Neil Kendall Languages

The language learning challenge

A comprehensive review of Linkword German and how it has helped me learn German

Readers of this blog will be aware that earlier this year I successfully went through the Linkword Spanish and Linkword Japanese courses. Well, since then I have also been learning German with the Linkword Method too. I'd like to write a blog post about how I got on....and I must warn you this could be a long one!

Years ago when I was in high school I studied German while there, but upon leaving could not speak the language, and years later could not remember hardly a word of it. Having developed a passion for language learning later in my life, I decided to try learning German from the perspective of an adult and someone who now has some real world experience of language learning. But more to the point, I was keen to see how the Linkword method would work for learning German.

I want to start by saying that I'm a big fan of the Linkword Method, created by Dr. Michael Gruneberg. I'm not in any way affiliated with Linkword, so this will be an unbiased review based upon my own experiences. For those of you who haven't read my reviews of the Spanish and Japanese courses, Linkword involves learning vocabulary and grammar using visualisations to create a little memory hook/mnemonic in your mind's eye. You essentially think of an English word or phrase (or part of/more than one word or phrase) that sounds like the word in the foreign language you're trying to learn, and you create an image in your mind linking this with the meaning of the foreign word, which then serves to help you remember and recall the word for later use - hence the term 'Linkword'. 

For example, the German word for railway is 'Eisenbahn'. This sounds a bit like the English words 'ice' and 'barn'. So you could imagine in your mind's eye a visualisation of a person shoveling ice into a barn next to a railway, thus helping you remember the German word for 'railway' more easily. Because you are using both the left and right sides of your brain, recall speeds up and it also makes the process of learning words much more stimulating than simply trying to memorise them parrot-fashion.

All Linkword courses give you ready made visualisations like this for every word, so you do not need to come up with any of your own.

Of course, there is much more to Linkword Method than simpy memorising a list of words. You are also taught grammar and asked to construct/translate sentences using what you've been taught, which gets you using the language in the context of real sentences and phrases so you can actually speak and use it. 

So anyway, let's get onto how the Linkword Method is applied to German, and how it worked out for me!...

An overview of the German Linkword course

Linkword German comes in 4 Levels, each level consisting of 10 or 11 sections, and it takes roughly 45 minutes to an hour and a half to complete each section depending on its complexity. Each level teaches approx 300 - 400 words, meaning you will have learned around 1200 words by the end of all 4 levels. 

Generally, words are taught in blocks of between 5 and 10 at a time, then you are given a test on the words, followed by a short grammar point tutorial, and then you are given some sentences to translate from English to German and vice versa. This keeps things manageable and you get a real sense of progress as you go through the course.

As with other Linkword courses, you can choose which format your prefer to learn with - when you purchase, you get the course in mp3 audio format (or on cd), PC or Mac software, as well an app for Android. The content is exactly the same for each version, the only difference being that the software and app versions include writing practice in addition to audio. For me, I started out by going through the mp3 audio course first, then I went through the PC software version to learn the reading and writing element of German. One can equally start with the software version first, but it was simply my personal preference to do it this way.

Categories of vocabulary taught include adjectives, common everyday verbs for the present and past tense forms, auxilliary/modal verbs, adverbs, common everyday phrases, as well as nouns for animals, furniture, colours, household items, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, food and drink, shopping, business words, travel and tourism, illness and ailments, clothing, family, car words, places in town, countryside, weather, tools, parts of the body, household items, emotions, musica instruments, sports, flowers and plants, cinema and theatre, prepositions, etc.

Grammar points taught include the present tense, future tense, simple and perfect past tense verbs forms, reflexive verbs, auxiliary/modal verbs, most types of pronouns, sentence order and structure, comparatives, superlatives, as well as covering some of the more difficult aspects of German such as adjectives, plurals, as well as how articles change in certain parts of sentence (i.e. whether they are before the subject or object of a sentence) and after prepositions, and not forgetting 

In short, this course is extremely comprehensive in terms of what is covered. There is also a glossary at the end of each section, which is invaluable in helping one revise the vocabulary they've learned in that particular section. I should also mention that Linkword German also applies the method to teach the genders of each noun, which I'll discuss in the next section....

The tricky aspects of German, and how Linkword deals with them

Although many words in German are similar to their English equivalents (since part of English comes from German; English vocabulary for the most part being a 'hybrid' of French and German words), certain aspects of German grammar are very tricky and pose learners with quite a challenge when trying to become fluent in the language. In this respect, German is quite a bit different from English. I'd like to write about these challenges in this section and how, in my opinion, Linkword makes them much easier to understand than with traditional methods:

1) Genders of nouns - unlike English, German has 3 different possible genders for each noun (der, die and das, for 'the' and 'ein' or 'eine' for 'a' or 'an'), and in many cases there is no way to figure out what the gender is by looking at the word alone (note: there are some particular word endings and word groups in German that follow certain gender rules, but for the vast majority of words it's not possible to figure out the gender in any logical kind of way, unlike Spanish, for example where you can mostly tell by the ending of a word as to where it's masculine or feminine). This means that genders must be memorised when learning a word.

