Many of you asked what German course I’m taking, at which school, and how I found it.
First, a little backstory on my German knowledge.
I visited Germany as a child with my parents and picked up the language quickly, but then I didn’t speak it for about 15 years. In my Bachelor’s degree, I took two beginner classes. Then I went on exchange to the University of Mannheim for one year, and though I slept through most of my German classes because I partied the night before, and I spoke mostly English because I was surrounded by international students, I still picked up some skills along the way.
In my Master’s degree I learned French instead and spent a year in Paris, where after a lot of struggles and a beating to my confidence, I finally became fluent. So, many years in the making and a long detour later, I finally got back to German when I decided to move to Zürich. I spoke a little with my boyfriend and his parents, and some actual fluency – I’m not kidding – came after watching Jane the Virgin in German (Jane die Jungfrau). I had already watched the series in English so I knew what was going on, and I would just write down entire phrases and words, look them up on Google translate, and memorize. The series has a smart but simple dialogue and that’s exactly what I needed to learn – how to put words together in a sentence for everyday conversation.
Here in Zürich, I’ve had good and bad days. Sometimes I can be quite fluent, other times I struggle, but the course is making a big difference in giving me constant practice, a vocabulary and some understanding of Swiss German as well.
How I found my course
This database (in German, but it’s easy) from Stadt Zurich covers all available courses in the city. After I did the search myself, I still had some questions, like why some classes are significantly cheaper than others. For example, Flying Teachers courses were some of the cheapest but had the same length and courses per week. I went to the Welcome Desk at the Stadt Zürich, and they explained to me that Flying Teachers courses are led by “teachers-in-training”, in other words, people who are not yet fully certified and are studying to become teachers, but that the school has high reviews from previous participants.
The course and the school
I’m taking an intensive 4-week course with three 45 min lessons per day, 5 times a week. It’s organized by Flying Teachers (yes, I went for the affordable option to try it out) and it costs 415 Franks. I was thinking that to me it’s not as important that the teacher has a ton of experience, it’s more important that I have a reason to speak German 3 hours a day and that I’m not breaking the bank doing it. I started at level B1.1 and immediately felt that the level is too low for me and so did the teacher. They switched me to B1.2 and I again felt that it was too low. After one class, it was suggested that I switch up again. So now I am in B1.3 and it’s the perfect level. So far I can really recommend this school. I like my teacher, I like the workbook, I have a fun group and I feel like I’m learning. Also, the Flying Teachers head office has been really nice and let me switch the levels without a problem, and the class locations are very central.
How to make the most of a language class
Here are my 5 tips for choosing a class and making it work
1. Try finding a teacher who has a flexible style. I cannot learn from teachers who are very rigid and only stick to the book. Maybe that works with science, but not with a language. A language is fluid and emotional, and the learning process needs to match that. I look for teachers who allow questions in class and make you feel comfortable to speak and deviate a little from the program.
2. The class needs to be fun (related to above). If you have a great group and a teacher with a positive attitude, you will speak, participate and thus learn a lot more. Plus, learning a language is kind of emotionally difficult – you’re in a new place, you have to find your identity in this new language and your brain hurts from all the grammar. A little fun goes a long way.
3. It’s really important to be at the right level. If you’re too low you will get bored and not speak much, if you’re too high you will be frustrated and not speak much.
4. If you can, try to learn from a non-native speaker. It sounds counterintuitive but in my experience, non-native speakers can sometimes make better teachers because they can relate to you and they understand why you’re asking certain questions, which to native speakers seem random and out of place.
5. Final tip – get excited about learning German. Go full in and attack with gusto. Make it a personal challenge. Picking up a new language is a pretty cool and privileged opportunity, and in the end, it’s your attitude that will decide how much you learn.
ps: if you have any tips, or experiences from other local schools/classes – please share them!