Best way to learn German in a month?

During an upcoming trip, I will be spending a couple of days in German-speaking Switzerland (specifically Zurich). Although I will be staying with German-speaking friends, I hate feeling lost and clueless, and I love languages, so I have decided to try to learn a bit of German before the trip. (Plus there’s the fact that I refuse to make my friends pick me up at the train station at 6 am, so I will have to figure out how to get to their house somehow.) The extent of my German right now is a useless six-week adult ed community college class from ten years ago, restaurant ordering, and any words included in the Brahms Deutsches Requiem.

Now I’m no stranger to learning foreign languages, but I’ve usually started out in a formal classroom setting. There’s no time for that, and precious little opportunity for my second favorite language immersion method (falling head over heels for someone who speaks no English), so we have to turn to Plan C. Suggestions? Any favorite cassette/CD quickie courses, preferably ones that involve more analysis than rote memorization? I suppose I can always torture our accounting clerk at work for conversation practice…

First of all, regular German isn’t usually spoken in Zurich…they speak an odd dialect “Switzerdeutsch” that I likened to listening to a voice go up and down the alps- however, most Zurich Swiss can actually speak high German as well.

I can’t tell where you live now, but if you are anywhere near a university, contact the language department and see if they have any foreign exchange students from a German speaking country.

The student could probably use a few extra coins, and you can make arrangements for one-on-one intensive training.

It is the best, and only way to really get a grip on the language in such a short time.

Have fun, and don’t spend too much money on Bahnhofstrasse!
By the way…try to get down to Lugano while you are over there…a beautiful Swiss city on the Italian border…and less than an hour from Como, Italy…another jewel in the part of the world.

Hmmmm…I live in Chicago, so there’s no shortage of universities. The shortage is mostly time on my end, though; I thought a CD would be a great way to use my train commute. Also, I want to be able to figure out written things like road signs and menus and such, so I’m hoping that the Switzerdeutsch thing won’t be so much of an issue. (The friends are a Europe-raised American who first learned German in Vienna, and a French-raised Austrian; they’ve only been in Zurich for a few months, and they seem to be doing OK without the Siwtzerdeutsch, so I’ll hope for the best. But the kids are learning it in school.)

I wish I had the time to explore more, but I’m already doing London, a friend’s house in Kent, and Paris on this trip, and really only have 2 days in Switzerland, so I don’t think Lugano is going to happen this time around; probably there will just be time for a couple of museums in Zurich. Also, it will be a Monday and Tuesday, so one friend will be working and his wife will be home watching the kids, ages 4 and 6, so day trips probably aren’t going to happen.

Sorry to hear the Swiss trip is so short…but better than not go at all!

I used to teach ESL and that is why I still think it would be better for you to get a human being over to give you one-on-one lessons - even if only once or twice - than do the tape/CD thing on your own.

You need the basics - How much? Where is? Plus you need some simple vocabulary, learn to count to 100, learn the rules of basic pronunciation (once you get the simple rules down, it is impossible to mispronounce a German word!).

Yes, you can learn the above using most tapes/CD German learning programs, but you will also spend a lot of time memorizing useless (for you) verbs and phrases.

If time is of the essense, a real teacher can quickly figure out your interests and at least get you to practice some pat phrases and work on your pronunciation - and if you want, give you some homework that will be more specific to your needs.

Whatever you choose, I admire you a lot for trying! Trust me, even a feeble attempt at speaking the language will open a lot of doors for you - plus it is fun and makes the travelling experience even better - (but you know that already).

Viel Spass! Mmmm…Fondu, Raklette, Spaetzli, Schokolade, Kuchen, Bier, Wein…

Don’t worry about the schweizerdeutsch issue. Official written language is regular german. So are announcements in railway stations etc. Plus every schweizerdeutsch talking swiss citizen is able to speak regular german as well as the language used in school is regular german.

Unfortunately I can’t suggest any methods to learn german. I think what
** DMark ** has suggested is the best way to learn a little bit of the language.

In one month you’ll have to download it straight into your mind. Make sure you use the year 2003 compliant version. Otherwise, I’d rate it as an impossible task, but that’s only speaking for myself. My wife was speaking English after three months, but I’ve been trying to speak Russian for a few years.


a) I’m not hoping to be fluent in a month, but I do hope to be able to navigate public transportation and retail establishments, even if I look like a complete idiot while doing so.

b) I’ve learned other languages before, and have a fair amount of exposure to German phonetics (yay 80 zillion years of choir singing!)

c) it can’t be more painful than it was to learn Russian!

Eva Luna, yay! Another chorister! I think my favourite bit of choral German is the Brahms German Requiem. More interesting than the endless top As of the Beethoven 9, whch I love, but always think is better to hear than to sing.

