Warum die lange Pause?

It’s been a while since I posted about my German language studies. Since finishing my course at the end of December I’ve unfortunately practiced less and less. I spent two weeks in January traveling through Israel and Palestine, to return to Berlin at the middle of the month.

Since then, I’ve been practicing my German in occasional social settings, but also on Duolingo.com’s free website. I haven’t kept with a strict regiment though, so instead of learning anything new, it’s basically been a retention practice. I’m trying not to forget everything I learned. To get myself back on track, last week I took a placement test so that I could register for a Volkshochschule course.

Unfortunately, the next available seat in a Volkshochschule isn’t until April—which is exactly why I’m not much of a fan of the system for learning German. So while I placed into one level, I can’t enroll into that level for another month and a half. In that time, if I actually were to try to continue expanding my knowledge of the German language, I could very well be at a completely different level than my Volkshochschule course. But, I shouldn’t complain too much. After all, a 2-month course at the local language school is just 150€.

In the meantime before my course starts, I’ll be practicing my knowledge and still hope to occasionally update this blog with tidbits of information. Stay tuned—just not as regularly as when I was in the school at the did deutsch-institut.

Review of the did deutsch-institut in Berlin

Well, it’s been two weeks since my German language course ended at the did deutsch-institut here in Berlin. All-in-all, I really enjoyed the course. I learned a lot—more than I have picked up during my own attempts at self-study. The first week alone taught me more German words, sentences and useful grammar than I’d picked up in the first few months of living in Berlin (having not studied the language before).

While I did have a scholarship toward my German language studies, this is my honest assessment of the 4-week, standard course I took at the did deutsch-institut:

Location of the school in Berlin

The did deutsch-institut is in a fairly convenient location. Between Nordbahnhof and just a few blocks from Friedrichstrasse, it’s quite easy to get to from just about anywhere. The school also has a partnership/deal with Humboldt University, so it’s possible to use the student canteen/dining hall with your student ID. They serve good, cheap lunches—a full, warm meal for under 5€.

The school itself is on two floors in a modern building. Classrooms were just big enough for the number of students in the class (max 15).

Professors and method of teaching

My introductory German course had a two different professors teaching us. They basically alternated days. The teaching styles of each were slightly different. One of our professors went a bit faster than the other and assumed we knew a bit more than we did, but he always made class interesting. The other professor taught a bit more slowly to make sure everyone was at the same level before moving on. Together, both styles worked well for me because class was sometimes challenging and stressful, but other times easy-to-follow.

Every class was heavily focused on us, the students, speaking. Though it may have been embarrassing on the first day to speak up and try to use our limited (or, in my case, non-existent) German, after the first few hours we all started to feel more comfortable. I never felt bad about making a mistake because we all did it and we all helped to correct each other. It was a great environment for a beginner.

Pace of the course

You can read all my daily posts from the 4-week course in my Berlin language school series. The course initially started out with a fast pace. We were learning new words and ways to use them every hour it seemed. Grammar followed after, but by the end of the second week everything started to make much more sense. The third week was a bit slower as we got into more technical parts of the grammar and the fourth week was pretty interesting. By this time many of us were comfortable with the basics of German sentences and verbs, so we could form our own basic stories. The fourth week also brought more challenging examples of German verbs and how to use them.

The did deutsch-institut offers a few different levels of courses. I was enrolled in a standard course but they also offer premium and intensive courses.

Class size

The class was never more than 15 students. The first two weeks were the most crowded with a full classroom, however, by the third week, even though 4 or 5 students finished their 2-week studies, new students enrolled. The average class size throughout the duration of my 4-week course was usually 10-12 people. Sometimes people wouldn’t show up to class, but this was relatively rare.

The other students in the course came from just about everywhere. I was the only native English-speaker during the entirety of the four weeks. Other students enrolled in my same course came from Egypt, Croatia, South Korea, Brazil, Spain, China, Vietnam, Sweden, Venezuela and Italy. We were quite the mix of people!

Course book

We used the Tangram aktuell course book published by Hueber. The cost of the books are not included in the tuition price: a 4-lesson book cost 15.95€ when purchased from the school’s collection. Not having much experience with other courses or language books, the Tangram book was decent. Entirely in German, we often skipped around within a lesson. We rarely had homework during our 4-weeks but there were plenty of exercises in the book that I tried to do just to practice on my own.

