A not so short way to the c german?

Enrique Viveros Acosta
6 min readJul 12, 2021

For the spanish version of this article: https://tealfeed.com/un-no-tan-corto-camino-al-fmw4v

Hej, it’s been a while since I am in a toxic-dependant relationship with the german. After each step it gets harder and harder to reach the next one, because the time you need to get a small improvement increase drastically. It feels like after running a marathon to the exhaustion,you realize you are only half way through.

Once you get to the C level (Kompetente Sprachverwendung) you basically have two choices: Leave it as it is and try to maintain it, maybe losing it slowly or you could go the extra mile and try to master it (Annährend muttersprachliche Kenntnisse). So even though its a hard nut to crack you can still get away with it, and hopefully with the least number of traumas and life crisis.

In this article I will describe a few learning strategies for the amelioration of german specially aimed for more advanced levels using spaced repetition and active recall.To start I checked all my notes and some copies I still had from previous courses. Taking a look I see that there are some small details that I might had forgotten or overlooked, also I needed to finish memorizing some key structures.

Making the list, I saw that what I wanted to review was this:

  • The list of Starke und unregelmässige Verben
  • Funktionsverbgefügen
  • Verben mit direktem Kasus (Nom/Akk/Dativ)
  • Verben mit präpositionalem Kasus
  • Wissenschafts-und fachsprachliches Training
  • Verben mit un/persönlichem Subjekt + Objekt

As a method, I decided that the notes I had, beyond provinding some good memories from the time I was learning would not be of much use. It is normal to forget stuff and we are used to being stuffed with information to later vomit it up in the exams without really digesting it. Usually they never explain you how the brain and memory works, so I had to ask myself: what was I doing wrong? why? Its not a secret to anyone not only in german but in life itself, that spending many hours doing something not always translate into an improvement, o sometimes we get overwhelmed with the stuff and after trying it a couple of times we end giving it up.

Therefore in this case after reading about the forgetting curve and Leitner system (for more information on this:) https://ncase.me/remember/; I decided to apply it for this case, due to the fact that it works perfectly for informations that you want to retain in a really long term. The system can be done manually or using a software, and there are several available using different learning algorithms. In my case I chose Anki due to the fact that is open source and available in every platform.

Deck Building

As I was just starting, I didn’t want to focus on the technical details or doing it perfectly, instead I just focused on starting and moving forward correcting details in the way. The goal with Anki is to create question cards and at the same time review them. However there are several card types and theories about what should a card contain. For example in a verb list you may want to include all its forms for a given verb in a card or you may want to split it in several cards for each verb form.

I also wanted to use colors as a reference and to each gramatical case I assigned a color to help my myself to identify them.

german grammatical cases colors

Blue is key and will be used a lot, however a small trick here: due to the fact that yellow(Akkusativ) appears much more than the blue(Dativ) and green(Genitiv), learning the blue and green first will be helpful to guess the yellow without learning all of them at once.

Starke und unregelmässige Verben

initial table- Starke und unregelmässige Verben

In this case we would get 2 types of cards: one with the verb 2 language- german and another with the three grammatical of the verb

schelten conjugation

Verben mit direktem Kasus ( Nom/Akk/Dativ)

In this case I took the paper list I had, and transcibed it into a spreadsheet, and as mentioned before classifying it by colors giving priority to the blue and green. However in the list there is also the combination of double yellow (Verben mit zwei Akkusativen) yellow-green (Verben mit Akkusativ and Genitiv) and yellow-blue ( Akkusativ und Dativ)


Please don’t run away! this is the hardest part and to be honest the one that really makes you to ace it out, those are little details that make the difference. After spending a long time searching for them and putting them on a spreadsheet, I got a list of approximatly 273 nominal verbs, which I considered worthwhile knowing. The idea was also to find their meaning and an example in german that could help me to get in context and lastly a translation to better understand it, for example:

Fünktionsverbgefüge Anstoß nehmen

In this case two types of them are used (Typ 1 /Typ 2), where in the first one the substantive and the verb which it represents have a similar meaning, and in the second one the verb and the substantive represented differ more in meaning.

FVB in Betracht ziehen

Verben mit Präpositionelem Kasus (Präposition + Akkusativ / Präposition + Dativ)

This list is really similar to the list of direktem Kasus, only that here a preposition is added with the case. Many time by knowing the preposition we could foresee which case will it use, but many times we find ourselves with surprises or sometime a verb can use several prepositions and change completely its meaning, so even though you might have seen the verb before when you find yourself with one of these you could get lost ( sometimes the context may save you)

Verben mit un/persönlichem Subjekt + Objekt

Here we want to review the personal and impersonal verbs and the case which they use

Verben mit Dativ Objekt+ Akkussativ Objetkt Anki

Wissenschafts-und fachsprachliches Training

In this case the cards where aimed more to phrases used in college, exams and advance level books. Usually those are list used in presentations and academic writing.

In total, I got more than two thousand cards and the idea is to space the reviews, depending on your goals you may configure the number of daily cards, the spacing and many things, you may even simulate your progress and check if it adjust to your goals

Active recall, spaced repetion, mind mapping and interleaved practice are tools that may help you with your learning regardless of the subject. Here I wanted to give you a quick glimpse in how I use them in a later stage of language learning, but there are many more uses to them and a good complement to your learning.