4 Traps To Avoid When Learning German

Here are the things that did not help me learn German. I’ve been through a lot of different types of lessons and learning platforms along my journey, and I have the scars to prove it. Learning German online was trickier than I thought. You may find this list a little surprising - if so, read my blog post to find out what did work for me.

1. Lessons After Work 

This is how a lot of people will learn, because people need to put bread on the table. But for me, this never worked. For the first week of 2x 2 1/2 hour lessons per week after work I was motivated and attentive. I relished the lessons. By the 3rd week I started to dread them - I was always tired after a long day, and found my motivation waning. On the other free evenings, I had to do the homework. I made some progress of course, but for me it was hard to sustain this schedule. As I wrote about before, I learn much better by doing something intensively [link to other blog].


2. Private Lessons

The private in-person lessons I organised weren’t much better. There was no curriculum to follow, no real order or flow to the lesson. These were also after work. Most annoyingly, the teacher kept talking in English about her ex-boyfriend. I had to keep switching to German to get us back on track. I think she should have been paying me. Empirically, most people whom I've met who have good German have: studied it in school, studied it in university, done intensive courses, or are Dutch. I don't make the rules.

Me introducing myself to the end of infinity to my tandem partners

3. Tandems 

Tandems didn’t agree with me one bit. These are when you use a platform (there are many) to organise an hour long meetup with a native speaker of German, for example, who wants to learn English from you, a native English speaker. You speak the first 30 minutes in German, and the second 20 minutes in English. Theoretically speaking, you make friends, have a culturally enriching experience, and kill two owls with one stone. 

What happened was a series of missed messages, changed times, incorrect Skype IDs, bad connections, the same introductions being repeated, and not much of either language being learned. No fans of tandems here.

4. In-Person Meetups 

Having never been to any in-person meetups, I really have no place in putting these on the list. The idea of them was off-putting- they sounded awkward, conversations were apparently shallow. They were always taking place across the city, and the thought of getting on an U-Bahn again after work when it is dark and rainy was enough to put me off! So I started online ones instead - much more convenient!

The online meetups that I organised through Deutsch Gym was a massive part of how I can speak German. I’m biased, but in my opinion, regular online meetups with guided conversation topics beat weekly awkward in-person meetups. 

Practice your spoken German in our online German speaking classes (5-day free trial).

The classes are fun and friendly - you'll meet new people and also talk to native speakers. We have classes every single day and new and interesting conversation themes for each session. Give them a go!

I'm the founder of Deutsch Gym. In the past I've worked in startups as a marketer and frontend developer and surfed a few waves along the way. I moved to Berlin from Ireland a few years ago and learned German - prompting the idea for Deutsch Gym.
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