My parents immigrated to Germany in the 70's and I was born and raised in Germany. Although I attended German schools like any other German child and even studied in Germany, I do not feel confident with my German language skills and also make mistakes when I use the language. Unlike in typical German families, there was little to no German spoken in my home during my childhood. So I wasn't extensively exposed to the German language as a child and only began learning the language in kindergarten when I was 4 years old. I would anyway say that I'm a native German speaker. However, I do not speak it as well as my German colleagues at work, for example. For example, I don't have a comparably large vocabulary and I also don't know as many idioms.

How can someone like me improve his language?

1 Answer 1


"Improving my language skills" is very broad as a goal. The first thing you need to do is to define much smaller and more specific subgoals. These goals should be related to a specific purpose that is meaningful to you, i.e. things you want to do (or have to do).

For example, "developing a larger vocabulary" and "learning more idioms" are still very unspecific goals. Specific goals may be, for example, "I want to make a 15-minute presentation about things that went wrong during the Apollo 13 mission", "I want to be able to explain the rules for offside in soccer to a layperson", "I want to be able to pitch a project idea in two minutes to my manager (i.e. give an elevator pitch" or "I want to read Thomas Mann's novel Der Zauberberg without checking a dictionary all the time". These are just examples; your goals will be specific to what you want to achieve in your social life, at work, or elsewhere.

Write down these goals, add a deadline to each and plan to set aside time to achieve them (e.g. 30 minutes per day). What you end up doing is essentially deliberate practice. For example, if you are specifically interested in public speaking, you might consider joining a local Toastmasters club.

The polyglot community has produced lots of articles about goal setting and deliberate practice and the tips about learning foreign languages can easily be transferred to improving your own language. Below are a few examples of articles:

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