Moving to a country before knowing the language can be really frustrating. When I first came to Germany, I barely spoke a German word. It took me almost 3 years until I was able to have some basic conversation in German!
After years of painful process, here are my tips how to learn a new language faster:
(1) Make local friends
When you are new to a country, you will find it comfortable to meet some other people who are also new. There is nothing wrong with making international friends. However, if you want to learn the language fast, you will need some balance in your friend circle. The best would be to hang out with many local friends, and speak with them in their language.
One good way to make local friends is to live in a shared flat, which is very common in Germany. This is not only good for the language, but also for your social life as you will probably become friends with them. If you have a local partner, it is even better, as long as you are talking with each other in the local language!
(2) Watch movies in local language
Two to three years ago, I started to watch Hollywood movies with German dubbing, because I really wanted to improve my German listening. I enjoy the movies, and I am learning German at the same time. I have to say that my German listening skills have improved SIGNIFICANTLY since I started watching lots of movies in German.
I used Netflix and Amazon Prime, where you can choose different languages for dubbing and subtitle. As I make it an entertainment for me while learning, I didn’t suffer like when I was studying with a book or something. However, you can only start doing this once you have sufficient German level to follow the film. You can start with listening to German, but put the English subtitle on. At some point in time, you will get used to how German sounds like and the sentence structure. When you are ready, you can then switch the subtitle to German too. And in the end, no more subtitle!
The idea of tandem is that you partner up with someone who is native. This partner can teach his language, and you can teach him your language in return. For example, I used to meet with my tandem partner once a week for two to three hours in a café. He taught me German for the first one to two hours, and I taught Chinese in return for the rest of the time. I asked him any language questions I had, or sometimes we just chatted in German and he corrected my sentences.
You can search for tandem partner online, or sometimes your university/company may offer this. The advantage is that it is free of charge and you can probably make some local friends with that. The downside is that it would take up some time for you to teach a language in return. Besides, the tandem partner is most likely not a professional teacher, meaning that he may not be able to explain the rules behind the language.
(4) Intensive class
An intensive class means that you are taking classes at least three hours a day, four to five times a week. A course usually takes a couple of weeks. I took an intensive class after 2 years in Germany. After the class, I was finally able to speak in sentences!
This is best for students during semester break, or ideally if you have 6 to 12 month time before your study begins. This is a great way to get a good language skills before starting your studies. All my friends who did it like this spoke fluent German really fast. It is much more effective comparing to people like me, who came directly to work or study in English, and need to learn German in the free time.
Note that the class is only useful if you are also putting effort outside the class, e.g. doing homework. If you just go to the class without studying afterwards, and hope to be able to speak German just by that, I am afraid you might be disappointed!
(5) Speak and use the language
Speak the language as much as you can. Don’t care about how stupid it sounds or what other people think about how you talk. Nobody really cares anyway!! I know people who tried to talk in German all the time even though their German was horrible. They might even mixed some English words in between. They ended up learning much faster. People will not laugh at you. They will actually even appreciate that you are making a lot of effort in learning their language and will try to help you!
The best to learn a language is to be exposed and forced to use the language, no matter you like it or not. For example, this can be done when you study in German, or work in an office with Germans. Yes it will be very painful. But no pain no gain. That is also why I mentioned before it is good to first take some intensive class before starting the real study or work. If you are forced to use the language every day, you will be good very soon.
So, these are the five best ways that worked best for me to learn German. Besides these, I have tried many other methods to learn German. If you are interested, have a look at my other post as well: My 10 fun ways to learn German. I am sure you will find some ways that work best for you!