I started absorbing German one week ago.
And I decided to time everything.
I’m singing a song? Time it.
I’m looking for resources? Time it.
I’m writing my first German lines? Time it!
And here it is in this post. Everything I did this week, minute by minute.
I divided my days into several study sessions. I wanted to do three 1-hour sessions per day at first. I’ll let you discover whether I followed this routine or not.
I don’t dwell too much on my strategy in this post. I explained it in a previous post if you’re interested. Here you just have a journal of my German challenge.
Pronunciation – 23 min
12 min on introduction and vowels – I started with pronunciation and read the German phonology wikipedia page. This is where you find all the sounds you need to speak and understand spoken German.
It seems like German has different dialects, with some differences in terms of pronunciation. I won’t pay much attention to this. I will just focus on Standard German and what I hear in songs and videos.
What I noticed:
- there are short and long vowels,
- there are rounded and unrounded vowels (/i/ ←→ /y/),
- there are a lot of vowels! With some of them being really close to each other, like a mix of English and French (or other Germanic languages, like Scandinavian languages).
There doesn’t seem to be any isolated problem. But I know it’s going to be harder once I start singing.
7 min on consonants – Nothing exciting except the two monsters /ç/, and /x/. The latter is a kind of Spanish jota, or a guttural r higher in the throat, closer to the palate. And the former is like sh in she but deeper in your mouth, closer to the uvula.
4 min – Read the rest of this page. There doesn’t seem to be a simple stress pattern. According to the page, most words are usually stressed on the first vowel BUT there are many exceptions… which I will not bother to memorize!
Also recorded myself several times to compare with the original audio.
Goal – 5 min
I added this German YouTuber (Julien Bam) to my list of native resources on my blog a while back. I don’t remember exactly how I found it. I started adding native resources to my blog a few months ago. And I must have stumbled upon some German YouTubers that I added.
But, no worries, you don’t have to rely on luck. Simply read this post where I show you how to find YouTube channels in your target language.
I’m going to use Julien’s videos to set a goal. I aim at communication, not perfection, with a strong emphasis on oral comprehension. And so my goal is: “Understand 75% of Julien Bam’s videos.”
Singing – 17 min
I like to use Disney songs when I start absorbing a foreign language. They’re fairly simple, and you already know the melody. So you only have to focus on the sounds and lyrics in your target language.
There’s one song I really like: How far I’ll go, from the movie Moana. Or Ich bin bereit, the German version. I searched for “moana german” on YouTube, and it was the first video (with subtitles and translation).
I used this song for my routine on day 1. I didn’t pay much attention to the meaning of the lyrics. I was focused on the sounds and the audio.
These 17 minutes felt intense. It was time to end this first session.
Session 2 – 1h03
I reviewed what I had seen earlier. And then same routine with the rest of the song.
I also recorded myself singing several times, in order to check my pronunciation.
Session 3 – 43 min
I reviewed the parts of the song I had seen in the first two sessions. And I absorbed the rest of the song.
45-60 min per session seems to be enough. My head already hurts! But I’m pleasantly surprised by how far I’ve gone in just one day. The sounds are close to English and French, so it helps a lot for the oral comprehension.
Ich bin bereit – Moana – 21 min
I sang, with the help of the lyrics. But I was able to sing along without relying too much on the text.
Then I analyzed the lyrics and their translation.
What simple structures can I spot?
Are there some words that appear frequently?
Or some useful connectors (but, and, or, …)?
I don’t bother to memorize these words. I know that I will be able to assimilate them by reviewing the song and the lyrics in the following days. I also started what I call a dicomusic: A Google doc spreadsheet, where I add English words and where (=songs) I can find their German equivalents. The first column contains some English words I think are useful, and/or frequent. Then each column represents a song. The corresponding cell is green when you can find a certain word in this song.
I don’t like vocabulary lists. I don’t like flashcards. I don’t like plain translation without context.
This dicomusic (dico is short for dictionary in French) is my way to keep track of where I can find the words I need to refresh in my memory.
