Whenever I talk to German learners I never miss out on the opportunity to ask about the biggest challenges when learning German, and dreimal darfst du raten* what are the most commons answers:
- Articles (der/die/das)
- Declension (Akkusativ/Genitiv/Dativ, etc.)
- Other grammar stuff (Passiv/Aktiv, Konjunktiv, etc.)
Recently however when I’ve asked people about their biggest challenges, I’ve been hearing something that tops even these grammar issues: speaking practice.
I’m not sure if this is pandemic-related, because traveling is still somewhat difficult in late 2021, but it certainly makes sense that speaking practice is not always easy to come by, especially if you don’t live in a German-speaking country.
So I’ve been looking around for good German speaking practice opportunities online.
First of all, you can of course always join an online course, Zoom (fatigued yet?), etc. but even there, depending on the number of participants the time allotted to each speaker may be very limited.
Are there places online where you can just have a casual chat in German with other learners and perhaps a couple of natives?
Turns out, yes!
Deutsch auf Discord
In case you’re not familiar with Discord, it’s a group-chatting platform originally built for gamers that has since become a general use platform for many kinds of communities.
Each community lives on its own server, complete with different channels, both for writing and speaking, sharing links or just hanging out.
One of the biggest and most active Discord servers for German learners is called “German Learning and Discussion”. It has almost 50,000 members and is open to join for anyone interested.
To join a voice chat, simply click on one of the rooms with the speaker icon (see image below).
The average age on this Discord (as on many other Discord servers) seems to skew a bit towards millennials/Gen Z, but in general I found it to be a very friendly and welcoming space to German learners, where often some native speakers hang out as well. If you need help with anything the moderators are also usually very responsive.
Another Discord server commonly frequented by language learners is The Language Sloth. This is not just for German, but it’s a very active server. If you’re not familiar with Discord, once you join a server there’s usually a specific procedure of selecting your role (proficiency, native language, etc.) and introducing yourself before you can join text and voice channels, so make sure to carefully read through the instructions, usually found under “rules” or “info” in the sidebar.
Next up is Clubhouse, the audio-based social media app that has been taking the world by storm since 2020. The way it works that people host so-called “rooms” where anyone can join. You’ll be muted by default when first joining a room and will have to ask for permission to speak by raising your hand (tap on the hand icon).
To find rooms for German speaking practice, simply search for “learn German” or “German practice” and you’ll see a lot of different people and clubs that host German speaking practice rooms. If you can’t find a room that’s currently active, make sure to note down the times for scheduled rooms in the club or member profiles.
Last but not least, there’s Twitter Spaces, which is in many ways the same like Clubhouse, only that you don’t need the Clubhouse app to join. It’s open for anyone with a Twitter account. You can even listen in anonymously from your laptop, but if you do want to speak you’re going to need the Twitter mobile app.
So far I haven’t found many German practice “spaces” out there, but you can actively search for them by typing “filter:spaces” into the search bar in Twitter to find them.
Recently I’ve been experimenting with this feature and hosting a few Twitter spaces for German learners on our main LearnOutLive German Twitter, and it’s been a lot of fun talking to German learners from all over the world. I even heard from a couple of avid Dino lernt Deutsch readers, which is always fun.
So far we don’t have a fixed schedule for these yet (still trying out different time-zones to give as many people as possible an opportunity to speak), but please feel free to follow us there as well.
Whenever we host a space you can see that it’s active when there’s a purple ring around our profile (see below). For more information, see the official how-to by Twitter as well. You can also go to our profile and turn on the little bell icon to get notified about new tweets.
Another option of practicing German online is finding a tandem partner, i.e. a 1:1 relationship where you teach each other your own native language. While the concept is great, and it can be very effective in theory, in my personal experience finding a tandem partner that is equally committed and disciplined is often difficult in practice.
There will always be a certain disbalance of one person being more motivated or more skilled at explaining, and it can be very difficult to find that sweet spot. See also Michael Schmitz’s article 5 Reasons why Tandem Partners Don’t Work on smartergerman.
Having said that, your mileage may vary, and there are many websites where you can find tandem partners for learning German. A quick Google will yield thousands of results. I can’t vouch for any of these sites personally, so I’m not going to link them here, but I’d be happy to hear from you which sites have worked for you (or haven’t).
Also, what are your favorite places of practicing your German speaking skills online? Let me know in the comments.
* “You have three guesses.”