Right before I moved to Berlin in May, I wrote about how to learn German in six months. After having lived in Berlin for six months, I’m proud to say that I’ve gone from level A1.1 to A2.2 – which means basic, conversational German.
I implemented all the ways I listed (aside from a formal class, which I found didn’t give me value for time/money): apps, forcing myself to read, watching movies (re-watching “Breaking Bad” in German to English subtitles was extremely effective), and tandem partners. Then, about three months ago, I was introduced to another effective tool, Lingoda, an online language school, and was given the chance to sample it as a journalist.
Lingoda was co-founded in Berlin three years ago as a start-up by Fabian Wunderlich and his brother, Felix, who had founded a chain of language schools.
“People don’t want to go to an offline school anymore,” Wunderlich told me over the phone. “They want to learn online, but at the same time they don’t want to learn with a private teacher, because they want to have the structure, teacher and certificate of group classes.”
I also discovered, while writing about the Berlin-Tel Aviv start-up ecosystem, that Wunderlich also visited Israel as part of a program sponsored by Israel’s Foreign Ministry to bring entrepreneurs to Israel.
“Just the whole vibe in the country was amazing,” he said about his impressions of Israel. “It was just very entrepreneurial – a country built of immigrants, no one takes any status quo for granted, and just personally it was an amazing experience for me because after I finished high school I worked as a volunteer in France from people who suffered from the Nazi occupation in France.”
He says Israelis are among the many students from all over the world who use Lingoda. Not surprising, given that an estimated 35,000 Israelis live in Berlin, on and off the books.
With Germany and Israel continually expanding relationships on all levels, Lingoda provides Israelis with an excellent starter kit for learning German.
It offers three different packages (not to mention a $1 trial class) that start at about $100 a month, which each hour-long class averaging about $9. After sampling both private and group classes, I found the curriculum intelligently operated. You choose a course based on a subject (like travelling or jobs) or grammatical themes (like past tense or conjunctive). Using efficient Adobe software, teacher and student interact in real time (with teachers appearing via video while students could opt for audio only). Asking us to rate each teacher after the class, I found that Lingoda takes pride in quality control, which is more easily monitored with this digital platform.
The homework free courses are not necessarily cumulative, but Lingoda has the advantage of allowing you to study from the comforts of your own home – whenever you want – if only you make the time, and that’s the rub. It’s all up to you.
But purchasing a package may provide the motivation you need, just like paying for a gym membership might make you go. And learning a language is all about regularly doing your exercise.
For now, Lingoda teaches German, French, Spanish and English. Will they add Hebrew to the repertoire on day?
“Russian, Turkish, Portuguese, Hebrew, and Chinese – I would love to,” Wunderlich said. “But the market is so small [for Hebrew]. When I was in Israel I was actually talking to Mr. [David] Grossman, the author, and I was talking to him about the Hebrew language, and he was saying something I didn’t know and wasn’t so aware of: that the Hebrew language had a resurrection – that it wasn’t spoken for a long time, and now it’s a living, vivid language. I found that super amazing.”
To book a trial private class with Lingoda, go here.
But I still think Disney’s the best way to go: