Why You Didn’t Learn German in School: An Interview with Steve Kaufmann

Tips for Language Learners

Herr Antrim:
If you can give one tip to language learners, what’s it going to be?

Steve Kaufmann:
Try to find ways to enjoy the process. Everything else will fall into line. Because then you’re going to listen to stuff, you’re going to read stuff. If you’re the kind of person who likes reading grammar books, go for it. But find ways to enjoy the process. Because if you enjoy the process, you’ll be absorbing it. And you’ll also spend the time necessary and you’ll be motivated. So, I think finding ways to enjoy it is tremendously important.

Specific Tips for German Learners

Herr Antrim:
If you were to give specific instructions to German learners, is there anything you can tweak to go to that?

Steve Kaufmann:
The only thing I would say is that people can be put off by the somewhat convoluted nature of German sentences and the fact that the verb comes at the end and the verbs are sometimes separated, and it can be frustrating to try and remember the correct declension endings and stuff like that.

In my experience, whatever seems difficult in a language, whatever seems impossible in the language eventually it becomes natural. And I’ve dealt with that in Arabic and Persian and Russian and stuff. At first, it seems I’ll never, you know, it’s just too difficult. But you just have to stay the course and eventually it starts to become natural.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll be perfect, but it means that a lot of these things that seem unnecessarily complicated, and why did they bother doing it that way? Eventually just becomes natural. That’s just the way it is.

When you have absorbed enough of the language, it just becomes natural to you. Your brain has now put the pieces together, has figured out little patterns that deal with the German language. So, don’t get too hung up about what’s strange or difficult initially, just continue.

Why is German Fun to Learn?

Herr Antrim:
What would you say is the most entertaining or fun thing about learning German?

Steve Kaufmann:
Every language has its own way of expressing things. And I enjoy the way the Germans express themselves. What I think the most positive thing about Germany is how friendly the people are when you’re over there. Yeah. A lot of them speak English, but I found that they’re quite happy to humor me in German. They are friendly, they’re quite lively.

They have the most beautiful little towns and they have beautiful sections of even the big cities. I enjoy being in Germany. To me, the biggest attraction of German is Germany.

Steve Kaufmann’s Favorite Books

Herr Antrim:
You read obviously a lot of text in various languages. What is your favorite book? No matter what language it is, what’s your favorite book?

Steve Kaufmann:
I mean, I like reading about history. I like for example, I sort of call it romantic novels of the 19th century in foreign languages. Like Balzac in French or Tolstoy in Russian. I enjoy the idea that you’re sort of transported into another country, another culture, another time in history. I kind of enjoy that.

Favorite German Books

Herr Antrim:
Same question, do you have any favorite books in German specifically?

Steve Kaufmann:
Well, I often quote Manfred Spitzer. Manfred Spitzer is a German neuroscientist. He writes about the brain and how the brain learns. And it’s very, very interesting. And I’d read it in German. Some of the parts might have been a little bit foggy to me, but he’s a very interesting thinker.

Herr Antrim:
If you’re going to go with something lower level, what would you recommend?

Steve Kaufmann:
I tend to read non-fiction. So, I have books… Most of the German books I have here are books of history and there’s some wonderful books that have the corresponding audio book, history of Germany, history of Bismarck, Prussia, any number of these books. That’s what I enjoy. I enjoy nonfiction not only in German, but in Swedish, in other languages, Ukrainian, Polish. I always liked to go into history books and nonfiction.

die Deutschen

Herr Antrim:
So, I have this book that I purchased after I graduated from the university.

Steve Kaufmann:
Die Deutschen. I might have that at home, yeah.

Herr Antrim:
We had to use this as our textbook in college for one of the courses that I took. It was just, it was phenomenal. It was fantastic to just read about the history of Germany, going all the way back as far back as they could have records. To me, it was just fascinating to read. And so that was one of the places that I picked up, a lot of obscure words that I don’t necessarily need anymore. That’s where I picked them up is in this book.

Steve Kaufmann:
That would be a phenomenal… I would be all over a book like that. One of the things that was very helpful to me in learning Chinese was that they had a book on say Chinese culture. It’s called Twenty Lectures on Chinese Culture. So I had a simplified book on Chinese culture.

I think that nonfiction, I much preferred to read simplified nonfiction as opposed to graded readers, where you’d take Robert Louis Stevenson and dumb it down, or you take a famous novel that you might want to read one day and dumb it down. I’m not a big fan of those.

But nonfiction, a book like that, which introduces students to German history, German people. The Germans are very good at this. Like, you go to a little town and people talk about themselves and what they do in the town and the history of the town, all of that kind of stuff. If it’s sort of at an intermediate level, it’s tremendous learning material, in my opinion. And always you want to have audio with text.

Thank you, Steve Kaufmann.

Herr Antrim:
I just want to thank you again for hanging out with me today. It’s been a pleasure. Like I said, I’ve been following you for a long time and it’s just a pleasure to meet you and get a chat with you about language learning.

Steve Kaufmann:
I enjoyed it.

Herr Antrim:
If you want to find or follow Steve online, I have linked his social networks, his YouTube channel, his website, and his company all in the description down below. There are also links for everything that we discussed during this interview. Thank you for watching and Bis zum nächsten Mal, tschüss.

Herr Antrim
Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites. *This site uses a variety of affiliate links. If there is a link that leads to an outside site from which you could potentially make a purchase, it is very likely an affiliate link for which Herr Antrim will receive a small portion of your purchase. This does not cost you any extra, but it does help keep this website going. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you would like more information about the affiliate programs this site uses, click here.
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