The book also comes with a CD for the listening exercises. Sometimes the book seemed a bit out-dated and old (there were silly rap songs spread throughout), but I still feel like it helped me to learn a few things. The grammar section at the back of the book was often more helpful than within the lessons, though admittedly, one student in the course had a different course book which we would occasionally copy verb charts/conjugations out of because it was simpler to use.

On the web:

If you’re interested in the the standard course I took at the did deutsch-institut, more information is available here. You can book the course anywhere from 1-48 weeks, with 20 lessons per week. A typical level of German language learning is 6 weeks.

did.de on facebook

Umziehen in Berlin — moving day in Berlin means a chance to learn new words

The other night I helped my friend move apartments. Well, not so much move apartments as help her unload some boxes out of a taxi and then get them inside her new place. And by an apartment, I really mean a sublet. Because, really, finding an apartment in Berlin to lease is a big big challenge. Most people I know are subletting—maybe for as much as a year, but it’s still not permanent.

Maybe that’s just the apartment-culture for students and young professionals, but finding an apartment still does seem to be a challenge here. There are websites like wg-gesucht.de and Facebook groups or Couchsurfing groups to help people find places to live—but most options are temporary solutions. So, if you’re like me, you end up moving around quite a bit. Regardless, this moving day in Berlin wasn’t about me but instead about helping my friend. And as I’m prone to do these days — it’s as much about helping a friend as it was picking up and refreshing my German language skills. I was also lucky because her new place was just on the first floor (ersten Stock).

Her boxes were labeled by location where her various things belonged. I learned these words in the second week of my German language course at the did deutsch-institute, plus they’re fairly easy to figure out from context clues.

Some apartment words worth knowing:

Zimmer — room
Küche — kitchen
Wohnzimmer — living room
Schlafzimmer — bedroom
Bad — bathroom
Balcon — balcony
Nachbar — neighbor


Am Flughafen

Yesterday I went to Tegel airport to pick up my boyfriend. If you’ve been to Berlin, you’ve probably flown through this airport. It’s the closest airport to the city center and many people like it because of its convenience. Personally, I just don’t see the beauty of the airport. In fact, I flat out dislike it.

Anyways, while waiting to pick him up, I had some time to learn a handful of new German words. Here’s my short guide to words at the airport (Wörter am Flughafen) — words that I learned in my language school (don’t ask me why) and a few others I picked up from the departure/arrivals board.


Wörter am Flughafen

  • Departures — Abflüge
  • Arrivals — Ankünfte
  • Landing — Anflug
  • Landed — Gelandet
  • Plane — Flugzeug
  • Airport — Flughafen
  • Flight attendant — Flugbegleiterin

Frohes Fest herum der Welt

All this week I’ve been acting as @I_amGermany on Twitter. If you haven’t heard of the Twitter account before, it’s a rotation curation project. Each week, a different person in Germany gets to tweet and share their life in Germany on the account. Famously, Sweden’s official tourism board has been doing this for a long time. The Germany account is unofficial but, so far in my experience, still gets plenty of attention from around the world.


Yesterday, on the 25th of December, I tweeted that I didn’t have a Christmas tree this year and wanted to see other people’s Christmas trees. I received nearly 20 different Weihnachtsbäume throughout the day! Thanks for keeping my company, Twitterverse!

der Weihnachtsbaum = Christmas tree
die Weihnachtsbäume = Christmas trees

Here are a few sample Weihnachtsbäume (also Tannenbäume) that I received.

@cordugram — NYC, USA @ananonymouse — Colorado, USA @groovinchen — Koblenz, Germany @komichelle — NYC, USA @withtheb @despod — Cork, Ireland @reverberationss — Philadelphia, USA


Learning how to ask directions in a grocery store

I went to the grocery store this afternoon—the Saturday before the Christmas holiday. Not sure what I was thinking because it was a bit of a mad house in there. Thought I’d use this time to share a story from my German language course when we learned how to ask directions in a grocery store (and how to understand the answer). Things like, Where is the bread? or “It’s over there near the cheese.” ETC.

I’ve been in Berlin for a while before my course, so I already know quite a bit of vocabulary for the grocery store. Every time I walked into a Kaiser’s and realized I didn’t know the name for “flour” or “faijta seasoning” was a challenge, but it’s surprisingly easy to make do in these situations.

To make class interesting, our professor on the day we learned how to ask questions in a grocery store, Wolfgang made us pretend we were asking where to find assorted drugs and drug paraphernalia. It was a bit confusing at first, but made for some funny interactions at least.

