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English is not my mother tongue, but in my country it was compulsory for all the schools to teach their students English right from KinderGarten. I remember we used to have a picture book of English alphabets in which it was written things like

  • A - Apple
  • B - Ball
  • C - Cat
  • ....

and English was not a very foreign language in our society as well, every then and now people used to say words like Apple, Clock, Time, Bread etc. so there was a very little issue of pronunciation. I was a kid, just learnt and repeated what was taught in the English Class and I must admit that the process was slow, we children could use few English words in day-to-day conversations but using a full English sentence was considered a very difficult task. Even if as a 3rd Grader one would join a English coaching classes, the only different thing they taught in coaching was some familiar phrases:

  • How are you?

  • "Thank you"? should be replied with "Mention Not"

  • What is your name?

  • ...

So, looking back it seems the English which I'm writing now wasn't developed in one or two years it took a long long time and really slowly we learnt things. But of course we were kids and didn't care much about time and were very sure we will be well in English.

But now I'm 18 years old, and language learning seems tough. I'm learning German on my own, but given that I cannot give so much time to learning German, I'm watching the videos on YouTube and some other resources which I'm following but yet it seems following that Kindergarten procedure won't work very well here. Initially, things are monotonous but I have to go through that, I accept that but I don't think I shall be able to make much progress with learning little things everyday, one of the reasons is complete unfamiliarity and unsocial (means my society doesn't use German at all). Let me explain myself through an example: The plural of Ox in English is not oxes but oxen (exception to plural rules) but it didn't seem very unfamiliar when we were learning it because almost everyone (our seniors in school, family members and other relatives) knew it, but the plural of Ofen in German is Öfen which doesn't follow any of 5 rules. And as no one in my acquaintance knows it I find it unfamiliar.

How should I teach myself so that I shall be able to understand German texts (novels, scientific papers) in one or two years?

5

Think in terms of a process rather than results

You are continuously using your native language (I guess) and learning new words, since the language has to talk about new concepts, so new words are developed by necessity. Likewise, you probably meet specialist vocabulary that you have to learn every now and then.

The same is true for English, and since it is not your native language, I guess you meet new vocabulary and idioms even more often.

In case of both of those languages, you (again, I guess) do not fear losing the language, and you probably even improve, at least in your passive knowledge.

You want to think of German in the same way: develop a routine where you use or get exposed to German to a sufficient level that you do not fear losing it and will slowly develop. All active studying should be in addition to this.

Read rather than study grammar

Your goal is to learn to read. So read.

If you are at the level where you can read for example news or blogs that interest you, do so. It is possible to understand a great deal without knowing that much grammar, though grammar does certainly help.

When you are reading and some word or expression that you can't figure out from context is particularly irritating, check it from a dictionary (monolingual preferred, even if you don't understand the explanation that well) or find out what the grammatical structure is and how it works.

In addition to this, you will want some systematic way of learning new vocabulary and practising various other skills. You might look at options such as Ankidroid, Clozemaster and Duolingo, all of which have a spaced repetition system and are good for widening your vocabulary.

My experience

When I started studying Danish, I started by reading a blog (about roleplaying games, which interest me and about which I know a fair deal, but also with quite challenging vocabulary) and taking a Duolingo course. For the blog I did not really care about understanding; I was happy to figure what was being written about, at first, and recognizing a word here and another there. It started to get better slowly.

Duolingo was the primary educational method for me in the beginning and in Denmark I also took language courses, and later started an Anki deck in order to understand spoken language and also learn various expresssions.

I never tried to actively learn by heart the various forms of various words. One learns those by exposure and checking when trying to write the word.

  • develop a routine where you use or get exposed to German to a sufficient level that you do not fear losing it and will slowly develop how to get a German environment? – Knight admires Chappo Oct 1 '20 at 15:24
  • @KnightadmiresChappo That depends on your circumstances and language skills. Do whatever you typically do online, but in German, for a start. – Tommi Oct 2 '20 at 6:55
3

A lot of language learners think it is difficult for anyone to acquire languages but it is just a social and cultural process and we are naturally predisposed to achieve it anyway. I've known a lot of polyglots who could fairly get by(and even write essays)after about 2 or 3 months in languages that they never heard a native speaker speak before- Fun fact: 100% assured that they are not languages genies or anything. I may recommend one of their techniques and since it is English and assuming that you don't get enough "proficient" exposure to the language.

Don't THINK THAT YOU ARE using a new LANGUAGE: The purpose of a language is to "convey the meaning you have in your head"(and that's why you still understand when someone uses gibberish grammar: What name yours is?-didn't you understand?)- but it should follow some predetermined rules for it to become a standard in which you can communicate. JUST TRY SPEAKING TO YOURSELF OR OTHERS RIGHT AWAY, let it be bad grammar and once in a while think of the "perfect grammar" -the most appropriate form to use.

IMMERSE YOURSELF CONSCIOUSLY WITH A PURPOSE FOR A WHILE : this involves you getting your news from an English website: you can copy the transcript, paste it in a translator app(Google Translate) and read the "gist" of it- I know they may not offer the perfect translations as they are just AI machine learning trying to make sense of them, but still you can get the "gist" and then try to read the whole transcript in English. If you take the time to write what you have read, it would be much consolidated in your memory. And you can buy a classic- or if it is daunting- a moderate read and complete some pages daily. By daily I mean, when you have encountered a word you immediately don't, lets say internalize it but when you keep seeing it consistently as is happened when reading, you get to memorize it thoroughly, get to learn its nuances etc.

GET ALL OUR RESORCES IN ENGLISH: I know this may sound intimidating, but you can use an online or paper dictionary(Oxford, Cambridge, Merriam Webster)and they are very comprehensive dictionaries offering you an encyclopedic insight into using your "words"(along with your native-English dictionary).

MAKE IT CREATIVE : Anything you would be doing that has to involve in you being creative. You should really get your creative parts of the brain working and the best example I see from one of my polyglot friends(he is fluent in 7+ languages in under 3 years) was he used to start the day with writing a poem in the language he intends to learn. It would be a great remedy for your "limited vocabulary" because when you try to get words rhyme, their structure right, you naturally gets used to find new words and your learning curve exponentially rises up due to you get yourself thinking. Anything would do: keep it consistent and write a verse everyday about the birds that chirp or the dog that barks annoyingly or the first thing that comes to your mind. Who knows, one day you will be renowned as an English poet or writer?

Let your thoughts speak the language before your mouth: The thought processes you might be having on(you can apply this specifically when you are writing the poem or any other creative work I recommended), be it "does care actually rhyme with rare"(they do rhyme!!) or "what would be the best punchline to finish this with". Don't ever think about anything in your native languages in that time slot(let your thoughts get abstract instead of reading them out in your mind if you really feel the urge to think in native terms)

Hope this will be useful in your journey of acquiring English and other languages!!!

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