Learning German in Berlin: The Good and The Bad


Before I moved to Berlin, all I ever heard was how multicultural, creative and international the German capital city is. Stepping off the plane and through immigration, I was more than a little worried. My knowledge of the German language didn’t go past Kindergarten and Gesundheit. I was able to mime my way through their questions—I was only planning to be in Berlin for a short holiday.

Natürlich, that’s not what happened. My one-week vacation in Berlin went fast, and by the end the thought of leaving the capital city tormented me. So I didn’t. I found a job, an apartment, made some friends and set about to turn myself into a German.

While a place to live and work were integral the first few months as I made a life for myself in Berlin, I also knew I’d need to learn the language. My job was in an English-language company and my friends and co-workers came from all over the world. English was the common tongue, and collectively our German didn’t get us more than a Currywurst and a Bier. So we set out to learn the language of Goethe, Thomas Mann, Heidi Klum, Bach and the Brothers Grimm.

Learning German in Berlin: the good

Setting out to learn German in the German capital, you’d think your chances are pretty good. Yet because of the big tourism numbers and the huge population of foreigners and expats, English and Spanish and Italian and Turkish are more and more frequently heard in Berlin. And while many can get by without speaking the local language, doing so is incredibly helpful.

The best part about learning German in Berlin has been the challenge. When stepping into a café and trying out my new adopted language, the cashier usually automatically switches to English. I respond with Nein, danke! Ich möchte Deutsch sprechen to let them know I like speaking German. Usually they’ll continue in English, but I’ll just power on through in mein Deutsch—not just to see how far I can get, but because it’s rather fun to have a multilingual conversation.

Learning German in Berlin: the bad

Berlin is a great city. And it’s also Germany’s largest. With over three million people and a thriving cultural scene, this city is nothing if not a million little distractions. If you’ve spent any time in Berlin during summer, you’ll know there’s little chance of you wanting to stay inside learning German on a computer. Thankfully, Rosetta Stone has the TOTALe Companion app that makes learning German on the go easier.

And by the time winter rolled around, I was perfectly willing to spend the cold winter nights in front of my computer! Plus, the weather was so bad this spring that learning German with the Rosetta Stone online-learning platform was actually quite a good distraction from the grey skies.

In 2010 Adam quit his job as a graphic designer in Boston and travelled around the world. Since 2011, Adam has been living in Berlin and blogging about his hipster travel adventures at Travels of Adam. He's also the editor of a growing gay travel website and can be found on just about every social media service imaginable. Follow his adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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