Mastering German Through the Great Philosophers with Okan

Okan is a member of our B2 German group. This is an interview with him about his experience learning German.

Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I live in Tekirdag, a coastal town in Turkey. I made the decision at an early age to study philosophy in İzmir - which is known as the birthplace of philosophy.

I was influenced by the history of German thought, and my desire to learn German gradually grew from here. The fact that German is a language prone to philosophy, and that the philosophers I am interested in wrote pieces of philosophy in German, was influential in my decision to learn German. 

I could say that the ideas and thoughts I developed through reading the works of German philosophers affected my perception of life. It also helped to shape my personality.

Schopenhauer, Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, Husserl... They all helped me to add meaning to different areas of life. They fed my mind and soul to clear up my unclear questions. My desire to experience the culture these thinkers were born into and lived in, and my dream of reading their books in German, helps me everyday to learn and improve my German language skills. 

Have you ever moved country to improve your speaking skills? 

No. I have never moved country to improve my speaking skills. 

But I am in the process of moving to a different country to explore, experience and improve myself, and focus on my interests.

What has been the hardest thing for you in learning German?

I find it difficult to be concise. It is hard to express what I want to say more simply.  You can get lost when trying to explain something with long sentences. 

I also have difficulty in bridging the written language and the spoken language. German words, and therefore sentences, are long, and expressing myself in a shorter way is a goal of mine. It adds fineness and quality to the language.

How has Deutsch Gym helped you in your language learning journey?

The topics at Deutsch Gym are diverse and thought-provoking. I like the fact that they is not based on business and professional topics, and instead they cover general culture. It is a plus that they are about actual issues such as climate change, consumption frenzy, alternative energy - they provoke you to think about global questions.

It is also helpful for me to hear the different perspectives and ways of speaking German from people from different countries of the world. I experience not only how native speakers speak, but also how people learning German speak.

How often do you attend Deutsch Gym meetups?

I attend on average 3 meetups per week. 

What other learning methods have you tried?

I have tried 1-on-1 lessons and I also attended intensive courses. I also chatted with people on language learning apps. Along with all this, I believe that it is powerful to have the self-confidence to use the language freely, in the real world, outside of the classroom. 

If you were to learn German again, from the start, what is the one thing that you would do differently?

There are common elements to language learning. The different tenses of verbs, sentence construction, and use of sentence elements. And of course common phrases, sayings, and vocabulary. 

I like to classify words according to their synonyms. I write the synonyms of a word (such as a noun or verb) first and then I research the specific ways in which the synonyms can be applied. In this way, I classify and group the synonyms together and understand how they are connected. This is an elegant way of learning for me - I think learning it another way would be too messy. In my experience, this process helps the brain in learning a language :)

For example, I discovered several German verbs with the meaning of "to use". These are:  'verwenden', 'gebrauchen', 'benutzen'. Later I learned that the verbs 'einsetzen' and 'anwenden' also mean ''to use''. So I try to understand the different nuances of these verbs, where the similarities are, where they differ. When you can do this, it is an important transition in mastering the language.

Other language learners will be reading this blog. What tips for them do you have in learning languages? 

Reading and watching interviews is helpful. Listening to music, reading the language written in books, being aware of the uses of the language in daily life, watching instructional videos online, watching TV series have all aided me in learning German, and will help you too.

A language is used in so many different aspects of life, and I think it is beneficial for learners to experience and take part in these different areas as much as possible.

I think the most powerful tool in learning a language is to find an area where you can learn about your shortcomings after one-to-one communication. Do not forget to write down your weak points and mistakes you make and work on improving them. Identify the deficiencies concretely and then correct them. This creates a natural progressive improvement.

What resources have helped you with language learning?

Now for a general, non-language related question! What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you? 

Of course, there are many such experiences in life. Although I am not a very family-oriented person, when I look at it objectively, I guess I can say that my family raised me in a healthy and good-natured manner and respected me under all conditions.

Thanks Okan!

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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