The never-ending battle with German

In Living Abroad by Carly29 Comments

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It lurks, like a boil, or a heavy dull ache at the top of your neck. The kind of pain that hits from within your skull and reverberates outward. Thumping against the casing of your brain, until you can no longer take it.

I’m talking of course about German grammar. And guilt. Oh so much guilt.

I’ve been taking German courses on and off for the last 3 years. Mostly off. I called German my ‘winter sport’, meaning I’d enroll in night courses between November-March, making the most of the cold, prematurely dark nights. Wrapping up in layers of coats, hoiking my heavy books and bags onto my shoulders and trudging from the office to a stuffy classroom full of equally uninspired adults. German class was always a chore. A necessary, begrudgingly completed chore.


Studying German is not this beautiful

Look, I know I have to speak the local language, I know it will only endear me to the ever-grumpy Viennese and I know that the only way to truly understand a culture is from within – speaking their way.

But oh, the grammar. My God, have you tried to learn German grammar? To grasp the slippery differences between hoch-Deutsch, Tirolian-Deutsch, Viennese Deutsch and the 35 million different accents and variations of German available? It is excruciating and frustrating as hell. The reason this Youtube-clip is so very hilarious is because it is very true!

There are precisely 93 excuses as to why I’ve avoided German. The top 3 are:

  1. I prefer French, or Spanish or Italian (or anything!).
  2. I don’t speak it at work so am not forced into learning.
  3. In Vienna you can get by without German.

That’s just the edited highlights of my looooong list of reasons to avoid learning German. But I’m fast running out of credibility.

When I first moved to Vienna, I would look to other expats who had been here 3 years and wonder, why the hell aren’t you fluent yet? How is that possible? But now I know it is entirely possible to get so caught up in the daily battle of existing in another country – in finding a job and your own friends, seeking out the best supermarket and a nice coffee shop and how to dress for 4 actual seasons – that the struggle with German becomes….less important.

Now I am that asshole that has lived here 3 years and still pretends to be a tourist if a stranger speaks to me in German on the street. (Also handy for avoiding charity-muggers). I am that expat that hasn’t made the effort.

There’s also the teeny-tiny detail that I’m approaching my visa renewal in just over 12 months and require B1 level German to stay here.

Books on books

Books on books on books will be required for me to achieve B1 level

So I have to do this shit. I’m getting the guilts and am sick of not understanding jokes in groups. Not being able to read the newspaper is keeping me separate from the life of the city. Last week I decided it’s time to bite the bullet.

Like a sign from the universe, as soon as I made up my mind to really, truly, no I mean it actually, this time I promise, learn German, I heard about a newly launched company called Lingoda. They are offering a trial of their online German courses.

I’ve tried (and failed) just about every other option to learn German. Night courses are great, but impractical – my brain is always fried by 6pm, and I end up hating the class because it eats into so much time.

Duolingo is fine and fun for a short while, but way too easy to ignore on my phone.

I will do literally anything else on my phone before learning German

I will do literally anything else on my phone before learning German

Lingoda are offering online courses, with both group classes and private tutoring available. The courses are pretty well priced, especially in comparison to evening courses in Vienna. But for me the real advantage is that they are online. Meaning – studying on your terms. I’ve signed up for a trial starting 1st of May.

In truth, I’ve actually become a bit of an online-course junkie in the last 12 months. I’ve purchased around 6 courses in the last year. So I know this format, of logging on and studying when it suits you, works for my learning style.

What I don’t know, is whether this will translate across for learning German. But hell, at this stage I have to try, right?

I’m excited because I can plan my own learning schedule around my real life – not trying to squeeze classes between 6-9pm on weeknights. The course price includes the certificates needed for Visa applications and the group classes max out at 5 people. That’s much less than any other German courses I’ve ever attended. (I’ve tried 3 different schools in Vienna – all crowded, all ranging in prices above what is offered on Lingoda.)

Equivalent crowd size of a regular German class

Equivalent crowd size of a regular German class

So I’m going to suck it up and do this thing. German needs to be conquered – but I’d love some company and support! If you’re even considering taking a German course in the next little while, you can come join me on Lingoda. Bonus (because they are looking for new students) is that you can get a 10% discount if you use my referral code: CARLY10.

German is a battle we all have to face – but has to be easier when faced with friends right?

I’ll report back once classes begin…..


This article includes affiliate links. By clicking these links & using the promo code you’ll get a reduced price on the Lingoda course, and I’ll receive a small affiliate credit at no extra cost to you. Those credits will help support the running of this site. I promise that Austrian Adaptation will only ever promote products I actually use, like and recommend. Here’s hoping Lingoda will help me ‘like’ learning German! 


