesn't have English translations or any guide to pronunciation, however you can look these words up on which will provide you both with a list of possible translations and an audio file of a computer generated voice and/or a German native speaker saying the word. It even has a vocab trainer option which you can use to learn the words of your choice:

Good luck with the vocab learning. I find learning vocab on its own a very boring task, so any methods that you can come up with for making it more interesting, or even just interspersing it with other more fun activities, should help you stick at it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the websites.

Bel said...

Thanks Laura!

Bel :D

Anonymous said...

I just listened to your podcast. Thanks for your insights. Two comments...

1. Flash cards can be expanded to include complicated sentences and idiomatic phrases. These have helped me a lot.

2. I have found the Collins German dictionary for the Iphone/Ipod touch to be very comprehensive and easy to use. It has a search history feature, so when I find a word I don't know I can look it up and store it for later transferral to a flash card.


Anonymous said...

I love your podcasts! They are very informative and I find that I understand very well with the way you teach. However I am also wondering why there are only 17 episodes in Itunes? For instance, the podcast on the Genitive Case (and everything but the Dative Case) is missing, as well as the other podcasts on the past tense. I hope to download them all (if you don't mind that is) since I am self-learning German and your podcast is a very good motivator. Cheers!

Laura said...

Hi anon,

You're very welcome to download all the podcasts. I'm delighted people find them useful. That's exactly what I made them for, and everyone's very welcome to download all of them.

I'm not sure why iTunes isn't showing all of them, and unfortunately I'm not quite sure how to put that right. If necessary you can listen to all the podcasts directly from this blog. You can also download them from here by right clicking the link (it usually says
To listen to this podcast on your computer, click here) and choosing "Save as...". Then, once its saved you can fetch it into iTunes by clicking File in iTunes, then Add to Library and browsing your computer for where you saved the file. Hope this helps.

Melanie said...

Huge thanks! Your suggestions are helping me a lot and making this round of language learning a much happier and rewarding experience for me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura.

In Australia, we don't get a lot of exposure to different languages, and at school, language lessons don't go into a lot of detail. Your podcasts have helped heaps, especially the tips and tricks one, I now listen to German music, use some websites you have suggested and read German websites. My German has improved a lot. thanks : )

Anonymous said...

Thank you Laura for more great insight. I see you as hitting the top part of the scale in German proficiency-- from a translator's viewpoint. It is your job to make it all sound right in the translated-to tongue, but as an intermediate student I also appreciate your "literal" translations. This is many times an overlooked step or gradient when learning a language in most books or courses-- the literal translation needs to be made first, then rearranged in the translators mind to sound less awkward in the translated-to language.

Dom said...

Hi Laura,

Thanks for doing such a great job on explaining everything you have done so well. I think some of the challenges I had while learning German at school and through university was not knowing how German structural and grammatical components related to their English equivalents. Partly due to some ambiguity that can be had in direct translating but also through the previous lack of understanding on how English works from a technical standpoint as a native speaker.... Hmmm, I'm possibly veering waywardly towards the average German sentence length there!

Anyway, I have been introduced to the German Word app for the iPhone and found it useful to learn new words and how to use them in context. It also tests whether you remember the words and if can spell them:

Best wishes


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