To make things even more difficult for a learner, if one gets the gender of a word wrong then several knock on mistakes will happen later on down the line - you see, the der, die, and das articles change into den, dem etc at certain points in a sentences and/or after prepositions etc, so if you get the gender wrong in the first place then you will inevitably get the den/dem forms wrong as well. To put it mildly, this can be really frustrating for the aspiring German learner!

How Linkword deals with this issue: Fortunately, the Linkword method is applied to learning genders, making it no problem at all to memorise the particular gender of a word. After you've been taught a block of nouns, you are then taught (and tested on) the genders of each one. The way Linkword teaches genders is to visualise each word with something feminine for feminine nouns, something masculine for masculine words, and something more neutral for neuter words (hint: it's to do with a boxer, a little girl and fire...but you have to get the course to find out more!). You're given easy to remember images for each one, making it easy and enjoyable to learn genders. 

Dr. Gruneberg mentioned to me that some people favour learning genders of words in the same visualisation as for the initial word, whereas Linkword teaches separate visualisations for the gender. I see no problem with this, and it was very effective for me (more on that later).

2) Word order of sentences - When forming sentences in German, the word order can be tricky. For example if there are 2 verbs in a sentences, the second always goes at the end, and certain other words can send the verb to the end of a clause or sentence too.

How Linkword deals with this issue: Once again, Linkword comes up trumps. Word order is explained in amongst the grammar points taught, in a short and concise way that makes it easy to understand and apply. Also, by doing the sentence practice exercises in Linkword, word order becomes more second nature.

3) The case with 'den' for nouns - You'll have forgive me, dear reader, as I don't know the technical grammatical term for this point, so don't send the 'grammar police' after me....however in German, if a masculine noun is the object of a sentence rather than the subject, the article 'der' changes to 'den' (and likewise, 'ein' changes to 'einen'). This can pose problems if one doesn't know this grammar rule, or worse, if they don't memorise the genders of nouns in the first place!

How Linkword deals with this issue: As I've already mentioned, the first 'issue' Linkword solves is that of memorising genders. But the grammar points for the 'der to den'/'ein to einen' case is once again explained in a short and sweet way that makes it uncomplicated to comprehend. It's just a simple rule, that once explained and practiced becomes second nature also.

4) Articles changing after prepositions, and inactive vs active prepositions - Yet another potentially problematic element of German grammar is that fact that after prepositions, the articles der, die and das (and therefore ein, eine) can change to dem or der (and following on from this, ein, eine to einer and einem). To make this doubly difficult, there are 2 main categories of prepositions in German - inactive and active - and the rule for how the articles change after these is different for each category. It's enough to drive even the most dedicated language learner crazy!

How Linkword deals with this issue: As ever, good old Linkword breaks this down into the clearest, most concise to follow explanation, and you are given ample opportunity to practice this grammar point in the context of sentences until it is etched into your mind and seems totally natural. Yes, I know it sounds like I'm repeating myself a bit here, but I'm just making the point about how well explained the grammar in Linkword German is :-)

5) Adjectives - Another maddeningly frustrating facet of German is adjectives. The ending of an adjective can change depending upon many different things - the position of the adjective in the sentence, whether it's after a definite or indefinite article etc. How on earth can the language learner get their head around such a dilema?

How Linkword deals with this issue: Luckily, there is actually a logical pattern to German adjectives, and unlike most grammar books which just over-compicate things and make your head spin, Linkword breaks it down and explains the pattern/rules of German adjectives nice and succinctly, leaving it clear in your mind as to the endings, especially after you've practiced sentences with adjectives for a while. This point is also revised at various points in the course too, further reinforcing it.

6) Plurals - Unlike English, Spanish or a lot of other languages, there is no simple or definite pattern to making German nouns into their plural form, thus potentially leaving the learner with a lot of head scratching.

How Linkword deals with this issue: At the risk of sounding like I'm contradicting myself here, there ARE actually a few logical patterns/rules to forming plurals in German, although the fact remains that even if you follow these patterns/rules you won't always be correct all of the time because there are often exceptions to these rules. However, Linkword once again teaches these patterns/rules so that you won't be confused at all, and further reassures you that even if you get a plural wrong, natives will most likely still be able to understand you, therefore you shouldn't be put off from trying to speak German with them for fear of getting a plural ending wrong!

