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It was, in hindsight, ambitious to start any project at the beginning of summer. Particularly ambitious considering my track record with learning German (terrible). I was so hopeful, so utterly convinced that this time would be different.
Maybe this time, the der, die and das would stick. Maybe this time, I’d be able to conjugate a sentence before the conversation steamed ahead without me.
Maybe this time, I just outright sucked.
Here’s the thing – Lingoda’s online classes were meant to be the ideal solution to my woes of learning German. The programme itself is fantastic – the teachers I had, the resources, the online portal, interactive group classes, scheduling, all of it was technically great.
The materials were all there. Yes, ok, some of the group classes were awkward when students spoke over one another, or dodgy internet connections meant minutes were wasted playing the ‘can you hear me ok? Are you there?’ game that plagues all online phone calls, but in essence, Lingoda was the best bet I had to succeed in learning German.
And I totally flaked out on it.
Where I Went Wrong
The classes are self-selected, self-scheduled and naturally involve some self-motivation to study, read the notes and continue scheduling classes. The one-to-one sessions are available to help you through particular topics that you get stuck on. All of this flexibility, and do you know what I did with it? I frittered it away.
I missed classes because I clean forgot about them. One particularly warm and sunny Tuesday evening after work I was cycling around the 6th district, wind in my hair, not a care in the world, pondering a trip to Cafe Phil to see if any new English books were in store, when I realised my German class was beginning online in 17 minutes. Queue a frantic cycling dash home, and a sweaty nervous 50 minutes trying to play catch-up and fake my way through questions.
Then, I read Mother Tounge. It’s not an excuse, but it did have an impact. In it, Christine Gilbert explains how languages need to be learnt naturally, in situ, to truly be effective in your memory, and how rote learning in classrooms is the least effective way to learn a language.
If my head and heart were already struggling against a natural disinclination to learn German, this was the ‘out’ I used to justify it.
Suddenly everything else became more important than German; work (true), this blog (also true), home life, travelling, cleaning (absolutely not true) and working on my fitness (so far from true!). I could not muster the self-motivation to stick with the excellent classes that Lingoda offers. This, despite the fact that everything they have available is brilliantly easy to navigate.
I don’t know what it’s going to take for German to stick with me – banishment to a village town where I have no choice but to speak it? A strict matronly like character to whip me into disciplined German study? A looming Visa renewal that literally depends on my ability to speak in order for me to stay? None of it has helped me through yet. Apart from the need to keep up with conversation in a pub, nothing has had a lasting impact on my motivation levels to learn German. I can get by in daily life ok, but am certainly not fluent.
So why am I telling you this?
‘This is super embarrassing and lazy Carly, aren’t you meant to be this pro-expat-life, love-everything-about-Vienna person? Yes, actually, thanks for asking. But that is exactly why I wanted to share this experience.
I have to share my f*ck up’s and failures with you guys here. Because even 4 years in, even knowing what’s at stake for me to learn German, I’m still struggling.
Still feel like bashing my head against a brick wall when I think about going back to German classes this winter. Still trying to find the right fit for my learning style. There isn’t ever really an ‘end’ to struggling as an expat – some things get easier, and some just don’t budge.
Maybe I’ll always struggle. Maybe I have to let go of this romantic idea that German will one day get ‘easier’ and natural for me. Maybe I should care less – but I don’t think so. If it takes a village to raise a kid, I just need to find my Village of people struggling with German, and see what they did to get through it.
That’s where I’m asking for help from you guys. Tell me your struggles, send me your studying ideas and learning tricks. At this stage I’m open to all suggestions and help I can get! Once we’ve collected ideas, I’ll gladly share the wise words of everyone struggling through the same battle – so we can all feel a little less alone & lame about sucking at German.
Leave a comment on this post, or if you prefer, drop me an email if you’ve been through something similar, or if you just want a safe place to bitch about learning another language! This shit ain’t easy, but together, maybe we can make it a little less difficult and a LOT more fun.
In the meantime here’s the good & bad of using Lingoda to study. For me personally, it didn’t quite work (yet), but I think that’s more to do with me than the course itself. Try it out for yourself and see what you think (use the promo code CARLY10 to get 10% saving off the price).
I’ll be paying up for the private classes in mid-September, to work my way back into the groove, because dammit, I need to conquer this beast!
- Flexible, can study after work, early morning or on days that suit you
- Can study at home in your pyjamas – no video streaming necessary, meaning peak lazy outfit is possible whoo!
- Straightforward units that can be followed with clear notes associated
- Fantastic teaching staff. Every tutor I had was patient, made sure to explain things so the group understood and was fair in asking questions of the whole group
- Easy sign up, navigation and clear instructions
- The interface and download of the streaming software was confusing and annoying in the beginning. I turned up to my first class right on time not realising I needed to download a software programme to connect to the class, which made me ten minutes late (super stressful knowing how much Germans value punctuality!)
- Cannot take classes ‘on demand’. Certain units were only available at specific time slots, meaning if I wanted to complete unit 2.2 I had to wait until the Thursday class at 8pm, as it was the only time it was running. That meant the flexibility element was quite restricted
- No reminder emails! This might have just been for my account, but as mentioned, once I had scheduled a class there were no follow-up confirmation or reminder emails. I get that I’m supposed to be an adult and write this shit down and remember it, but honestly, I receive reminder emails daily for products waaayyy less important to me than a class. I found it really odd to not have any integration via reminder emails or a calendar reminder option.
- Different tutor every time, not always clear on the logical next class to take
Overall, I’m still a big believer in online classes and I would recommend Lingoda to my friends (that’s you guys!) – but maybe just make sure I come along to classes with you, ok?