You know the drill, expats. You move to Berlin, and as soon as your feet touch the Tegel tarmac you make like a conscientious foreigner and enrol in a language class. Just a few months of intensive courses later and you’re ready to tackle all the ders, dies and das‘s of life in your adopted city.
Except, well, no. Some of us moved here with jobs already, and don’t have 15 hours a week to spare conducting hypothetical small-talk conversations with hungover 20-year-olds. Others of us don’t have the hundreds of euros it’d take to master the awful German language (Mark Twain’s words, not mine) at a private school or the patience to U-Bahn out to Spandau or Reinickendorf or wherever the few not-totally-booked-out Volkshochschule German classes are held.
So we turn to Duolingo, but once we’ve maxed out that glorified video game we find that the owl failed to actually teach us how to talk to anyone, and we stand in front of the baker or Finanzamt official or club doorman flummoxed that they didn’t give us multiple choices or blanks to fill in. What if there was another way – a platform where you could learn German affordably on your own time, but also interact with actual people? Enter Lingoda, the language-learning platform of the future.
Available in German along with English, French and Spanish, the Berlin-based company offers language lessons over the Skype-style Adobe Connect platform. You can choose group classes (€79 for 10 one-hour lessons; mine had just three or four students), private ones (€269 for 15 lessons) or a mix of both. Either way, you’ll be paired with a qualified native-speaker teacher, who video-conferences with you about the usual subjects – writing a letter, telling someone about your day, giving directions – and “hands out” worksheets that appear as PDFs on the left side of the screen. During group classes you can talk and write to your fellow students, but not see them; this could be a potential set-up for some kind of You’ve Got Mail sexy-next-door-neighbour revelation, except everyone else in my class was from Asia. Actually, the anonymity felt pretty freeing – with nobody to look at/judge me, I felt more confident to speak up and even attempt a lame Berghain joke or two.
In addition to plenty of teacher feedback (even in a group lesson, mine was willing to stay “after class” to talk about a question I’d had) you’re paired with a personal advisor who helps assess your initial ability and is available to help out anytime. And if you’ve got an upcoming occasion you need some specialised Deutsch for – that all-important Ausländerbehörde appointment, a road trip around English-averse Brandenburg, someone’s asked you to give a toast at your German boyfriend’s sister’s wedding for some reason – they’ll customise a lesson for you given enough advance notice.
Will it replace a school? Maybe not yet. But it’s definitely way better than any other language apps that are on the market right now. Why not give it a try? It’s cheap and flexible as hell and – this is a pretty big selling point in winter – you can do it without leaving the house. In your pyjamas.
P.S. Get a 15 percent discount on Lingoda classes with the code “Exberliner15”!