This month, I have set myself a huge language challenge to learn German! Okay, I’ll admit it – the title of this post is misleading as I already have limited working proficiency of German. BUT I want to learn more and I want to share the journey with YOU!
How much German have I already learned?
A little bit of background. Like many British school kids, I studied German during school but retained approximately 0.1% of it (i.e. the swear words). The next time the German language entered my life was when my boyfriend and I made a spontaneous decision to move here and I suddenly thought “oh crap, should probably learn German!”
During my first six months here I had no job and very little money. I’ve spoken before about how I use apps, YouTube videos and Podcasts. These are all fantastic tools and I will continue to bang on about them because I truly believe they’re the best way to begin learning a language if you don’t have the financial or geographical access to a language school.
I paid to take a beginners A1 course, though. It ran for 4 months and I definitely learned a lot from it. But because my general daily language was still English, it was hard to use my newly learned skills.
In March 2020, I started a new job. The same day, I also started a semi-intensive language course in the city. For 4 weeks, Mon-Thurs 19:00-20:30, I worked my way through my level A2 (although this ended up being 4 weeks over 3 months. We had to stop after just 2 weeks due to COVID closures).
At work, I was having to communicate with my colleagues in German. Over the next 7 months, I noticed my understanding, reading and writing of German improved significantly. Even if I couldn’t understand all of the words being spoken to me, I was at a point where I understood the general idea of the conversation.
But there was one problem. My spoken German was awful. With COVID leaving my office a ghost town, 90% of my German communication with my colleagues was over email. I was still speaking English more than German. The most frustrating part of having a hugely increased understanding of German was that I wanted to reply and have conversations. The foundations of what I wanted to say were there, but my brain just could not piece together a coherent sentence.
I couldn’t afford another intensive course, because it also meant having to buy an expensive train pass for the city and inevitably more takeout food because I would have to go directly from work to my classes. I was trying to save money, not spend it.
But getting more fluent in German was of huge importance to me so I knew I’d have to spend money somewhere. I decided to learn German with italki a try because I have been looking at signing up with them as an ESL teacher anyway.
Learn German with italki
There are TONS of teachers on italki, which is both a pro and a con. A pro because you really can find someone who’s going to be a good fit teacher for you, which will make your learning experience way more fun and probably a lot easier. A con because there are so many people to sift through and read about!
A few pages into my search, I stumbled on the profile of Stella. She seemed super friendly in her introduction video, but most importantly to me, her interests aligned with mine.
But be aware, kids.
I’m going to add this next anecdote because I want you to know that the search for a great teacher is NOT easy! Before Stella, I had a trial lesson with a couple of other teachers – one was a good teacher, but we just didn’t fit. But, during my second trial lesson, the GERMAN teacher spent 25 of the 30-minute lesson talking to me in ENGLISH. They did not ask any questions about my reasons for learning or if I lived here etc. and they provided a basic A1 reading exercise, despite the fact I had already told them I was comfortably at A2 level and specifically wanted to work on my speaking skills.
Speak more, fear less
I was super nervous to have my first online lesson. It was something I had never done before. But Stella asked brilliant questions, including what my hobbies were and, very importantly, if I felt comfortable.
So for the past few months, I have been having regular 30-minute sessions, focusing on speaking and pronunciation.
But now I’m ready to step it up a gear.
I want to get myself to Level B1 – Intermediate – before Christmas. I learn best under academic circumstances, i.e. buried in books in a classroom. But on a budget and with COVID restrictions still in place, this is the next best thing. PLUS my sessions are 1-2-1 which enhances the learning experience way more than being in a classroom with 6 other people.
I’ve locked in 5 full hour-long sessions with Stella over October, purchased a 700-page German grammar book along with a B1+ coursebook. I have a dedicated notebook + pen. I am ready to learn German!
I’m keeping notes and will have an update for you when the month is over. Wish me luck!
bis zum nächsten Mal / until next time,