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Learning German in Berlin…finally! Why I enrolled in a German language course

Well, the day has finally come. I’ve officially enrolled in a German language course in Berlin. Here’s the long and short of why it took me so long to sign up and what I hope to get out of an introductory language course. I’ve been in Berlin for over a year and while I occasionally picked up useful German words in conversation and online study, I never committed to a regimented lesson plan. Until now.

German language dictionary

Why did it take me so long to join a German language course?

Without a doubt, I made a lot of excuses over the past year. Some of which were probably unfounded, but some quite rational. I first arrived in Berlin over the summer and within a few weeks had signed up for a full-time job with a travel start up. The company initially led me to believe they’d offer German language courses because so many of the employees were international. But I quickly learned otherwise. It was, after all, a Sawmer company.

And while I learned plenty about the inside workings of SEO and the tourism industry, and even more about the Berlin start up scene, I never fully grasped the language. Rather than dig myself even deeper into the start up scene, I left the company after three months and started talking about a German language course again. I was finally willing to commit myself to living in Berlin—a place which was beginning to feel more and more like a home even after just 6 months.

But last winter, rather than scrounge up the Euros to learn a new language, I threw my money into my backpack and decided to spend what I had on travel. That lasted all of two months. I flew home to the USA for Thanksgiving, then back again only to leave on a candy tour through Germany and a week of travel in Jordan. Before I knew it, it was Silvester (New Year’s Eve) and I’d done nothing about learning the German language.

Life is too short to learn German

After the New Year I resolved to do something big with my new life in Berlin. It took me all of four days until a job at yet another start up company fell into my lap. Before I could barely put my New Year’s resolutions onto paper, I agreed to take the job. Distracted yet again, I initially pushed for a short work week so that I could, in turn, improve my travel blogs, travel and, yes, just maybe, learning German. But when you’re paid by the hour, sometimes it can be difficult to tear yourself away from an income to invest (time and money) in your future. And here I was again, working in an international start up with no energy to learn anything more than I needed to. A quick fix.

By the time summertime rolled around again, distracted with an almost-boyfriend, a desire to turn my blog into a business and a healthy dose of wanderlust after a hard, cold Berlin winter, I found myself ready to move on again. I threw around words like “Maybe now I’ll have the time to learn German” and “…being self-employed, I’ll have more time to read and study.” Instead, I traveled of course. Spain and Italy. Weekend trips and that quintessential Berlin summer of cheap beers, barbecues and all-night parties.

Call me lazy. Call me a stupid American. A fool, or an obnoxious expat. Life got in my way, and rather than try to improve that life, I was living for the quick fix. The easy way out. With little desire to move too far forward. As they say, life is too short to learn German.

But then things finally caught up. With a bit of financial security and—finally—more stability in my Berlin life, I found myself with not just the time to learn German, but the desire.

Picking a German language course

This was the next hurdle: picking the right course. There’s the veritable and always popular Volkschule—essentially community education courses run by the city governments. The popular choice for most Berlin expats and lebenskünstler visitors, the Volkschule courses are often booked solid months in advance. After over a year of trying to find the motivation to learn German, I didn’t want to wait another couple of months lest I lose the desire.

With the help of Latitude Travel—an international education consulting company whom I met with earlier in the summer—I was referred to the did deutsch-institut. The school came highly recommended to me because of a few reasons, notably that the school is a family-owned course across Germany that only teaches the one language. With the help and support of both Jeanette at Latitude (@gostudywork) and the did deutsch-institut, I found myself finally enrolled in a Berlin language course. Finally.

My language studies

To keep myself motivated for this course I’ve decided to keep a daily journal online. Rather than write and publish here, I’ve set up a blog all about my German language studies and my life in Berlin: My Berlin Story. The language course started last Monday and I’ve already learned and shared quite a bit. One thing I’ve already discovered about learning languages is how important it is to practice. Practice, practice, practice! And by writing such a public, daily journal I hope to keep myself motivated. There’s no doubt that my public attempt to learn a language will be embarrassing  but hopefully that’ll just push me forward.

You can follow along my journey to learn German for the next month at I’ll be sharing tidbits of information from my language course as well as general happenings and things I get up to in Berlin. You can already read about my first week in some of these highlights:

  • My first day in a German language school
  • Celebrating a vegan Thanksgiving in Berlin
  • Day 2 of my course—this time with a Wörterbuch
  • Meeting der Schornsteinfeger
  • Seeing the Vengaboys live

As you can tell, I’m still having some fun here in Berlin. Just this time I’m trying to learn the language, too :)

If you’ve got any tips or suggestions for learning a foreign language, leave them below in the comments! I could use all the help and support as possible!

  1. Scarlett says:

    This is brilliant – good for you for enrolling x

  2. I’m happy to hear I’m not alone in being slow to start my language studies whilst living abroad. Brazilians just assume I speak Portuguese well after being in the country for two years. I wish I was one of those people who picked languages up easily! Like you I knew a couple of phrases and expressions from being out and about, but struggled to hold my own in conversations.

    I too had a number of reasons why it took me a while to start studying, but I’m so pleased I’ve started now…better late than never! Good luck, I will be interested in reading how you get on!

    • Adam says:

      Glad to hear it Andrew! It can be challenging to move to a foreign country where you have to simultaneously build up a new life AND learn a foreign language. It’s a matter of priorities and I totally understand when some people’s are different. It may have taken me a while to start learning, but I’m glad it’s finally begun!

      Good luck with the Portuguese!

