Review of Lingoda: Or, How I Failed to Learn German (again)

In Living Abroad by Carly29 Comments

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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.

General level of surprise when I understand German. Note my dear friends level of amusement here.

General level of surprise when I understand German.

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.

Look how clear the course structure is!

Look how clear the course structure is!

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.

Gorgeous artwork by the crazy talented Candace Rose Rardon

Gorgeous artwork by the crazy talented Candace Rose Rardon

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.

You could not screw this up - such a great programme!

You could not screw this up – such a great programme!

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.

Searching the Horizon for my German inspiration

Searching the Horizon for my German inspiration

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!

Lingoda Review


  • 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

Super clean simple class summaries



  • 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?


Psst: Want to know how this whole mess got started? Check out The never ending battle with German. Or see more tips on How to learn German in Vienna




  1. Have you tried one-on-one lessons? That’s what I’m doing now with my Czech and I really need that structure: set place and time + a person that is focusing their efforts just to help me succeed. That plus being immersed in the language wherever I go and living in a city where not much English is spoken helps me.
    I am in a similar boat with my German lessons – my group classes I’ve taken for the past 2 years haven’t helped me make much progress but rather just not lag behind, which is something, I guess, but not super awesome. I have issues self-studying, really needing structure.
    What if you only spoke German (or tried to) at home with your husband? I know people that do one day of the week completely in German (like Deutsch Dienstag or something).

  2. Hi Carly, I hear you. German is tough but it’s just a matter of perseverance. I do 1 day a week at CCE in Sydney and it’s slowly sinking in. I was in Germany in April and the immense joy you get from being understood in another language is something worth fighting for. Keep at it, you’ll get there. And I’m sure hubby can help out.

  3. Hi Carly, thanks a lot for your great feedback about our German courses. We are happy you enjoyed the classes you took and we would definitely encourage you to try to give it another push now that the summer is almost over!
    Following up on some of your comments, we are happy to confirm that we have recently implemented reminder e-mails to make sure our students don’t miss any class (or cancel them in advance should that be the case). Also, we have a feature that allows your last teacher from a private class to see the next classes you book before the rest of the teachers do. That improves the learning process of our students, as it promotes the continuity and helps build a stronger teacher-student relation.
    But that’s not all! Each of our students has assigned a personal adviser that will evaluate their progress and talk about the best way to achieve their goals and keep up the motivation. Regularly, we encourage our students to have a monthly catch up with their personal adviser. Since you said you were planning on taking lessons from mid-September, what about scheduling a meeting with Kathya, your personal advisor in order to come up with a master plan to succeed this time?
    Thanks again and good luck for the next classes! 🙂

    1. Author

      You guys are amazing- glad to hear of these improvements and will get in touch to arrange classes! Thanks for outlining all the improvements- excited to experience them!

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  6. Goethe Institut now offers intense German language training in Vienna. Small classes are best. You learn from the mistakes of others. 1-1 training is too intense. Alpha Sprachschul is also very good – done it 2x while visiting Vienna.

  7. Hi Carly, thanks for your review on Lingoda. I have been studying German at home, by myself, for the last 4 years. With that i did two group classes in conversation, but the difference in level in those classes was a bit annoying.
    I hope to get new inspiration with the online classes from Lingoda.
    That’s the secret i guess in learning a language…. finding different ways to learn it for a specific period of time, then letting go…. and repeat again. Slowly we’ll get there, but boy…. it does take a long time to get fluent.

    1. Author

      Tell me about it – I think (hope?) it has to come in waves, slowly but surely seeping into your subconscious. Let me know how you go with Lingoda!

  8. My advice would be not to banish yourself to a small Austrian village… sure you might learn German but you’ll have such a strong dialect that no one will understand you in Vienna! 😉 I’m a year behind you and I don’t know the answer either, but it’s awesome to know I’m not alone.

    1. Languages can’t be taught, they only can be learnt. Skip apps like duolingo which might be fun but are not very effective.

      Concentrate on the 3 pillars. Listening, reading, speaking. Speaking at a later point because you want to have meaningful conversations. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes (you do them even in your native language).

      Combine the language learning with something you like. Read your favorite book or books of your favorite genre, (best for vocabulary learning) via a e-book reader with quick translater function (like kindl) so that you are enjoying reading. Watch movies of your liking (only with subtitles of the target language not your native one!) or scientific videos on youtube (or if you prefer historical/geographical/cooking whatever is to your liking.)

      Learn for at least 1 hour per day. Break it into slots if you like (10 minutes in the morning/evening, during your commute etc.) Oh and concentrate on one language. Do not learn 2 (or 3 ..horrible) languages at the same time.