  1. stop winshing and get on with it it’s not that difficult and the U-tube video is not funny it’s just stupid

    ex Austrian living in Australia

  2. Hi Carly, try Czech and you’ll see German is super fun 😉
    More seriously, I understand you so well when you say you are amazed to finally find you are this kind of expat who “didn’t make the effort”… It’s the same with me, even if I started here with many good resolutions, telling myself : “no, I will not be like this Spanish guy who has lived here for 5 years but starts learning Czech only now…”
    Well, I do worse, because I’ve quitted Czech and now I’m learning German…! Speaking English at work, French and German at home, how can I find the time for Czech again?? (and many other good reasons)
    I’m at a stage where I mix Czech and German when asking a coffee in a shop… “Dam is einen kleinen Café prosim” :S
    I came to accept that I can’t learn 2 total foreign languages at the same time, and I’ve chosen German for many “good reasons” now… but still trying to justify myself each time people find I’m here for 3 years and can’t properly speak Czech… 🙁
    Anyway, as I’m a bit lazy and can’t self-study, I go to the Goethe Institut, and it’s really the best (I’ve tried before other language schools but it’s above any comparison) Of course, it’s quite expensive… But here many jobs offer to participate to the costs of languages classes as a benefit for employees.

    1. Author

      Oh my god Marine I cannot even imagine trying Czech! Although I actually think Czech is a beautiful sounding language….and well done you even attempting to learn 2 foreign languages at once, I’m struggling with just one! Goethe Institut I have heard is great, but I think they only have instensive courses here in Vienna. Will definitely keep it in mind if my online studies don’t work out, thanks for the tip 🙂

  3. I hear you Carly! German is like the worst (you’re right, Italian and Spanish, even French is more fun) and I find it more difficult than Mandarin. Mandarin has not much grammar. You can simply say: “You eat already?” “No, I eat not already.” Go figure!
    Good news is, German B1 is hard but not impossible.
    Perhaps the fastest way is actually buying an Exam Prep book like TELC B1 or something along those lines where you study specifically for whatever exams that you’re preparing for. You’ll realise that you won’t need to know all the nitty gritty grammar details to ace the exams.

    Lingoda looks interesting. Do keep us updated about your progress! 😀

    1. Author

      Haha sounds like I’ve been speaking German ‘Mandarin style’ then 😉 The exam prep book is a fantastic idea, hadn’t even thought of it – maybe I’m stressing about nothing. You might have just saved my stress levels Ying, thanks! Will defintely report back on the online course, fingers crossed it works out.

  4. I feel your pain! It’s so hard to do a full day’s work and come home with motivation enough to try and learn German! And I’m so sick of just laughing in the right places so people think I get the jokes! Austrian dialects are nasty! 🙂 Good luck with the course – hope it keeps you motivated!

    1. Author

      Thank you Debbie, it’s hopefully going to give the a much needed motivational kick!

  5. Hey BBBFF!!! So great to hear that you’ve bitten the bullet! It sounds like a crazy difficult language. I remember being in Switzerland where they speak Swiss German. I can’t imagine having to remember ALL of them! You go! Also, love your humour!!! 🙂

    1. Author

      Swiss German is the cutest German of all! Thanks for the lovely words Carmela 🙂

  6. I really loved Fluenz for learning Germna grammar. Gave me a very strong based it build off of, and like you, I can’t commit to an evening class with 4 kids and heavy business travel, my only German learning happens during my commute. Love their online app. Much more complicated (in a good way) an Duolingo. Not good for simply adding words/vocab, but great for learning the whys of grammar.

    1. Author

      Ooohhhhh investigating that! Thanks for the reccommendation 🙂

  7. I’m that guy.
    I’ve lived in Austria for 5 years, half of that in the-equally-easy-to-live-without-German Salzburg, and despite regular, if slowly-decreasing, moments of language embarrassment I still can’t bring myself to bite that bullet.
    I’ve tried online too (Badoo) but couldn’t keep it up.
    My best friends here point out to me what a spectacularly bad job of integrating I am doing.

    1. Author

      I get those comments about integrating too from friends, which is kind of like, fair call, but you’re not helping me mate! I think that guilt is what has re-invigorated my efforts, I just really hope it sticks this time, fingers crossed. Good to hear Salzburg is like that too though if we ever switch across to life in Tirol 🙂

  8. So true Carly. It took me a while to get the hand of the German as my company is British and the language of business is English!

    However, I do actually speak fluent German although the grammar still isn’t as concrete as I would wish (ahem!), but enough that I could co-host a live show on German TV!

    I mean, OMG! I was shaking in my admittedly orange suede boots, but still. I made it lol!

