Determined to Learn German? Read Our Tips and You’ll Surely Succeed!
If you’re not new to the city, chances are, that you’ve already attempted to learn German but have most likely given up, or are taking a ‘break’. It might not be that you’re lazy, but it’s just so easy to survive in Berlin without speaking a word of German. The other reason might be frustration – German is a very difficult language, and it may feel like it would take a lifetime to learn!
Don’t give up, help is on the way! It is possible to improve your German, even if you don’t have time to spend the next few years at a language school.
In this article, we’ve gathered 7 great tips on how to learn German in Berlin and advice on how to go about choosing the right language school. If you’re an expat living in Berlin, and have lost confidence in mastering German, read our helpful tips below to find the best combination of tools you need to succeed!
1. Too Often Overlooked: Online Courses
2. German Tandem Partners
3. German Private Tutors
4. Language Apps! Fun, Flexible, and often Free!
5. The Classical approach: learn German at a language school
6. Take an Educational Leave from your Job to learn German in Berlin
7. Immerse Yourself in German Everyday
1. Too Often Overlooked: Online German Courses
You may be surprised that our first tip is about the benefits of online courses. There seems to be a belief that attending a face-to-face language course is the best option to learn German. But before you skip over this paragraph, hold on!
The options we have to present you with, are not your typical, ordinary courses. They actually introduce you to a new way of learning languages. These courses are suitable for beginners and learners with a language school past who still struggle when they try to form a German sentences. Does that sound familiar? They’re the ones with the long pauses, when they go through the conjugation and declination table.
Plus, don’t forget the main benefit of online learning: complete flexibility for a busy or irregular schedule.
smarterGerman: The Unconventional Online Course from Berlin
Michael Schmitz – founder and tutor of smarterGerman – has been teaching the language for more than 15 years. He has come to the conclusion that group classes just aren’t always effective. Schmitz even stated that they are a waste of time, money and energy. A strong opinion indeed, but his argument actually makes some sense. In conventional language classes, it takes ages before you learn to use an ‘object’. To combat this, the accusative case should be introduced first. In traditional classes grammar dictates how and what you learn, and you can spend weeks learning to introduce yourself and saying where you come from. This may not always give you the results you’re looking for. Schmitz teaches patterns, not grammar. In his course you learn to use the past tense in the second session. He concentrates on the relevant pieces of information. This approach makes learning German faster and much more efficient. And the best bit – you also use your mother tongue to learn German. The idea behind this is that you learn the way German differentiates from your mother tongue, as well as what the similarities might be. This may sound academic but it is not. In German you say: “Sprichst du Deutsch?” – which would be “Speak-st you German” – and not “Do you speak German?” This helps beginners and advanced learners to understand the order of words.
Are you curious if this method is right for you? Check out the free trial and the Youtube videos. We especially recommend the German articles unit. The technique Schmitz uses is not new, but surprisingly, no one has used it to teach German besides him.
The Course: Smarter German
Cost: €357 + VAT, can be paid in installments over 3, 6 or 12 months
Levels: A1-B1 – You can take the course on your own time, and for as long as you like.
Other Benefits: Live chat with Michael Schmitz once a week
Rocket German: Authentic Conversation
Learning Grammar first – this is on Rocket German’s not-to-do list! This program is available not only for German but for many other languages. What makes Rocket German special is their emphasis on spoken German: modern dialogue which is entertaining, and sometimes even funny. Rocket German chooses real life situations, which is what you actually need when learning a new language. So instead of booking hotels over the phone, something people don’t often do anymore, introducing yourself or asking for directions, the lessons start with ordering a coffee. What could be more relatable for life in Berlin?
Our only criticism: The voice recognition does not seem to be ideal in order to improve your pronunciation. Nik, one of the teachers, is a little too chatty. She and Paul, who are introduced as Bavarian, aren’t German native speakers, as they have a slight American accent.
Finally, this course is interactive. You play a part in a dialogue, which includes vocal training. So what are the unique benefits of Rocket German? It’s an award winning system, with practical conversation skills, and you can download the content easily to learn at your own pace.
The Course: Rocket Languages German
Cost: Levels 1 & 2 range from €210 to €250 (comes with a 60 day refund policy)
If you want to peruse more options, check out our other recommendations for online and self-study courses below:
FluentU – Online video-based language course. Free trial, but you have to register a credit card.