7) Forming the past tense form of verbs with 'have' (the 'perfect tenses') - In German, when one uses the past tense with 'have', for example 'I have eaten' or 'I have spoken' etc, although there is a general pattern for the 'have' part and the fact that most past tense verbs add 'ge' at the beginning in this form, there is no set way to tell what the ending of the verbs in this form will be (they can either end in 't' or 'en'). So how on earth is a learner supposed to handle this, without having to memorise them parrot fashion? 

How Linkword deals with this issue: Fortuntately Linkword comes to the rescue again! Everything is made really simple - if a past tense verb ends in 't', you are asked to visualise it with with a 'tea' (the kind that you drink, obviously...), and if it ends in 'en' then you visualise it with a 'hen'. You're then tested on them to make sure they've sunk in. This is a simple yet ingenious way of handling one of the frustrating aspects of the past tense in German.

8) Forming the simple past tense of verbs - One more tricky point about the past tense in German is with the simple past tense, i.e. the past tense without 'have', for example 'I ate', 'I spoke', 'I bought' etc. Like a lot of verbs in English, when you go into the simple past tense in German there is no obvious way to know what the verb changes to. As a result, a lot of German learners are left with no option but simply memorise parrot fashion the simple past form (as well as the past tense form with 'have'). Surely there is a better, more efficient way, right?

How Linkword deals with this issue: In answer to the question I just typed, yes there is a better way to deal with the simple past tense in German, and to my mind this was the most creative and impressive part of Linkword German. Essentially, Linkword notes that verbs in the simple past differ from the infinitive form by either adding a 't' or by changing certain vowels into other vowels. The result is that you are given simple visualisations of some words beginning with these vowels, thus meaning you can easily remember the vowel change for the simple past form, without any parrot fashion type straining. I was super impressed by this point and have never seen anything like this explained anywhere else.

So, how did Linkword German work for me?

As the old saying goes, 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating' let me examine how Linkword German worked out for me. I'll start by saying I found German a harder language than Spanish, and possibly even Japanese, mainly because of the more complex grammar that German has in comparison to these other languages, and as a result it took me a fair bit longer to get through than the previous courses. That might also have been down to the fact that I have been learning several languages at once this year, which inevitably made things take a bit longer.

However, I can confidently say that Linkword German worked out great for me and is a really impressive course. I started with the mp3 audio version, and generally would go through 1 or 2 sections each day to make it manageable for myself. If you have more time, you can definitely work through it a lot quicker; this was simply a pace that worked for me. I found it easy to remember most of the words and genders taught (and it was no big deal to forget the odd one, because it's easy enough to revise the ones you don't get right), and therefore the memory hook visualisations were effective.

As for the grammar, I really liked how Linkword explained everything, including the more complex aspects, in an easy to follow and concise way. I find most grammar books a bit frustrating - often it's like reading a scientific manual because they are written in such a dry and formal sort of way, and you don't end up helping you to actually speak or use the language. However, the explanations of the grammar in Linkword made it clear and accessible to me. Sometimes I had to listen to/read through the more complex points a few times to truly get them, but that is to be expected for anyone really.

Where I'm at now is that I feel I have quite a comprehensive vocabulary in German, and that I could communicate in many everyday situations. I feel I've also got a pretty good command of the grammar too, but that I'll have to continue practicing it to make it second nature to me. 

I've also recently started reading various music and sports articles in German, and can understand a decent amount of what I'm reading thanks to what I've learned in Linkword. There is still a long way to go before I am able to understand in more detail what I read, but Linkword has provided me a very good start with that.

I wouldn't say I'm fluent in German, but again I feel Linkword has given me a really good overview of the German language and a great foundation to build upon, as well as all the tools I need to expand my vocabulary and master the grammar with continued study. And most importantly, I can REMEMBER what I have learned.

In summary, from what I've looked in, I think Linkword German is one of the best and most comprehensive German courses on the market, so I'd highly recommend it. I've learned more German in the last 6 months than I did in my entire time at high school, so I think that speaks volumes about the quality of this course (as well as the failings about how languages are taught school - but that's a subject for another blog post!).

I'd also like to thank Mr Gruneberg for creating the course and for his generosity in allowing me to try it out. Linkword is definitely helping me to achieve my polyglot dreams :-)

I am looking forward to learning more languages with Linkword Method (in fact I will be going through Linkword French very soon) so expect more blog posts about that in the future.

Auf Wiedersehen, meinen Freunden!

By the way, if this review has peaked your curiosity about the Linkword method, please visit their website at to find out more. They also have a special autumn offer of all 15 of their language courses for only £24.99 (yes, for all 15, grab it while you can), as well as a FREE BONUS of all their language 'survival courses' when you purchase their language courses (subject to end at any time, so don't blame me if it's gone by the time you read this post :-) )

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