Deutsch lernen: How I Finally Dreamed in German

The dream was rather odd. I was at my favorite ice cream shop in my hometown St. Petersburg, Florida and the clerk asked me:

Clerk: “Können Sie auf Deutsch sprechen?” (I even use the “proper” form)
Me: “Ja, natürlich!” (I’m too confident in my dreams)
C: “Möchten Sie etwas zu essen?”
*looks at the selection*
M: “Schokoladeneis, bitte” 

Construction noise outside my window prevented me from eating my delicious imaginary ice cream and from showing off my German. Nonetheless, I woke up to the realization that this language has finally clicked in my mind, even in my sleep where no one wants to make efforts to think even more. My friend Eleni, who speaks four languages herself, told me that once you dreamed in the language you were studying, it would be a significant step forward and on. And I will admit that I’ve been speaking English more than I would like to, but this sign encouraged me to continue pushing myself. Obviously, my conversation wasn’t a full-blown C2-level exchange of words between Goethe and me, but I believed it was only the start.

How did I come to this small yet satisfying feat within six months in Berlin, a city that embraces English in just about every corner? Here are all the steps that I took.

German Language Academies: 

I have attended three German academies within six months, which is not that great because you want to keep some sort of stability in your learning process but it gave me a good insight at the options available out there.

Deustche Akademie at Wittenberplatz 
Price: 225 per month
Time: ~3 hours per day, Monday-Thursday

The classes at the Akademie fill up quick! I arrived at their office two weeks before the start of the course just to request some information and to check out my score on the German placement test that I took online on their website. The office assistant told me that there was only one place left for the level that I needed. Something to note about this school is that they offer a class in between the B1 and B2, which was called B 1.3. If the student didn’t feel comfortable jumping onto B2, they could take this course as a refresher. I haven't seen other schools offering this kind of month-long course.

Die Neue Schule at Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf
Price: 380 per month 
Time: ~3 hours per day, Monday-Friday

This school is more expensive than the other two I attended, but the fact that you are getting an extra course a week justifies the price a bit. Those who have jam-packed schedules and would rather study in the evenings would appreciate its twice-a-week evening courses (190 Euros for six weeks) that are cheaper than the regular classes. What was nice about this school is that you could start on any Monday if you already have some German knowledge.

Kapitel Zwei at Alexander Platz 
Price: 222 per month 
Time: ~3 hours per day, Monday-Thursday

This friendly school offers a variety of other courses, such as pronunciation classes every Friday for four weeks and preparation courses for TELC exams, along with regular German lessons. Classes begin the first week of the month, so you shouldn’t wait too long to register. I’m currently enrolled at this school and they made it really easy to reserve the rest of my courses for the next months.

Apps and Blog:

Probably one of the hardest parts of learning German is remembering the articles. On the Der Die Das app, you type the German word and the correct article pops up. You can also take quick quizzes to help you memorize.

If you don’t trust Google Translate with its questionable results, Leo Dictionary is a good app for definitions of German words translated into several languages.

And if you would zone out from the noises and sometimes really awkward U-Bahn musicians, German Radio Stations is great for catching up on the news. I also asked Reddit about what kind of music is great for learning German and I got a lot of good replies on the r/Germany board.

Your Daily German blog is not only written in a hilarious tone, but it also explains confusing grammar rules. I genuinely like reading this blog because it doesn’t feel like I’m forcing myself to read through dry, monotone lessons. The blogger makes it painless to understand grammar and even gives a bit of history behind some German words.

Studying in Germany is another very useful website full with tips for expats and newcomer students in Germany. There is a special section with a step-by-step guide that was created with one goal in mind, to help complete beginners learn how to speak German fast. There are also videos to help you pronounce the word correctly.

Free German Exercises:  

Deutsch Interaktiv has a ton of exercises, some of which include videos and audio, all organized in the Common European Framework. You can take final tests at the end of each level to check where your knowledge stands. I completed all these exercises back home in Florida during my free time and it took me about 6 months to complete by investing one hour a day.

Schubert-Verlag is completely in German but easy to navigate. Most of the exercises are multiple-choice questions and you always get the correct answer when you click on the traffic light icon. It has fewer interactive media compared to the other website, but this one concentrates mostly on grammar.

Youtube and Social Media: 

The Easy Language producers hold interviews on the streets about simple subjects with native German speakers. Every video has clear subtitles and it’s entertaining to watch. One of my favorite episodes is “Flirting,” in which the interviewer tries pickup lines with strangers and the result is quite funny. Who said that Germans don’t have a sense of humor?

I’m the kind of girl who loves watching makeup tutorials but never recreates anything due to pure fear. One night I told myself, “Hey, if you are never going to try a smokey eye, at least watch these videos auf Deustch.” Now I have a list of favorite German Youtubers, such as TheBeauty2go and xLaeta, and I also get recommendations for the best products from various German stores.

If you are refreshing your Instagram every second like someone I know *coughmecough,* then you could use @hallogermanwords. Learning a new word every day is better than none. It even includes the audible pronunciation as well as the translation of your newsfeed.

By Maria Castillo

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