Want to speak German? How to overcome the challenges holding you back
Of all the challenges that can come with being an expat, learning the language can be the most frustrating – and we don’t just mean the difficulties of dealing with der, die and das.
You just know mastering German would open many doors in terms of friendships, work and much more. But the difficulty of juggling language learning with working life as an expat can make it feel impossible.
Learning on your own can be a struggle – but classes in large groups may not give you the personal attention or connection you need. With the language school Lingoda, learning is focused on small groups that create a supportive atmosphere for each and every student.
Here, we look at three of the main challenges language learners face and how the Lingoda Language Marathon could help.
Time scarcity: feel too busy to learn?
For many expats, time is the most precious of all commodities. Between meetings-that-could-have-been-emails, a hectic work schedule and all the various appointments that bureaucracies demand, the number of hours in the day seems fewer than for most people.
Mastering German (or whatever the local language is where you live) would make life immeasurably easier as you navigate work, friendships and the delights of bureaucracy. But if you’re feeling as if you lack the time, you’re far from alone.
As Kayla Hodges, an American expat in Stuttgart, explains: “It's a real question of how to find the time and the motivation to keep going. The Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) wants to see I’m making enough money to support myself, so I spend more time working than learning the language.”
Many language schools attempt to cater for expats with evening classes, but sometimes they don’t fit in with your busy lifestyle – or energy levels! Many people would appreciate a more flexible solution.
Finding the right level of pressure ...
Pressure is also a major obstacle to language learning. It can come from yourself as well as others – either in the form of too much, or too little. We’re all very different in the way we work. But for many of us, feeling under pressure can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed or wanting to give up.
Some people find that there’s too little expectation to take part and engage in standard language school classes, while others find that being asked to decide between German’s three different genders, and four different cases when describing an object, is simply too much.
To make real progress, you need to learn in a way you can sustain beyond the short-term. That usually means you need to be held accountable in order to keep going. But in the beginning, just finding qualified teachers and the right class schedule for you can be an almighty struggle.
Overcoming a lack of urgency
Finally, there’s the question of motivation. Depending on where you're based, it can be all too easy to feel like you can get by with only English. In a big city like Berlin, Zurich or Vienna, there’s a never-ending number of people wanting to practice their English skills. It can be difficult to find the confidence to try out your German with them.
Many companies also do as much as they can to smooth the way for their employees, and this approach can make you feel you don’t need to learn the language to get by on a day-to-day basis. But think of the long-term benefits if you could push on to the next level.
Speaking a good level of German (or another new language) can help you feel integrated not isolated, making it easier to branch beyond your circle of expat friends.
One simple solution for many pitfalls
Any single one of these problems can slow or halt anyone in their quest to learn a language. Combined, they can put the average expat off learning for years. As Marwa Yousef, another Stuttgart expat from Lebanon, says: “With work stress and life pressure, if you don’t see fast progress, you’ll lose motivation."
Lingoda's online classes are designed to help learners address these common pitfalls by balancing freedom to set your own learning timetable with a framework that will keep you making progress. Whenever you’ve got time, you can access a class taught by a native speaker, says Serena De Maio, Lingoda's Chief Growth Officer.
“Our classes are available 24/7 and you can also access them from anywhere,” she says. "People can rediscover the power of team work to improve themselves and support each other. You can even make yourself more employable during this time of crisis by focusing on your language skills."
With Lingoda, you can learn German, French, Spanish, English or Business English. In terms of handling pressure, De Maio believes Lingoda’s model of small intimate classes of up to four students, provides the perfect middle ground. She states that students in these groups, “stop focusing on their own individual difficulties" and focus on the group – something that acts as a powerful motivator.
Students are also currently competing in the Lingoda Team Challenge, which offers prizes and a charity element through the Lingoda scholarship programme.
“We want to get people closer to one another during this period,” says De Maio. “We want people who have often been remote working to feel re-energised by focusing on a shared purpose with friends or colleagues. We’ve found that the chance to positively impact people's lives through the charity element helps make our students feel even more motivated.”
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