Germany locale best
for attaining fluency

by Lauren
(Harrisburg, PA USA)

I realize a huge array of regional dialects exist in Germany. I am also aware there are many areas in Germany populated with mostly bilingual Germans and depending on locale (and level of patience) will quickly switch to English whenever a native English-speaker is struggling to speak German, or even just not speaking perfectly fluent German.


I speak enough German to get by, and love the language and culture. I have been casually studying German off and on since I was 13, just out of personal interest. I listen to German music almost exclusively and make an effort to understand written and spoken German for fun but have had very little opportunity to speak German or immerse myself.

Finally in 2010 I visited Germany and realized I improve quickly with full immersion, but am quickly set back if returning to thinking and/or speaking in English. I found this out by being there on my own for a week, then my husband met up with me for the remainder of the trip, and my German comfort level did a nose dive once he arrived (though I was glad to see him, but... the progress stopped from then on; plus we ended up in Bavaria a large portion of the trip, which I didn't realize until later is NOT the place to learn German).

What is the best locale in Germany for a native English-speaking American woman, travelling solo, to attain full fluency in German quickly?

My best guess is I am looking for a locale where English is not widely spoken (perhaps a former-DDR area), ideally where residents have patience with those just learning, and where I'd be immersed in a somewhat "neutral" German dialect, if there is such a thing. I need a month or so, and must do this on a tight budget (hostels, volunteer work, host family etc). Ideally I would enroll in an inexpensive but decent language-immersion program.

Can you advise on best location to do this? Any additional insights on learning German in Germany quickly?

Comments for
Germany locale best
for attaining fluency

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Northern Germany
by: Joanna

Hi Lauren

That’s a great question! And apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

Immersion is absolutely the right approach for getting a solid lock on the language and picking up all those little phrases and idioms which are much used in reality, but likely to be absent from your German course books. You’re doing the right thing by listening to German music and speech on German radio, but it really is active speaking which is the test of language mastery. I know the problem of polite locals who immediately switch to English – they’re proud of their own language abilities and keen to be helpful. Diplomatically explaining you need to practice your German usually helps.

I had to laugh about your time in Bavaria. I can imagine you had fun with the German you heard there! I’m just over the border, in Austria, and when we hear our national ski heroes from mountain villages in the west of Austria, I, at least, need a couple of seconds to click into “very thick accent” mode!

My immediate response to your question would be – Hamburg. Or nearby, in Northern Germany. My mother would say the same. As a Brit who’s studied German off and on for years, she finds it far easier to understand my northern German mother-in-law than the local Viennese. I guess you could compare the Hamburg accent as being the nearest German equivalent to what we Brits call RP – received pronunciation (or “proper English” !) It’s a slightly toned down version of what the Queen speaks and what we might consider “accent free”.

Now I make absolutely no claims to be an expert on accents, especially based here in Austria, but that is my definite impression. And definitely avoid Switzerland!

Wishing you all the best,

Joanna

Platz mit neutralem Akzent
by: Volker Edgar

Recommending Hamburg as the best locale in to learn a neutral German accent is sound advice, totally agree. However, Hamburg is considered to be definitely Norddeutsch, which just means different from Hochdeutsch, but nonetheless considered by most people to be a quite pleasant accent. Anytime I would ask the question where Hochdeutsch was spoken, people always replied 'Hannover und Braunschweig' in the Bundesland of Lower-Saxony. When it comes to finding the locale where the most neutral German accent is spoken, then yes, Hannover and Braunschweig are going to fit the bill. Anyway, either H, BS or HH are good places to pick up a good accent. I'd stay away from from the Bundeslaender, Berlin, Bavaria (you learned that lesson already), Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hessen, Rhineland-Palatinate. You mentioned regions in the former DDR. The North (Bundesland Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - eg city of Rostock ) has an accent quite similar to the one you hear in HH (definitely Nordddeutsch), whereas Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt as well as most parts of my hometown Berlin and Brandenburg all have their own particular accents, different from what is called Hochdeutsch.

I hope that was helpful


by: Joanna

Thanks Volker for your contribution, definitely helpful! And clearly more of an "insider's" view than I am able to give.
Joanna

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