Fluenz – Attempts to simulate one-on-one tutoring. The courses are all designed from the point of view of an English speaker, but the method is not new and progress is slower than with other programs.
ASSiMil – With ASSiMil you learn the language as a child learns. ASSiMil offers short units, and you learn 20 minutes a day within the context of a dialogue. This is a useful method, but the materials are not as advanced as those of their competitors.
2. Tandem Partners: Make a German Friend, Improve your Conversation skills!
Finding a German tandem partner is a great idea if you want to brush up on your language and conversation skills, in exchange for helping your partner improve the language you can offer them. It’s also a good way to make some native German-speaking friends! Meeting a tandem partner only makes sense if you already have a good working knowledge of German. With a tandem partner you simply chat, but if you are unable to express yourself, the conversation might become boring or you might find yourself switching back to English. In our opinion, tandem partners only make sense if you are at least at a B1 level.
You can find a tandem partner on various platforms:
On Facebook: Tandem-Partners Berlin
Tandem Partners – Free of charge, lots of Berliners German native speakers.
Tandem – This language school helps you find a suitable partner for a very small fee, or for free if you’re signed up for one of their courses.
Scrabbin Create an account for free to meet lots of potential tandem partners.
Meetup – Not only for tandem partners, Meetup is a social connection site where you can join a special interest group or start your own group.
3. German Tutors: One-on-One Learning
There are a few options for finding a great tutor to help you. You can find a tutor at any language school in Berlin. Pricing starts at about. 35 Euro/unit (incl. VAT). You generally have to book a session of two units, which forms a total of 90 minutes altogether. Private sessions can take place at a language school, your office, or at home. If the teacher has to travel to you, this may likely cost you extra. Private tutoring is, of course, much more intensive, and you get to decide what you’d like to focus on. Private lessons are a great choice if you can’t commit to a weekly course, or if you need help with a specific topic.
An alternative way to find a private tutor is to search on these online platforms where many teachers advertise their services:
Online private tutors and teachers hold lessons for you via video tutoring. Teachers are given a star rating based on reviews from other students. The prices of each teacher’s services vary. For a few Euros you can book a 30 minute trial. There are short videos of every tutor so you can choose one that appeals to you, as well as a schedule to show their availability.
On Teacher Finder you can book a private tutor in your desired city. Prices are fixed, and the lessons are always 25 Euro per hour in Berlin, if you live close to the city centre. If you’re further out you may have to pay extra.
You cannot choose a teacher, but instead you register online and explain what you are looking for. A teacher will contact you and you arrange either face-to-face lessons or online lessons.
This option is fairly affordable, so even though there is no guarantee that the teacher is qualified, it can be worth giving it a try.
With these options you have to evaluate your teacher’s qualifications yourself. It might take you meeting a couple different tutors to find someone who is right for you.
4. Language Apps: Fun, Flexible and often Free!
Apps are a fun and easy way to get started with German, and are mainly helpful for learning or brushing up on vocabulary. Try practicing while you’re travelling to work, perhaps on the train or on the bus. Some apps even connect you with your friends, so you can add the element of competition to your learning, which helps a lot with motivation.
Try out these popular apps and get started today:
- DuoLingo (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
This is the best app for language learning. It is interactive, colourful, simple and fun to use. Plus you can add your friends to help motivate each other.
- Babbel (iOS, Android)
Simple and easy to use, plus the app can synchronise across devices.
- Memrise (iOS, Android),
Memrise focuses on vocabulary, and is easy and entertaining. You can also follow other users and compete for points for a higher ranking.
- Busuu (iOS, Android)
Busuu functions as a standalone language tool more than other apps. Plus, you don’t need an internet connection to use it.
- Mindsnacks (iOS)
The most visual app on the market. Mindsnacks is fun and easy to play while commuting to work. It’s more like a game, and less like studying!
5. The Classical Approach: Learn German at a Language School
A language school is often the obvious way to learn German. In Berlin, there’s an abundance of schools. Most of them offer intensive, daytime or evening and test preparation classes. It is impossible to know which school is the best, as it really depends on the teacher. Most teachers who teach German as a foreign language are dedicated and encouraging, but they should also know how to simplify the process and guide you. The most obvious difference between schools is the price. The more expensive schools don’t automatically guarantee superiority, but it is likely that they have students that are more eager to learn.