I’ve never done anything similar in the past. So it’s a first, and it might be absolutely useless. Only time will tell.
There were only a few words at the beginning. And I add more words when I’ve found every item on the list. Or when I come across a word I want to keep track of in a song.
UPDATE (written at the end of week 1): I stopped updating the dicomusic after a few songs. It was a good idea at first. But then I forgot about it. And when I remembered, I just didn’t care.
Roem – 1 min
As I said in my day 0 post, I want to have more output than I had with my previous challenges. I said I wanted to rap. My initial idea was to write a few lines, with rhymes, everyday. But I want to do something else instead: I will write a few lines, with rhymes, everyday. BUT it won’t be an isolated activity. I want to have a roem (rap-poem) by the end of my challenge. So everyday I add one or two more lines, and I work on the previous lines: Are there some mistakes I can now see? Can I change the rhymes? Add better words? Change the order of the sentences? Or completely refocus the topic of the roem?
Yesterday I wrote:
“Der Wind und das Meer
I know, it doesn’t even rhyme! But don’t be harsh, it was only day 1. ^^
“Ich bin bereit
doch ist es (denn) weit
und es ist nicht die Zeit.”
It’s slowly getting better. My only source of German have been the Moana song so far.
Pocahontas – 15 min
I finished Ich bin bereit, so I needed a new song. I listened to A whole new world (Aladdin) in German, but didn’t like it. I mean it was okay But there’s this moment when Aladdin and Jasmine sing different lyrics at the same time. I couldn’t just focus on one, and it was slightly annoying. So I just moved on to another song I like: Colors of the wind, from Pocahontas. It’s Farbenspiel des Winds in German. And I used the same routine.
By the way, I searched for “aladdin german”, and “pocahontas german”, to find these two songs. If you’re looking for a certain Disney song, type the English name followed by your target language. You can find a lot of these songs on YouTube. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get videos with lyrics, and sometimes a translation.
It was hard to focus this morning. Not sure exactly why, maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before.
Session 2 – 40 min
I kept going with Pocahontas. I went through the whole song.
Session 3 – 20 min
I reviewed Pocahontas. I analyzed the lyrics. And I added some words to my dicomusic.
Session 4 – 7 min
I started Voll gerne, from Moana. It’s the German version of You’re welcome. I chose this song because I like it and there’s a challenging verse where one of the characters is rapping and singing fast.
This session only lasted 7 minutes because I needed a nap.
Session 5 – 21 min
Routine with Voll gerne. I only went through one verse.
Session 1 – Sing, sing, sing!
18 min – I sang Moana & Pocahontas. I also read the lyrics once (without music) to refresh my memory. I didn’t spend time trying to memorize anything. I just read them, relax & chill.
35 min – I reviewed the last verse of Voll gerne (Moana). I also started absorbing the rap verse. And it was so hard! I couldn’t keep up with the pace. I’ll definitely have to spend more time on this one.
Session 2 – Voll gerne
10 min – As promised: I spent more time on the rap verse.
43 min – I went through the rest of the song. I also recorded myself once to compare my pronunciation with the original song.
Session 3 – 13 min
I sang Voll gerne, the whole song, following with the lyrics. I really needed the lyrics for this song because of the pace. I also analyzed the lyrics (with the translation), and added some words to my dicomusic.
11 min – I reviewed (singing + lyrics) the two songs from Moana, and the song from Pocahontas.
23 min – I had a German roommate a few years ago. He made me listen to a German rapper, named Marteria. I liked his songs. I liked his flow. But I didn’t really care because I couldn’t understand anything.
Now that I’m absorbing German, it changes everything! I’m going to use mostly his songs to absorb the language (maybe also Cro).
And if you’re wondering: “Well I’ve never had a German roommate. So, tell me, how am I supposed to find German singers?!”
Well, I’m glad you asked. Because I thought about it, and I wrote a post on the subject. And I didn’t just write a post about it. I used these same techniques to find foreign singers when I was experimenting with Finnish and Portuguese.