Anyway, back on topic, you may find it unnecessary, as so many Germans and Swiss speak English. But you do get good tourist-politeness points for trying, even if it’s only a few words like “Hello, can you help me, do you speak English”.

Get a phrasebook, they are amazingly useful for this common stuff, and the lonely planet ones have some good vocab and grammar included. And find someone who speaks German and start practicing. The student idea is a good one if you don’t know anyone.

For vocab, get some post-it notes and write words on them and stick them up everywhere. Include the gender since it’s German. Den Tisch on the table, Der Tur (how do you do umlauts?) on the door and so on, with an extra bunch in the loo or other place where you spend a lot of time.

psst… cajela… It’s “der Tisch” und “die Tür” in nominative.

Eva Luna, you can learn much simple German in a month. It has enough similarity to English that you can struggle on with just a bit. As DMark said, the orthography is very regular, and most verbs conjugate in the same manner. The numbers are similar to English (eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn, elf, zwölf) for 1 - 12, and after that it’s combinations like English. Find a phrasebook and a simple German grammar text and go to town.

Eva Luna, I’ll agree with the pharsebook idea, it’ll be helpful. Also - are you going to Switzerland before or after coming to the LonDope? If its after, I can probably give you a few pointers, provided you ask before I start knocking back the pints. :smiley:

Hey, cool! Angua, Switzerland will be after LonDope - it’s my “let’s crash on my friends’ sofas” tour of Europe. So London - Kent - Paris - Zurch - home. Crazy, yes, but why the heck not?

Of course, I think your German will be much more entertaining after a few pints. I know my Russian is… so over the weekend, it’s off to get a CD/phrasebook and a suitcase to replace the one that was destroyed by our lovely moronic Transportation Safety Administration…woohoo!

Cool :slight_smile:

I am fluent in German - last time I went to Germany people assumed that I was a German. :smiley:

Besides, I think you’re right German will be more amusing after a few pints. As will my Polish. In fact, I reckon my Polish will be more authentic after a few pints. :smiley:

You can’t learn German in a month. You need a good decade. Schwyzerdütsch is a bloody linguistic nightmare, but here are some quick guidelines for just about getting by for a couple of days (I used to live in Zürich):
Grützi : Hi - used everywhere by everyone 100 times a day, but never ever use it outside of Switzerland.
Tschüss : Bye - also unbiquitous
Hoi zäme! : Hello everyone!
Grützi mittenand! : Hello everyone (again)
Stange : standard glass of beer from the tap, but make sure it’s not the local Hürlimann stuff because it tastes like horse’s urine. You’re safe with Feldschlösschen or Cardinal.
Züri : Zürich

Oh, and despite the fact that French is mandatory in Swiss schools whereas English isn’t, you’re better off trying to speak English than French. This is because English comes to them more easily, and there’s some sort of ongoing low-level ethnic conflict going on.

Oh, and someone will probably have a great deal of fun making you attempt to say the word for “small kitchen cabinet” which consists almost entirely of clearing your throat (maybe Missing_link can help out here).

Finally, ther public transport is great, and a ~CHF7 Tageskarte (available from machines at all stations, bus, trolleybus and tram stops) allows unlimited journeys. Go to the Flohmarkt on Bürkliplatz on Saturday morning: it’s full of weird and wonderful stuff. I acquired a whole collection of junk there. And the Grilliertes Kalbbratwurst near the massive tram interchange across the bridge from the Hauptbahnhof is the best in town. I think the tram station is Central.

Have a good time there. Tschüssli!

One final lingustic guideline: the Swiss add the diminutive suffix -li to almost everything. I don’t know why, they just do.

The word Zorro is looking for is chuchichäschtli . Noone uses that word in real life, we just like to make furriners say it :slight_smile: .

If you think that the swiss german spoken in Zurich is bad, you should hear my dialect. It’s considered strange even by other swiss german speakers.

Zorro is right, if you get stuck speaking German, you can use English without any problems.

By the way Eva, you should bring warm clothes, it started getting cold rather early this year. It already snowed yesterday, but I expect it to not last very long.

Hah, I’m not worried about the cold! It can get down to -40 in Chicago in the winter, and besides, you are talking about someone who voluntarily spent a semester in Leningrad when it was still Leningrad, in a semi-heated dorm about 100 meters from the Bay of Finland. After that, Zurich should be a piece of cake!

Although I am debating which jacket to bring. I have a short wool one, which looks nice but doesn’t block wind worth a damn. Or I have a fleece-lined nylon one, which blocks wind and water better, and will probably stand up to rougher treatment, but doesn’t look as nice. I’m leaning toward the latter. How windy is Zurich?

Ok, if you’re from Chicago then the cold really shouldn’t be a problem.
It is usually not windy in Zurich.