    Good Luck. You’ll be great!

    1. Author

      You’re a pro Vic!! Absolutely a motivator if I can get German down surely tv stardom awaits for me too haha for now I’ll settle gor understanding the ladies in bakeries when they bark at me!

  9. I’ve been to the Alpha Sprachschule in Vienna twice, whle visiting on vacation. The teachers are good, the other students are fun and the prices are reasonable. You learn from hearing the mistakes of others.

    1. Author

      Hhmmm will definitely check that out I have heard they are decent- thanks for the tip Rob!

      1. My other thought – German is like a cross word puzzle. Most words (adjectives, verbs, pronouns) give you an indication as to what other word in the sentence they relate. English doesn’t do that. As you well know, German also gives you lots of opportunities to glue words together to make new ones. Finally, look at the list of weicheiesser and lauwarmduscher. I just found a website with over 6,000 such entries. You can’t create those words in English. Now, really finally – in the language courses in Vienna, most of the other students are from eastern Europe. They see words we English speakers immediately recognize as cognates, like Fisch and Wasser, and have no clue. So it’s much easier for us than for them.

  10. You seriously just stopped me from quitting! I’ve been in Vienna three months and I passed A1 by cheating on the test. Yes cheating. No, surprisingly I don’t feel shame because German is the hardest thing ever. And harder still because of the language genius’s in your class who pick it up instantly whilst you struggle along.

    I’m going to keep trying though! A2 has to be easier than A1!


    P.S. My teacher does private lessons if you want someone to come to you 🙂

    1. Author

      Omg Karina I always feel like such a dope in classes where everyone else already speaks 3 languages and pucks up grammar rules no problem and I’m in the corner like ‘ummmm??!!’ I so feel you. We can’t give up though! I’m starting my online course this week, will def be in touch if that doesn’t work out. Keep going though, you got this! We can struggle by together 🙂

  11. I feel you Carly!!! I’ve been in Turkey for 4 months and my Turkish is not nearly at the level that I thought it would be at. I’m doing Duolingo, which I like very much, but it means that I can understand but not really speak 🙂 Before we moved to Turkey we actually thought we were going to go to Germany and I thought German was kind of fun, but more for the sound of the language than the grammar. Turkish is a very flat language which makes it hard for an English speaker (used to lots of intonation in spoken language) to hear. I also work with a lot of English-speakers as well, so that doesn’t help. Good luck with the course! I’m curious to see how it works out.

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  14. I just found your blog and have been reading through it. I have previously lived in Germany and am basically moving back for a guy, but I’ll have a year working visa! I really hope to get fluent in German this time and stay too. Basically your posts are inspiring me and also giving me the reality check. Especially the one about marrying for a visa haha. That could be me soon.

    1. Author

      Ah Emily what an exciting time! The German working Visas are great – the learning German not so much hahaha but if you’re lucky you’ll find a great small course like I eventually did with fun teachers. And y’know, getting married for a visa seemed insane at the time, but five years later it’s freakin’ awesome – have fun and take a sec to enjoy this crazy exciting time of following your heart and gut instinct, it’s the best kind of brave thing to do!

  15. Lingoda pay teachers ten Euros for a lesson. Could you live from that? There’s lots of private teachers online who will match what Lingoda charge.

  16. I just moved to Austria, and we went to apply for a family visa since my husband is Austrian and they told us that I need to take the A1 languange test. Which would be next month. I’m also pregnant and high risk with dangerously high blood pressure and in the us I am no longer insured. do you think that they will kick me out next month? I was going home to visit next month before I can’t fly anymore due to the pregnancy but we are afraid I won’t get back in. Wh should I do? I’m so worried. We also have a two year old and moved all my pets here.

  17. Danke, danke, DANKE, everyone, but especially to Carly! I stumbled across your site a few days ago, and am so relieved to find yours and others’ comments. I’m Canadian, newly partnered for the last two years with an Austrian man, and temporarily living here on a 6-month extended visitor’s visa (I’m already halfway through – where has the time gone?!). Last year I came for the first time, on a 90-day tourist visa, and I felt very judgmental towards people I met who had already been here for some time and hadn’t yet learned German…. but now after another 3 months here myself, I’M THAT ASSHOLE TOO!! What a relief, and a breath of fresh air to find your blog, and get some perspective back! Now I can forgive myself (and those others I was so harsh towards!) for not being totally fluent yet, and get back on that ol’ horse. I’ve been yoyo-ing between Duolingo and Lingvist online studies, depending on my mood, and dabbled in a couple of other offerings online, but I’m going to check out Lingoda now too. Thanks again for all the insight ~ Cheers!

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