Brexit is drawing closer. On March 29, 2019 the UK will finally exit the EU and very soon a lot will change for us Brits who call Berlin home. Oscar Wilde’s “life’s too short to learn German” has been turned on its head. Our time remaining in the EU is too short NOT to learn German. Aside from the obvious reasons of using a bit of deutsch-flirting to secure that all important German passport and freedom of travel by matrimony (because German’s always been considered the language of love, right?), arguing that you feel more European than British and would prefer to live amongst the mainlanders seems slightly ridiculous if you haven’t made a concerted effort to embrace the base element of their culture.
There’s always an excuse: “All my work colleagues speak English to me all the time”; “I’m so busy with deadlines I can’t fit in classes”; “It’s impossible to learn German staring at my phone with no human interaction”. But when I discovered learning site Chatterbug (built by the ex-founders of the Silicon Valley tech hotshot Github), I realised there was no excuse!
With a plan of 20 minutes self-study a day, Chatterbug was easy to fit around my work schedule. The addictive online exercises (including fill-in-the gap sentences, audio tracks and video clips for comprehension) draw upon the latest language learning research, and are a welcome change from apps that just expect you to pick up grammar as you go along. They actually explain key information to you such as verb conjugations and sentence structure. With the friendly user interface and personalised “goals system” (you will reach A2 level if you do x amount of study) fuelling my competitive, reward-driven personality, pretty soon I was desperate to earn my stars for the week and sneakily completing exercises at work. When discovered in my addiction, I became the envy of all my colleagues, even fluent German speakers who stated they wished they could embrace the joy of learning the language for the first time again.
What really sets Chatterbug apart are its “live lessons” which allow you to hone your conversational skills and pronunciation, and bring you one step closer to ironing out that accent that you fear may now forever be synonymous with leaving the EU. These online video chats are with native speakers who guide you through exercises which Chatterbug’s system has tailored to your level, and that relate to the study you have been completing yourself. Live lessons can be organised around your schedule by listing your availability. I’ve had a different tutor every time so far. You can also rate your experience so you are more likely to be paired with people who you have a good rapport with.
Within two weeks I felt confident enough to try and string a few sentences together for base social interactions, such as using a few phrases with my friends in the queue at Sisyphos, which I’m sure helped win over the bouncers and secure my entry. Surely with this strategy, next week I can finally make it into Berghain.
The cheapest payment plan is €15 a month (including unlimited self-study and one live lesson a month), but it seems a small price to pay to cement yourself in a culture that you claim to love. After all, considering how much we’ve all spent perfecting our all-black Berlin uniforms, it would be stupid not to invest in the most German accessory of them all… German itself.
Try out Chatterbug for yourself here.