One of the more affordable schools is the Volkshochschule. There are 12 locations across Berlin, and they provide evening classes. On the other end of the spectrum is the Goethe Institut: it’s the most expensive and prestigious language school in Berlin. Their courses are over €1000. Something to note is that both the Volkshochschule and the Goetheinstitute have larger classes (Goethe <16) than the private language schools .
So, what factors should you consider when looking for the right language school?
Here is a list of things to consider when choosing a German language school:
- Choose a school nearby
It’s better to book a course close to your home or work. If you have to travel across the city, it will be harder to stay motivated.
- Take a trial class.
The quality of any school depends on the instructor. They all offer fairly the same structure, so it really comes down to the teacher. If you take a trial class, you can find out if you like the atmosphere, the teacher and learning style before you commit to an entire course. Most schools offer trial classes, so we reccommend testing them our before committing to an entire course.
- Class size
The size of the class is definitley important. The students should speak in class and the teacher should correct improper pronunciation. This is difficult if there are too many students. The fewer, the better.
- Testing to check your level.
Every school should offer a test before you begin. Online tests are okay, but they don’t actually say anything about your active knowledge. The tests are always multiple choice. With tests like these, there is a good chance you will end up as an advanced beginner, even for Mandarin. There should always be an oral and/or written test at the school.
- Finding the right level
You have a better chance to find a course that really suits your level if you enrol at a larger German language school. In smaller schools, there are often fewer classes. Because of this they sometimes put students at different levels in one class all together.
- Grammar should not be taught in German
Language schools often promote the total immersion of a language. This often means that grammar is also taught in German. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced, you have to understand the grammar. If you don’t, you’ll likely feel lost. If you are a beginner, a mono-lingual course in German does not make sense. It’s hard enough to use grammer correctly, why do you need to learn it in another language first? The aim is to avoid wasting time. You probably wouldn’t have German explanations in your home country. Mono-lingual only classes make sense if you are at a B1+ level, not lower.
Here is a small selection of schools:
DAS Akademie (Torstr. 125, 10119)
did Deutsch-Institut Berlin (Novalisstr. 12, 10115)
Humboldt Institute (Invalidenstraße 19, 10115)
GLS Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg, Kastanienallee 82, 10435)
speakeasy Berlin (Warschauer Str. 36, 10243)
Sprachpunkt (Lausitzer Str. 13, 10999)
Transmitter (Allerstr. 15, 12049)
Sprachmafia (Schillerpromenade 25, 12049)
die deutSCHule (Karl-Marx-Straße 107, 12043)
Alpadia (Hauptstraße 23-24, 10827)
IIK berlinerID (Oudenarder Str. 16, 13347)
Steinke-Institut (Wilmersdorfer Str. 58, 10627)
Die Neue Schule (Gieselerstraße 30a, 10713)
6. Take an Educational Leave from your Job
Perhaps you did not have enough time to improve your German but, German is essential to your job in Berlin. If so, take a Bildungsurlaub! (educational leave). Instead of going to work, you can take an intensive German language course. If you’re over 25 you can take 10 days of leave within two years, if you’re under 25 you get 10 days each year. The course you attend must be certified for a Bildungsurlaub.
Check out these certified German Classes:
Sprachenatelier (Frankfurter Allee 40 10247)
7. Immerse Yourself in the German Everyday!
Listen and speak German as often as you possibly can, if you already have a working knowledge of German. Watch television, listen to the radio, switch your Netflix to Deutsch and read German newspapers. You can start with the tabloids, as they are easier to understand. And most importantly: Speak German in your everyday life! Don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s always better to try. If people respond to you in English, hold your ground, and reply ‘auf Deutsch’!
You can also read the Crocodilian blog in German from now on 😉
8. To Summarise:
Ultimately, there isn’t just one way to learn German. Everyone has a different way of learning, and not every method works for everyone. You may also find it helpful to use a combination of the above methods.
Take your time and test different options yourself. After a few days if you still remember what you learned in the trial, whether on or offline, you’ll know it’s a good sign and to keep persuing it.
Stick with it, stay persistant and remember, you can do it!
We’d love to hear from you! Add a comment below and let us know about your learning experience.