I went to Lyrics Translate to find a song that had been translated. I listened to the first one of the list (Aliens). I liked it, and decided to use it to absorb German. I went through the last verse during this session.
3 min – I worked on my roem. Added a couple of phrases.
27 min – I listened to and sang Aliens.
Session 3 – 10 min
Aliens again. Only 10 min for this session because I was just finishing the verse I hadn’t finished in session 2.
Session 4 – 25 min
I finished Aliens.
Session 5 – 15 min
I sang Aliens one more time, and I spent time reading the lyrics and their translation.
Session 1 – 4 min
I wrote a couple of lines for my German roem.
20 min – I sang Aliens. On repeat, for 20 minutes, yes. I kinda like this song, yeah.
3 min – I sang Ich bin bereit, from Moana.
3 min – I sang Farbenspiel des Winds, from Pocahontas.
6 min – I sang Voll gerne, from Moana.
17 min – I sang Aliens (yes, again).
14 min – I spent time reading Aliens’ lyrics and the English translation.
15 min – Guess what I did?
Session 3 – 42 min
I looked for a new Marteria song. That was fast. I just went to Lyrics Translate, and looked at the list of his songs that had a translation.
This one is called Alles verboten.
Session 4 – 8 min
I spent some more time on Alles verboten. And then decided to stop using this song, because there’s a long gap in the middle of the song. Since I repeat a song many many times, I don’t like having this kind of empty space in the middle of a song. Where you’re just waiting.
Session 5 – 19 min
I looked for a new song and found Amys Weinhaus. I spent time listening to and singing the last verse. This song is good for beginners. There’s slang but it’s not too fast.
44 min – I went through the whole song (Amys Weinhaus).
5 min – I read the lyrics and the translation.
Session 2 – 34 min
I found a new song: Bengalische Tiger. I spent time on the second verse.
Session 3 – 20 min
Spent time on the hook of Bengalische Tiger.
Session 4 – 15 min
Spent time on the first verse of Bengalische Tiger. Not the whole verse though, just the second half.
I needed a nap. It was getting hard to focus.
24 min – I finished the first part of Bengalische Tiger. Again, it was hard to focus. Maybe I’m getting sick.
6 min – I read the lyrics and their translation.
Session 6 – 15 min
I read the lyrics and the translation one more time. I also sang Aliens and Amys Weinhaus.
Session 1 – 18 min
I reviewed (sang + read lyrics & translation) Marteria’s songs.
Session 2 – 4 min
I sang Bengalische Tiger. Then I decided to let it go. This song is good, it’s challenging, but I don’t like it that much.
When you repeat a song over and over again, you have to really like it to stick to it. Otherwise you’re going to get bored. And it’s going to feel like you’re working or studying. The goal is to enjoy the process. You’re absorbing a foreign language. You’re not learning it.
Session 3 – 5 min
Today is day 7. It’s time to track my progress. My goal is to understand 75% of Julien Bam’s videos. So, each Sunday, I’m going to watch one of his videos to see where I’m at.
I couldn’t understand much of today’s video. It had subtitles, but, for the purpose of my challenge, I don’t activate them. I was pleased to get a few words and sentences here and there. And I got the whole meaning of the video. What he was talking about, the different situations, his different emotions. That’s encouraging.
Julien Bam’s video (with German subtitles)
I didn’t do anything for the rest of the day. I decided to take a break. And to get back at it even stronger on Monday.
Day 1 – 2h31
Day 2 – 2h05
Day 3 – 1h59
Day 4 – 1h54
Day 5 – 2h31
Day 6 – 2h43
Day 7 – 27 min
Total – 14h10
My initial plan was to spend 3 hours a day absorbing German. At least 3 hours a day.
But I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished so far. I had fun singing. I had fun absorbing German, little by little. The language starts to make sense in my mind. I was worried before starting this challenge. You always hear *German is so hard*, *German has three genders and all these different cases, forget it!* Yet, after one week, I’m still alive!
Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!
And let’s clock these 3 hours a day!