German language enthusiasts are spoiled for choice, with cheap and good quality German tuition on just about every street corner. Highly recommended: expath.de, Die Neue Schule, and of course the renowned Goethe Institut, if you can afford it. Unfortunately, your job doesn’t stop when the class is over. Berlin is international, so it’s hard to avoid speaking English. But the city is full of opportunities to immerse yourself in German. Here are five uncomplicated ways of going about it.
Force yourself to make friends who don’t speak English.
It’s easy to hang with the Canadians and Kiwis after language school, but it’s not why you’re here. Find yourself a language class pal who doesn’t speak English and you will be forced to communicate in German. Go out, have lunch, ask some questions. You’ll meet some fascinating people in the process. When learning Italian in Florence, my roommate was Japanese and my gal pal was Mexican. The three of us traveled around the Czech Republic together speaking Italian. It made for some great “three girls in a bar…” jokes.
Go to the Events
When school finishes for the day, don’t just go home and revert to English. Berlin is teeming with activities – you’ll find something on almost every day. Your language school will probably offer movie nights or excursions. In addition, there’s Tuesday night Stammtisch in Kreuzberg, Wednesday night on the Eastern Comfort, Friday Night World Language Parties, and Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons at St. Gaudy Cafe. No excuses.
Go to an Aerobics Class — in German
I learnt all the various parts of the body by desperately trying to cope in a German aerobics class. The great thing is, while you’re still struggling with the language, you can copy everyone else’s movements. And while you’re working out, you’ll learn all sorts of really important vocabulary and be able to take instructions. Two birds, one stone. And some serious Muskelkater the next day.
Get a German Boyfriend or Girlfriend
Easier said than done! But it worked for me, so naturally I am a fan of the idea. The benefits of having a German partner are unlimited. Family visits mean you are exposed to intensive German conversation, friendly brotherly interrogation, dialects, and slang, so naturally cultural immersion is imminent. In private, you get to grapple with the intricacies of German pillow talk, gain invaluable flirting skills, and learn how to nag your partner in another language.
Get a Tandem Partner
The internet is full of language enthusiasts, and many Germans in Berlin can’t wait to learn English. A tandem partner can offer you expertise in your target language, in exchange for help with English, or any other language expertise you might be able to offer. It’s a great idea, and it’s free. You meet your partner for a coffee, and you speak your target language for half the time, and then swap. Beautiful friendships can form through tandem partnerships. If you don’t get along with your partner, all you’ve lost is a cup of coffee, and there are plenty more fish in the sea. Try tandempartners.org to begin with, or ask at your language school.
About the Author: Kathleen Parker is the founder of Red Tape Translation. Possessing a calm professionalism that is well suited to dealing with bureaucratic offices, Kathleen Parker accompanies English speakers to their appointments at the Auslanderbehorde and the Arbeitsagentur in Berlin.