B2 | Step 09: The Secretary Technique

Annotations to the Video

In the video above I assumed that you would work with a native speaker but have since then optimized the technique for self-learners that want or need to learn independently.

Use the video to get an overview and insight into the technique and then follow the step by step instructions below.

What it is about

Not everyone is so lucky as to have a native speaker around at all times, but, thanks to modern yet easy to use technology, you are able to practice your free speaking skills almost on your own. The Secretary Technique is a powerful speaking practise and learning tool. All you need is a smartphone or a web browser. If you happen to know a German native speaker or advanced German learner (at least a very good level B2 CEFR) to check your work here and there, great. If not, no worries. You'll achieve your goal even without one. What you are about to learn is a technique that combines essential elements of dictations, writing and the preaching.

How it is done

1 | Think of a topic that you could speak about freely in German for max. two minutes. Write down up to 10 keywords (no full sentences please) in DE if possible or in EN. You can use these while doing this technique. You can always take the topic that I suggest in the Schreiben step. But don't use the draft from back then.
For this lesson let's talk about a birthday. You could e.g. talk about one of your favorite birthday parties or what you think about birthdays in general. Or about your 50ieth or 100th birthday. Let your phantasy roam freely. Below you'll find a sample script that I would use for a secretary recording about my 100th birthday. You'll also find a sample recording in good German below. Remember: you don't have to be perfect but it wouldn't make sense for me to fake broken German.

2 | Speak about that topic with help of your notes. Eventually speak for up to two minutes but initially one minute might be more than enough and have Speechnotes.co transcribe it for you. Those apps will transcribe what you are saying IF you speak a bit slower than you usually would. Maybe it helps if you imagined that you dictated your ideas to a virtual secretary (hence the name). If you say "neue Zeile" (new line) after each line, the final transcription will also look very neat.

3 | Afterwards look at the transcription and correct it like you would do in the writing-step. Don't worry about missing a couple of mistakes. You can use Languagetool.org or mentor.duden.de for support. If you have someone else correct your mistakes, please make sure that they know how to do so properly. Show them this video please: How to correct efficiently. You might try the apps “Hello Talk” or "Tandem-app" to find a German for this task.

4 | After working through your transcription, repeat steps 1-3. Only use the keywords from step 01. Once you are done, simply compare your new transcription with the first, corrected transcription and pay attention to your improvements. Remember: Never aim at 100% perfection.

5 | You can share the transcriptions of your 2nd or even 3rd try with us here in the comments. We won't correct them but they will inspire other learners on their way.

How often should I work with this technique?

Initially I suggest you work with the secretary technique whenever it comes up in this course. It will take you around 30-45mins, maybe a bit longer in the beginning but do not spend longer than 60mins on it. The aim is to spend max. 30mins on it. So make sure to keep the recording to 2 mins max. If you can't seem to keep it within this time frame, just contact me via the comments and I'll take a look.
If you like this technique and if it goes smoothly, feel free to do one round everyday no matter where you are in your current lesson. Make sure to always repeat your secretary topic at least once before changing the topic.

Know that you can chose the topic for this exercise freely according to your needs. Maybe you'd like to talk about a professional topic or a special interest or friend or experience of yours. This is your chance to prepare talks, presentations or conversations about topics that you are interested in.

The idea behind this step

One of the biggest problems German learners have is that they are rarely corrected properly or, worse still, are corrected in an offensive manner. By offensive I do not mean only that one might be made to feel belittled by the corrector, but also that the corrector might rob you of one of the most rewarding experiences in German learning: to find and correct your own mistakes.

But, without any feedback, there would be no learning. The secretary technique is a wonderfully flexible tool that requires only very little interaction with a native speaker if at all. This way, everyone saves a lot of time and you remain mostly independent in your German learning process. It is important that you repeat the steps above at least once as it is only by sufficient repetition that new information is reinforced and consolidated in your long-term memory.

One word of advice regarding preaching

The Preaching remains the most important technique to implement new grammar patterns into your long-term memory. The Secretary Technique is a lovely way to practice free (!) speaking on your own and therefore a lot more difficult initially but the more valuable in the end.

Sample Draft

My 100th b-day
- no celebration
- rise early
- breakfast brother
- spa
- lunch son
- forest
- coffee NY cheese friend
- massage
- book
- enjoy day
- diner gf
- remember old times
- fall asleep together

Sample Secretary Recording


--- Directly copied from JustPressRecord, I just had to correct one word and the capitalization ---

Mein 100. Geburtstag
An meinem 100. Geburtstag werde ich keine große Feier veranstalten.
Ich stehe einfach früh auf,
frühstücke mit meiner Familie: meinen Eltern, meinem Bruder, meiner Schwester
und gehe anschließend in eine Spa.
Danach esse ich zu Mittag mit meinem Sohn.
Der ist dann auch schon 62 oder 72
und gehe mit ihm ein wenig im Wald spazieren
und genieße die Natur.
Nach dem Spaziergang gehe ich mit meinen Freunden -
ich habe ein, zwei Freunde hier in Berlin -
einen New York Cheese Cake essen und Kaffee trinken.
Dann gönne ich mir eine Massage,
nehme mir ein gutes Buch
und lese ein paar Seiten
und genieße den Tag.
Abends dann habe ich ein Abendessen mit meiner Freundin
und wir gedenken der alten Zeiten.
Ich denke zurück an das letzte Jahr,
vielleicht auch an die letzten 100 Jahre
und abends dann fallen wir zusammen in den Schlaf.
Und am nächsten Tag beginnt mein 101. Lebensjahr.
Im Grunde genommen ist jeder Tag mein Geburtstag,
also ist der 100. Geburtstag auch nicht wirklich etwas Besonderes.

Share your Thoughts

And share your corrected transcription with us. Don't mind any mistakes. It will still be an inspiration for others and a huge achievement.

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