  3. Clairikine says:

    I’m so proud, Adam! Just putting that out there!

  4. Clairikine says:

    I’m so proud, Adam!

  5. Vladimir says:

    Hello Adam…. Glad you start a German course…. Hope you enjoy that great city, and if you have time….have a look to Hotel Axel Berlin….great place in the city… Vladimir (

    • Adam says:

      Thanks for the tip Vladimir. I’ve been in Berlin for a while now and love it so much! There is so much to do in Berlin.

  6. Good luck with a pretty horrible language. If I hadn’t learned it as a kid, I don’t think I’d put myself through it.
    Those courses definitely work though–I’m actually surprised at how well they work. I’ve never taken any language courses myself, since I always figured I’d be better off learning on my own, but my brother-in-law took one when he first moved to Berlin three years ago and his German is pretty amazing these days. And after a year in Madrid, I was barely able to string together a sentence.

    • Adam says:

      Hey Daniel,
      I’m really surprised at how well this language course is seeming to work, too! It can be hard to motivate yourself to learn a language, which is why I finally realized I needed to enroll in a course—it forces me to study each day.

      How long are you in Berlin for, by the way?

  7. Alex says:

    You are seriously a lifesaver! I am moving to Berlin next month and have been reading your blog like the travel bible that it is. I’m still wavering about which language course to enroll in so I can’t wait to see how you like DID!

    • Adam says:

      Hey Alex,
      That’s awesome to hear you’re moving here! So far I’m really enjoying DID, but I’ll publish a full review once my 4-week course is complete.

  8. Educamia says:

    how is the School?

  9. To learn universal languages,it will be helpful our successful career !…

  10. Monica Tores says:

    I have been to Berlin twice and since then I started learning German. I have to say it was quite difficult for me in the beginning. But I’m planning on moving there so I don’t have a choice but to learn the language. I just fell in love with the city.

    • Adam says:

      Glad to hear it Monica! I think you’ll find living in Germany makes learning German a lot easier. Viel Glück!

  11. says:

    Hi Adam, it is not easy to pull everything together and start learning decisively :-) Great you found a way to do it. Keep going

  12. Ελένη.. says:

    Είχα και εγώ την ευκαιρία να βρίσκομαι στο Βερολίνο για ένα τρίμηνο.. Ήταν μια υπέροχη ευκαιρία και μπορώ να πω, πως πήγα αποφασισμένη να μάθω την γλώσσα απο την πρώτη ημέρα. Ενώ δεν ήμουν σίγουρη για την διάρκεια της διαμονής μου εκεί, είχα πολύ όρεξη να έστω και μέσα σε αυτό το διάστημα να επικοινωνήσω σε κάποιο επίπεδο.. Πήγα σε μια ιδιωτική σχολή στην Deutschakademie ( και έκανα καθημερινά μαθήματα γερμανικών για 3 ώρες.. Ενώ στο Βερολίνο συναντάς παντού κόσμο να μιλάνε αγγλικά σε αυτήν την σχολή σε παροτρύνουνε όλοι με τον τρόπο τους να μιλάς γερμανικά και η πρωτότυπη μέθοδος διαδασκαλίας των καθηγητών απέχει πολύ απο τον τρόπο που διδάσκουνε στην χώρα μας.. Σίγουρα όμως είνια μια δύσκολη γλώσσα….Ωστόσο χαίρομαι που δεν ήμουνα ακόμα ένας τουρίστας στο Βερολίνο που μιλούσε αγγλικά..

  13. Eleni says:

    I had the opportunity to live in Berlin for 3months. It was a very nice experience and I was determined to learn the language from the first day that I was there. Even though I wasn’t sure for the length of my stay in Berlin I was really in the mood to learn the language and to communicate in a certain level.. I went to a private language school in Deutschakademie ( and I had 3 hours of German lesson every day.. Although in Berlin you can meet a lot of people who speak English, in this school everybody encourage you to speak mostly in German. They use unique teaching methods compare to the teaching methods in language schools in Greece. But anyway German is a difficult language and needs a lot of effort.. However I don’t regret that I wasn’t just a tourist in Berlin communicating only in English.. Enjoy Berlin in German…

    PS:Sorry for the greek comment. I got the site translated and got confused…

    • Adam says:

      Hey Eleni – thanks for the comment. No worries about the Greek one – I was confused at first but nice of you to leave a translation – thanks!

      Definitely agree that it can be fun to try and use the language despite being able to get by with English here. I’m trying!

  14. Tom @ Waegook Tom says:

    Adam! I’m glad I came across this on your homepage! My bf is intending to move to Germany for a few months later this year and wants to learn German, but is a bit confused! The VHS look like good value, but schedule informations online are scarce at best – and also, do you have to apply from within Germany? The language schools….they look pretty pricey on a per month basis. Agh.

    How much is your course costing you, and how long does it run? Send me an email if you feel uncomfortable posting a figure online!

    • Adam says:

      Hey Tom! Will send you a message with more info soon!

      The Volkschule is easiest to arrange in person, but I’m sure there’s a way to do so online or by mail as well. It’s intended for German residents or students, though, so it might be more challenging to arrange without being in Germany.

      Courses in private language schools can range anywhere from 200-800€ per month. Just depends on the school, class size, etc. There are A LOT of options in Berlin.

  15. Christmas in Berlin says:

    […] a dark & dreary (and wet!) December. Maybe though, that’s because I was enrolled in an intensive German course and was still struggling to feel settled in my new expat life in […]

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