That’s what you tell people when they ask you how your German is.
“Oh, Berlin isn’t really Germany” you tell your friend over a currywurst, quickly hiding the Google Translate app on your phone that you’d opened only moments before to try and decipher the BVG announcement.
‘Honestly, I don’t know when I’d use it’ you excuse yourself as you order your morning coffee in very slow English. Minimal syllables, maximum hand actions.
“I don’t really need to know German here, day to day like…” you mutter to the frustrated
Bürgeramt guy as he points at your ink smudged Anmeldung form inquisitively.
Maybe you’ve spent months sporadically tapping your way through the Duolingo tree on your morning commute. You’ve beamed with pride every time the bird tells you you’re now 87% fluent in German, only to then stammer your way through an interaction with the BVG inspector who’s interrupted your app session. That little bird is being economical with the truth.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. That German textbook you bought on Amazon wasn’t bought to prop up your wonky desk. You didn’t plan to stop insisting to your German flatmate that, by Christmas, you’d be speaking in her native language. You didn’t mean to start asking baristas if they can speak English. This wasn’t the plan.
To learn a language, you need to speak it
Knowing German is undoubtedly useful for those living in Germany’s capital city. That said, while the opportunities to reveal your glaring lack of knowledge are frequent, opportunities to practice are not.
Learning with apps and study materials is really useful for understanding how a language works. Of course it’s important to understand the grammar rules of the language you’re learning. And German has a lot of rules. But becoming familiar with the linguistic rules of a language isn’t enough to be able to hold a conversation. You also need to know all the rules aside from grammar, like which words are appropriate and when, and to practice your pronunciation.
So, where do you go from here?
What’s that, you ask? That little yellow Catbee thing I’ve seen around? That’s going to answer my Deutsch prayers?
Well, disclaimer: it won’t do it for you. But compared to an intensive course at the Goethe Institute, it takes a fairly low effort on your part to get comfortable speaking quickly.
How does it work? Can I use it for German?
Chatterbug offers adaptive courses that include over 1,000 self-study materials that you can access either on your laptop or your computer. The levels range from beginner to B2, which is considered fluent. But the thing that sets Chatterbug apart from other online courses are the Live Lessons.
The 45 minute classes are led by native speakers who you work through the exercises with. Better still, you can book the classes when you like. Chatterbug provides a learning experience that pairs the convenience of language-learning apps with the effectiveness of a classroom experience.
Ryan moved from San Francisco to Berlin a few years ago and has been using Chatterbug for 6 months. ‘The Live Lessons are definitely my favorite part about the platform. In my early days of learning the language, I neglected the importance of speaking. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was with myself as I continually studied through reading and learning vocabulary, but didn’t see much improvement when it came time to use the language. Now after a few months of speaking multiple times a week, I’ve had friends comment on how much improvement they’ve noticed.’
So if you’re a Berliner ready to assimilate that little bit better, try out their two-week free trial and give them a go.