      Have 1on1 lessons. Other classmates might help you but more often they won’t. And time is too valuable.

      Grammar learning is not necessary with the right toolsets (ministories ala pimsleur or effortless learning systems, point-of -view stories for you to repeat etc.) Remember… you never learnt the grammar rules of your native language in first place and could speak it correctly – this is just a question of exposure.

      If you immerse yourself to the language (which language is set-up at your smartphone??), if you learn constantly for at least 1 hour you will succeed.

      If not you will fail. Easy as that!

      Those tipps are given by polyglots who can speak 5 or more languages with always the same approach. You can expect to master a language (C1) in 2 years if you live abroad, less if you live in a country of your target language.

      Do not believe others who like to tell you that they are one a C1 level after 6 months or one year. Everyone perceives their language level differently. Language tests are theoretical. The real world should be the scale of rating. You don’t want to know how many people claim to be fluent in a certain language but can’t have a decent conversation with you.

      Sorry for all the typos that will be found.

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  10. Hey I am a german teacher, also with lingoda and normal one -to-one private lessons, I focus especially on motivation and finding those little points that might be the reason you struggle with everything in german. ( THAT ONE THING, everything is connected to and it it causes you to not understand ANYTHING).
    Please contact me, I would love to help you and get you through the mud, give you tools for self learning and get your german going.
    also: I live in VIENNA 😀
    hit me up, would love to help and share my passion and love for german.

    1. Hi Hanna, can you send me your contact. I’ve been living in Vienna for 8 years and keep going up to a C1 level and then falling back down to a B1 level due to laziness and just being surrounded by ex-pats. I am desperately looking for that ah-ha moment I’ve had with other languages wherein things just start to click and the grammar makes sense.

  11. In the same boat here Carly! I’m finding it so hard to learn German when I thought it’d simply click once I moved here. Turns out it’s not that easy…

    I’ve started using Duolingo since it’s free and it seems to be helping with individual words but I’m still struggling to structure sentences and get my der, die and das to stick as well! I’ll definitely have a look at Lingoda and hopefully that surge of motivation I get every night before bed will actually kick in during the day so that I don’t miss the classes!

    Good luck and I hope you’re finding it a bit easier now 🙂

  12. My experience is quite different.
    I’ve been using it for almost a year and I can tell you that it is really well done. It has improved its learning model since I started using it. They are being more exigent with the teachers and are being really flexible when having issues.
    My level of German has improved considerably! I have started with no knowledge of German and I have now a C1 level and all that because of lingoda!
    I really recommend it!

    1. Hi Damien,
      Just wondering if you think it’s possible to complete the lingoda levels as quickly as you want to? Or can you only go onto the next section when you’ve completed the first? For example, I would like to start the A2.1 course now and be finished with it in about two months (with very hard work) and then start onto A2.2. I live in Germany and am working part time (so that I can spent more time on learning) but I really would like to be at a B2 level by the end of the summer.

      1. Hi Niamh Goff,
        Maybe, you are still interested in the answer to your question – or anyone else is:

        Lingoda allows you to change your level as often as you like and whenever you like. So you can also try out different levels to find the appropriate one for you. You needn’t finish all the lessons available in one level before moving forward to the next one.. It’s just up to you. The only thing is that you won’t get any Lingoda certificate for a certain level if you haven’t finished at least 90% of the lessons of one level.

  13. Hi Damien, I wish to learn german for the B2 certificate in 6 to 7 months… (it’s for a medical job I need to do there for 1 year) with all the efforts do you think i can do it? I see you did it to C1 in almost a year. Any tips on how much time I should give it? I am ready to work on it everyday minimum 3hours. And I should buy team lessons or one on one lessons?

    1. Hi SmartMinoes. I am trying to achieve the same: B2 German in 6/7 months. Were you able to do it? Would love to hear about your experience !
      Thank you,

  14. I’m so happy that I am not alone! I moved to Germany 18 months ago thinking (rather optimistically) that by this time i’d be chatting away in German. Instead life/work/whatever has got in the way and i’m stuck in the land of frustration, poor motivation and low confidence – it feels like I have a mountain to climb and i’ve got idea how to start.

    This has inspired me to give Lingoda a go – I hate being one of “those people” who lives in another country but can’t speak the language. And dammit, I WANT to be able to speak it!

    1. Author

      Oh Cass, I feel you! It really is the most frustrating spot to be in but I swear, between online classes, chatting with locals and just like, waiting it out, and keeping that determination, it’ll come. Good for you giving Lingoda a go!

