Today, you can learn German in a number of ways. From words to phrases to sentence construction, there are apps that help you learn the language, and there are also old-fashioned classrooms where you learn the language together. However, how do you choose between these options?
Being an expat in Germany for the last six years, I have tried almost every method to learn German. Initially, I took German A1.1 in a classroom with 17 other people and later used apps and online training.
Using my own experience and that of others I know, I try to describe what to expect from each option.
Learn German online
It was way before the pandemic that people were learning languages online, either through live sessions or through an app. There has only been an increase in the trend since the pandemic began.
German learning apps
In terms of apps that help people learn languages, Duolingo is among the most popular.
Over a billion people are learning a language to gain access to better opportunities and living experience. For most people, learning a language is expensive and unaffordable.
Duolingo was created to give everyone access to free language learning without hidden fees or premium content. It's just free to start.
Duolingo can be used by anyone, regardless of their proficiency in the language they want to learn. As per Duolingo, many public school students in developing countries use it to learn a language on a daily basis.
However, in my experience, it's rather difficult to get further when you reach a point in Duolingo.
Babbel offers two modes of learning.
With the Babbel app on the one hand, you can easily stay engaged with content that is relevant to real-life conversations. It helps you build an effective routine and learning habit that fits into your schedule. The courses are tailored to your level of proficiency, so you can learn at your own pace.
Babbel Live on the other hand provides live online language classes. You can learn with the support of teachers and in small groups. With live, you gain confidence quickly with classes focused on real-life conversations. You get to choose from different classes and keep practicing with the self-study app.
In my experience using the Babbel app for quite some time, the learning experience is much more mature compared to other learning platforms. The Babbel method is quite close to the real life scenarios and it's rather easy to remember what you learned when it comes to the actual real life scenario.
We recommend online self paced classes only to the ones those don't have time to go for a regular class or to strictly organized people. Otherwise, it's quite difficult to keep the drive and use the app daily.
A private language teacher
You can find private tuition for German quite easily. Most institutes as well as online platforms like Lingoda offer one on one German language tuition. There are also self employed teachers that offer tuition to individuals or small groups. In most cases, the classes are taught by native German speakers with experience and qualifications in teaching languages.
Private tutoring tends to be more flexible and tailored to the student's needs and goals than learning in groups. However, the one on one tuition is way more expensive than the group study; either in an institute or through an app.
Its quite easy to find private German tutors online. You can check the expat German Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram groups or apps like Lingoda, italki, etc to find a one on one tuition.
The company I work for once arranged private tuition for me and three of my colleagues before the pandemic. The teacher was very old (around 70 years) and not so familiar with online meetings. Therefore, we could not continue that during the pandemic. One 90-minute session cost around 200€ per person, as I recall.
Choosing this option allows you to learn German more flexibly and personalized, and to learn at your own pace if you can afford it.
German language schools
There are many types of courses offered by language schools, including intensive courses, evening classes and regular classes, as well as specialized courses such as exam preparation, German integration courses, etc.
It is easy for a newcomer to make initial contacts in Germany since most language schools run their classes in relatively small groups of 5-10 people. A four-week intensive group course at a language school generally costs around €250 and above, depending on where you live.
When it comes to working in a relaxed environment with small groups, a language school would be the best choice for you.
In Germany, you can choose from several language schools. Volkshochschule, Goethe Institute are the best and most popular in Germany. Each of them offers a wide range of courses at different levels and available at various times and lengths.
Finally, I have found that learning German isn't necessary these days to live in Germany. People are more than willing to help you in English if they find that you don't speak German. It would, however, be very difficult to socialize with others without speaking German in Germany. Therefore, if you plan to stay here for a long time and eventually become a citizen, you should seriously consider learning German.