Also: what’s the deal my course book (Kursbuch)? I feel like it’s from the ’80s even though I know it’s not. Some of the vocabulary in the grocery store section:

  • die Zigarette (cigarettes)
  • das Feuerzeug (lighter)
  • die Fernsehzeitschrift (TV guide)

Though, admittedly  just about everyone in Berlin (in Europe?!?) smokes so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that one of the first words we learn deals with smoking. But who on earth actually still uses a TV guide?!

at the grocery store 1 at the grocery store 1


The Berlin u-bahn at night

Last night I was riding the u-bahn (Berlin metro) home after a night out with some friends. I’d like to write a rather long piece about the u-bahn in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, enjoy the sound of a train arriving at Frankfurter Tor station at night when things are still.

I spend a lot of time on the u-bahn these days—mostly because it’s winter and I can’t be bothered to spend too much time outside. In the mornings on the way to my language course, I tend to go through my iPhone and either play a quick German vocab game in one of my many apps, or to skim through my Google Translate app and refresh my memory of yesterday’s class. With about 25-30 minutes travel time between my apartment and die Schule (the school), it’s enough for me to get a bit of morning language practice in.

At night, on the other hand, I much prefer watching the interesting characters in the stations. Last night there was at least one guy playing guitar, a handful of teenagers being loud and one homeless person selling a Zeitung (newspaper)

Die Deutsche liebe… (food edition)

We learned quite a few food-related vocabulary last week in my German language course, so I thought I’d shed the light on a handful of foods that the Germans seem to love.

Die Deutsche lieben Brot


I’m not sure I can stress enough how much the Germans love bread (das Brot). I suppose it’s a stereotype you hear about quite often, but nothing I ever took much note of. But as soon as I landed in Berlin, I couldn’t walk very far without seeing a Bäckerei (bakery).

Germans love their bread. Upon first moving to Berlin, I ate almost exclusively in the bakeries. They sell small sandwiches (in Berlin, they’re called die Stulle) for usually less than 2€—usually a slice of various cheeses or deli meats with a tomato. A quick and easy meal.

Die Deutsche lieben Kartoffel

Because loaf after loaf of bread isn’t hearty enough, the Germans also seem to have a serious infatuation with potatoes (die Kartoffel = the potato). As far as German cuisine goes, you’ve got Salzkartoffel (boiled), Bratkartoffel (roasted), Stampfkartoffel (mashed), Folienkartoffel (baked), Backkartoffel (auch baked), Pommes (French fries), Kartoffelsalat (potato salad)…the list goes on.

A German meal wouldn’t be right without a bit of Karoffelen.

Die Deutsche lieben Wurst



Die Deutsche lieben Suppe

Might be a bit of a surprise to some people, but Germans seem to love soup (die Suppe). Maybe it’s because the weather in Germany is so cold. One of the funniest things I’ve noticed is how year-round you can buy a fresh vegetable soup kit in the grocery stores. It’s with all the other vegetables and contains a packet of vegetable stock, some fresh carrots, maybe a leek, some celery and whatever you else might need to make a quick & easy (and fresh!) soup.

Photo credit

Introducing yourself in German

Learning German has been a fun exercise so far. In the first few days of class, we learned several basic phrases: what’s your name, how old are you, where do you come from, etc etc. We learned the phrases and the verbs before we learned the conjugations, and now that we know more of the grammar, the basic sentences used for introducing oneself make a lot more sense.

Today in my German language class yet another new person started the course. It seems people come and go throughout an intro language program. We started with something like 15 people, after two weeks this dwindled down to about ten, and we’ve gained and lost a few people here and there. Either they’ve successfully tested out of our language level, or maybe they’re too distracted by things in Berlin like Berghain.

Either way, each time we get a new student, that means we get to go through the basic German introductions.

  • Woher kommst du? Where do you come from?
  • Wie heißt du? What’s your name?
  • Wo wohnst du? Where do you live?
  • Was bist du von Beruf? What’s your job?
  • Wie alt bist du? How old are you?

Now that we have a more expanded vocabulary, however, we’re able to ask more serious questions like these

  • Welche sprachen sprichst du? Which languages do you speak?
  • Wie lange lernst du Deutsch? How long are you studying German?
  • Spielst du Sport? Do you play sports?

There are more, of course, but for a quick round of introductions, these basic questions are an easy primer. It’s like playing one of those annoying introductions game, but this time everyone is speaking at a kindergarten-language level!

*Slight changes made to fix some errors!