  15. If it makes you feel better, I have tried the following to learn Spanish: Coffee Break Spanish podcasts, textbook, Duolingo app, Rosetta Stone, and who knows what else. Nothing STICKS, so I know exactly what you mean. And that brings me here – looking for reviews for yet another way to learn a language.

    I like Coffee Break Spanish podcasts quite a bit. The only downside is I would love to SEE the words and they are explaining them (I haven’t committed to buying the PDFs).

    Rosetta Stone doesn’t work at all for me, because I like to see the letters and words and learn from a logically way, not so holistic.

    Duolingo was fun, but I stopped and haven’t started up again.

    Thanks for the review!

  16. Interesting blog post, and generally very helpful blog! I

    I am from South Africa, met an Austrian girl on a work trip to Germany 2 years ago. We did some long distance for a year (with a few trips between countries) and finally she recently lived with me here in Cape Town for 4 months. Next step is for me to move to Austria. So, there have been some really interesting posts here, and I think I will be a definitely be a regular reader!

    On the language tip front:
    Duolingo can be a very powerful tool. Use it from your PC instead of your phone, as you have access to the discussions tab after every sentence you go through. Alot of really helpful people with tips, corrections and links.

    In order to make Duolingo effective, you need to do at least 50 – 100 XP per day, everyday. Doing it here and there is not going to work. You also need to make sure you keep each skill ‘golden’. That helps you to remember the words by repetition.

    I have finished the whole German tree, and still continue to use it keeping the skills golden. You learn about 2700 words, which gives you quite a solid base from which to move onto other tools.

    Don’t be afraid of making hand written notes. I always keep a note pad next to me and write down the words I get wrong. Try to add the Der, Die, Das next to all nouns in your list.

    While you’re busy with Duolingo (or language app of choice) watch channels like Easy German on Youtube, a TV series like Dark. You can watch with the English subtitles for 1 episode. Then watch it again the next day with the subtitles off.

    Translate a book. I’m busy (very slowly!) translating a Harry Potter book on my iPad using iBooks. It allows you to highlight text in the book, which you put the translation in. Then review that page again a few days later and see if you can remember. You probably won’t, but just click on the highlighted word and you see the English word. And repeat a few days later.

    Last hint would be to follow German news, or interesting websites on FaceBook, click like and add the follow highlights to the top of your feed. So everytime you open Facebook you have all your German news sites there, forcing you to read all the headlines. Add a translate app into your browser (I use TransOver for Chrome) when you hover your mouse pointer over a word, or you highlight a chunk of text it will translate it.

    That’s it for now!

    Viel Glück!

    1. Author

      whoa that’s an amazing collection of tips! Thanks so much – have to admit that I am only a casual Duolingo user, makes sense that keeping it consistent helps it stick. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the move to Vienna and anything you need tips on just let me know 🙂

  17. Lingoda’s language marathon offer is a scam! Make sure you read all the absolutely ridiculous conditions on their website before you sign up. one especially interesting one reads: “The Participant agrees that the promotion will roll into a paid monthly subscription at the end of the marathon,…”. Mind you that they will not send any email reminder about this at the end of the marathon period and they would refuse to refund or credit those classes.

    Lingoda service and support felt like a scam, I think it is absolutely not worth it, save your money!

  18. The Lingoda marathon is a sham.

    Otherwise, the program is very effective. DON’T expect to get the refund.

  19. What I do is to have classes either right after I wake up or right before I go to bed. That way I can make sure I’ll always be home. If I have a class in the morning, then I’ll read the material the night before. if the class is at night, then I’ll read the material in the morning. That way an hour before bed and an hour in the morning are always plotted out for studying. It becomes a habit after a while. You can’t possibly forget a class.

  20. Thanks for posting the review. Helped me decide to save my money as I don’t think Lingola would be a good fit for me either. I see nothing Longola offers that one can’t get through simple hearing, repeating, writing and having conversations (even mostly with yourself). Having feedback is nice and I use to learn how to pronounce unfamiliar words and record myself saying them. I primarily use Pimsleur I II & III and Assimil’s German Course. Pimsleur’s strength is the spacial repetition and back-chaining. It really gets you speaking the language a lot which is important! Assimil is strong on reading and providing useful vocabulary. I also write the Assimil conversations down for additional practice and retention, I listen to German music to immerse myself more in the language; transcribing lyrics so I can sing along. Lastly, here is a fantastic repository of resources I found offered by University of Michigan: resources [dot] german [dot] lsa [dot] umich. [dot] edu – The grammar section is very good! I’ve found it really helps to switch things up so you don’t get bored or complacent with one particular course or method. If language learning is stressful then you’re definitely not learning. Just have fun with it. Viel Glück!

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