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I would like to improve my German communication, reading and writing skills. German classes at school does not seem to help me enough to make good conversation with Germans. I'm 17 years old and live in Amsterdam. When I had a trip to Germany with my class, I spoke in English with the Germans there. If I spoke in German, I pretty much stuttered and could not find my words and structure.

German language learning books are available in the library and there are many websites that can help me to speak German. I did that, but I dropped out pretty quick, since it's very 'lonely' and (therefore) demotivating. From what I experienced, learning words by heart from a German word list does not help me to make flowing conversations. I also do not have a budget to take a German (online) teacher and make one-on-one conversations.

I just want to meet people, that's it. It's to-the-point (your goal to learn German is to eventually communicate with Germans, right?) and social. Saying that, I can not knock on some German institute/school and ask instantaneously: ''Can someone help me to learn German, please?''. So I'm pretty much lost now.

I would like to meet people who I can speak German with, preferably people around my age. I prefer natives, and we could communicate in English when that is necessary. Dutch people who know German are fine too. I do have skills of level B1 from school, so I hope it does not kind of 'annoy' people who would like to speak and teach German to me.

I don't know whether this is the right language SE to ask this question because of my dream to become a polyglot one day (English, German, French, Spanish, Turkish and Chinese and/or Japanese). But fluency in English and German have my main priorities.

So my question is: how could I get in contact and make friends with people (around my age) in my city who I can speak German with (or any other language mentioned above)?

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    You're lucky to have a Goethe-Institut in Amsterdam. They organise movie evenings, discussions and other cultural events. You should be able to meet lots of people there that are happy to converse in German. – tofro May 6 '17 at 16:17
  • @tofro Thank you for your answer. It helps me a lot. I did visit the Goethe-Institut with my class years ago to borrow books, but I thought it was just a library and a place to follow German classes where you have to pay for. I did not know about the possibility to get connected with others and the more cultural part of it. I will search more on the site of Goethe-Institut and create an account to search for learning partners, and will visit the Goethe-Institut again to ask for further information. – Stacker May 7 '17 at 7:03
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    Did you look for 'Tandem'? Maybe it's not the best way to learn how to speak German, but there you get in contact with native speaker who wants to learn your foreign language. So its win-win-situation. You can text, create voice messages or do live chat, maybe it's an option for you! – jacmeird May 7 '17 at 15:56
  • @jacmeird Thank you for mentioning the word tandem, because I could not find that word, and typing that word in the Google search bar gives me now more relevant results. That's pretty much what I'm looking for. I've made an account on Goethe-Institut (such as tofro mentioned) and I did have found people who are from Amsterdam and who are searching for a learning partner. But they are at least 25 years old. I will also create an account on some websites where people are looking for an tandempartner, so that I've more possibilities. It also gives me a (more?) promising chance of finding natives. – Stacker May 7 '17 at 20:37
  • @Stacker Yeah that's great! I've forget to mentioned that I mean a app for your phone called 'tandem' but nevertheless your understanding of this word describes the idea of this! – jacmeird May 7 '17 at 20:39
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@Stacker I asked myself the same question 18 months ago. I moved to Essen, Germany and quickly found a job as a Software Entwickler in Duisburg. I had a couple private lessons back in the UK before I moved here and once in Germany I tried to speak German whenever possible.

After a month though the novelty wore off and the reality check hit hard. I was just another Brit in Germany who knew how to order in a restaurant and explain where I came from. It didn't help that I was talking English all day in the office either.

Realise native speakers don't always want or have time to be friends with you

The simple fact is that unless you do have a reasonably good conversation skills it will be difficult to chat and become friends with native speakers. Ask yourself this simple question. In your home country do you take time to make friends with non English/Dutch speakers and correct them along the way. Do you like meeting up with strangers who spent 10 minutes trying to explain what they had for breakfast? Probably not and neither do most native German speakers. Germans are also very conservative people, more so than English people I find. Here are three things I recommend. They are working for me.

1. Develop a habit of listening first so you can pick up new phrases, vocabulary you can use in conversation.

The first thing to do is make sure you develop a habit of regularly learning new vocabulary each day. At first I was good at speaking German and had memorised many phrases but often had to switch back to English when the shopkeeper or waitress replied with something I didn’t expect. I started by signing up to a podcast Germanpod101 and listened to a new episode on the train every day commuting between Duisburg and Essen.

The beginner series is quite funny and the dialogue is between a German girl and an American guy in Berlin. They cover all the basic topics and also explain a lot about culture and useful phrases and practices specific to Germany. It really helped me pick up some useful phrases. There is an app too so you can view the script pdfs on your phone/computer and also play the dialogues at various speeds and line by line.

2. Make sure you are looking for a German speaker in the right places

Look for people who want to learn English / Dutch from you at same time. I use language tandem apps like Tandem and Speaky. I can find native Germans to speak to who are also looking to talk to a native English speaker. The apps are simple messaging apps but allow users to correct each others message and it highlights which words / Grammar they corrected.

I prefer Speaky as it has a web interface I can use so can type faster. I engage in conversations each day with people and even met up with one guy on there called Dennis as he lived also in Duisburg. Through meeting him I found out something else important.

3. Realise that the best people to practice with are not necessarily native speakers.

If you want get better at something quickly hang around with people who are already doing it but just a little bit better than you. As humans we adapt to our surroundings and become the average of the people we share most of our time with. Native speakers won’t always be able to explain the grammar.

I had a colleague who could not explain why in German you say ‘fliege nach Italien” but “fliege in die Türkei“. Die Türkie has an article so you say "fly in the turkey" not "fly to turkey”. Because you are flying into turkey (wohin) you use accusative case so it stays as ’in die Türkei” not “in der” (Dativ case). This is just basic A2 level German.

The best people to help with these questions are therefore other people learning the language who may already be a level or two ahead of you. Through Dennis I met some of his friends who were also learning German and also found about a language exchange that takes place every month in Essen at a bar called Felis. I visit twice a month and we all comment on how much we have improved and help each other out.

  • It is true Germans don't want to constantly correct the foreign colleagues, just because it feels a bit swotty - you won't give the impression of want to be his teacher ... this way one is very fault-tolerant, though that is actually not helpful :) – äüö May 30 '17 at 15:41
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I don't think your question is specific for learning german. it is a question how to meet people with special abilities or interests.
As you described your problems to speak german in germany I was reminded on my own problems with english (as secondary language).
I would recommend: so you stumble and stutter: stay with german and try to describe your problem (I miss a word for ..../ I dont understand the meaning of ...) instead to change to english. You might contact germans online and try to visit and invite them (something like 'Schüleraustausch'). You also can try to do videocalls with them. Just find some hobbies available in the netherlands and in germany.

I improved my english with english movies and shows. it was passive, but it enforced my understanding of the (quickly) spoken words. In the netherlands you should be able to receive german TV by satellite or just use the mediatheks of the stations (without pause-function).

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You could benefit by going to Germany more frequently. From Amsterdam, it is a 200 kilometer, two and half hour ride to cities such as Munster, Essen, or Dortmund. Once there, walk the streets, visit the shops, speak in German to the people you meet. Spend time listening to others talk.

It might be best if you could find a club or activity in Germany targeted to young people. Perhaps you can find "pen pals" or speaking partners there. A bonus would be if you met other people from the Netherlands looking to do what you are trying to do that you can reconnect with back home.

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You just find people on social sites like Facebook etc. and start chatting with them.

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