How do you learn writing German without (over)studying grammar ?

I don’t like grammar. Actually I made a point about learning a language without studying the grammar or at least by dedicating to it a very small percentage of my learning time, as I believe that people can learn a lot of grammar without deliberately studying it but simply by exposure to what it is correct and what is not.

My choice of avoiding and limiting grammar has so far served me well in my journey to learn German.  I chose to learn German by doing activities that I enjoy and I could reach a good level of speaking, listening and reading skills.  Indeed I think that when learning a language is wise to start by focusing on listening and speaking, then later start reading and finally learn to write. However, at this point I am aware that my German writing skills are still quite poor and I definitely need to improve them, as I want to get a B2 certificate as soon as possible.

How does someone who doesn’t like grammar improve his writing skills in a foreign language?

I have asked myself the above question and I researched ways to learn writing that minimise the study of grammar. So far, the answer I came up is a combination of methods that are advocated by the Birkenbihl Method and by Luca Lampariello, a polyglot known for his language skills.

Basically when using this approach you should look at a language grammar as a code that you are decoding. This prospective follows the principle of learning by enjoying the pleasure of finding things out. According to this approach is also better to learn few things at time instead than studying all the grammar rules at once and then trying to apply them.

To decode the language you can do the following activities:

Translation and back translation

Translate sentences from the foreign language to your native language and viceversa. Delayed back translation, translating your translation back in the target language, can be particularly useful when we don’t have somebody that can correct our mistakes in the target language.

While going through this process of translation you can create bilingual texts and compare the structure of the two languages to help you decode how one language translates into the other. By doing this you should be able to figure out several grammar rules on your own. However, when you feel that some rule is particularly complicate (for example declinations) to extrapolate you can have a look into the grammar book. You should try to add rules incrementally, i.e. you should learn one or only few rules at time and them verify and internalize them through deliberate practice.

Writing letters

The other method that I am using is to write letters and then to get them corrected in a way that I can improve from understanding my mistakes.

Reading to decode

I also read books and analyse them accurately according to what I already know, in other world I verify the rules I have learned through the decoding process or by reading the grammar book.  This is a completely different way of reading as reading because you are interested in the content of the book, in this case you are only interested to understand the rules of the language.

I would be very interested to hear from other people what works well for them to learn writing a foreign language,


Comments on this entry are closed.