Last week I plugged in a hard drive and plunged deep into folders inside of folders inside of folders I didn’t know I had created. Surprisingly, what I found were not embarrassing photos of a scrawny teen in an Indiana high school, but rather of a 20 year old living in Berlin, Germany.
This was the hard drive from my ten months studying abroad in Paris, followed by a two-month stint in Berlin. Even when I say that, I stop and think, wait, I did that? And it’s the reminder I need to continue doing things that others may see as batshit crazy, but that I see as what one should do. Following ten months in Paris at 20 years old, you’re recommended to get back to the US, to get a job, or an internship, and “get back to work.” First off, F that, because if ever I, or you, have to explain why you have a gap on your résumé, telling an exciting story about that one time you lived in Berlin is exactly what will set you apart and win you a job, not lose it for you. Second, anytime anyone tells you you’re wasting time by studying abroad or living abroad, you can remind them of how much of the world you saw, how many people you met, how many new experiences you had – which, after all, is exactly what life is all about – not building up a résumé and making calculated career moves. Your desk will not attend your funeral. So anyway, I had the visa, I had the time, and I had the friends, so I decided to spend my summer in Berlin, living with a Polish girl, two Frenchies, and two Germans. If there’s anything that changes the way you see the world, it’s that.
Everyone in the house spoke German…except me, which of course, made me feel like I needed to learn it immediately. My German was extremely basic, and consisting of only Guten Tag and Auf Wiedersehen, but over time, I managed to order my falafel pitas mit Gemüse (with vegetables) and to say Entschuldigung (excuse me) when I’d bump into someone. I ordered my Kaffee “mit Milch und Zucker” and knew that U-bahn was short for “underground railway.” Every day was something completely new and exciting.
I was staying in Karlshorst, a suburb of East Berlin, where the only thing to do was take a evening stroll to Penny or Lidl – basic supermarkets, both with a no-frills approach when it comes to displaying their food. Think Aldi – also a German supermarket staple.
We spent our days going to a pool built in of a river, taking a weekend trip to a nude camp ground, dancing in electro clubs near Warschauer Straße, eating sketchy lunches from food trucks, exploring Tempelhof, an abandoned airport, and Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park.I learned trinken and tantzen when I’d go out and drink at a club. When I tried explaining to a roommate where I was going that day, I learned there are different “to go” verbs, depending on if you go by foot, bike, car, metro, etc. What once was a language that sounded so foreign, was now starting making more sense, the more I was living in the culture.I came back to the States, reluctantly, suffering from reverse culture, and made it a point to continue dabbling in German. I printed off grammar sheets from IE-Languages and took Intro to German at a language school. My interest in improving my French and Portuguese eventually took over, but now that I’m able to fully communicate in those languages, I’m back to my extreme German learning phase. Here’s how I’m learning German.Back in December, I made a video speaking a tad in German. The German spoken in that video was the accumulation of bits and pieces from German friends, from every language app out there, and from one very important book that I’m recommending here in this blog.
I’ve recently turned all my friends onto my boy, Benny. Maybe you remember my Favorites of December blog where I mentioned that I rolled up into Barnes & Noble and came across Benny’s Language Hacking Guide: German. This man was a language blogger I followed for years. It’s as if, one day, you’d come across one of our books in a store 😏.
And the reason I like his style of teaching is because it’s a no-nonsense approach. Gimme the quick, fast-track to speaking the language, so I can get my point across, and I can deal with the more complicated things later.
Here’s How I’m Learning German
His motto, Speak from Day One, is legit. I’ve learned more German in the past few months than I have in the past few years of dabbling here and there. He teaches you relevant vocabulary to what you’ll probably be talking about when you’re a beginner, and he also includes cultural notes on the light-blue margins on the side of text, etc. It’s also not one of those annoying language books that force you to buy their partner book so you can have the corrections to the exercises; you’ve got it all in one book. And honestly, honestly, if I didn’t speak French or Portuguese yet, I’d truly be using his language hacking guides for those languages as well.
Another no-bullsh*t approach to learning many languages. They’ve got articles like 4 Best German YouTube Channels for Beginners, 6 Best German Movies You’ve Never Heard Of, or the Beginner’s Guide to Telling Time in German.
If you’re someone who has learned other languages and doesn’t need lengthy explanations on how to conjugate verbs, or when to use what tense, then IE Languages is another language hacking resource to use.
An app that sends you on a mysterious adventure…using your German to move you to the next clue. It was fun until I couldn’t figure out what to do next after meeting the girl in the red top in the hotel cafeteria.
Carina, the host, is my girl. No, I don’t know her, but she’s the teacher and you can tell she’s always having a good time…despite speaking probably at a turtle-pace for us Non-German speakers.
If you know of other useful language hacking sites,
please leave them in the comments below!