Despite the fact that the German language does resemble English, for the majority of language students, German is the hardest of the Western European languages to learn. If you are a first-time learner of a foreign language, or if you have only studied Romance Languages, you might find it takes longer than you had anticipated to get up to speed in German.
However, learning as much of the language as you can in any foreign country in which you are living is always the best course of action. You’ll be able to make a wider circle of friends, and knocking down the language barrier is the single best way to overcome culture shock, homesickness and feelings of loneliness.
That being said, English is the unofficial, international language. Berlin is Germany’s capital and as such has plenty of native English speakers roaming its streets, as well as a considerable number of English-speaking Germans. Almost all major businesses have websites, telephone prompts and customer service representatives who speak crisp, clear English. Even some shop owners know the basics!
If you’re looking to learn as much German as you can before arriving in Germany, depending on the amount of time you have and your resources, you have some options:
Take a German language course at your local university, adult education center, or language school. An example of a language school would be Berlitz, which has locations worldwide and offers classes in a wide variety of languages. http://www.berlitz.com/
Use a computer-based language course, such as the wildly popular Rosetta Stone (http://www.rosettastone.com/), or other types of courses that fit your learning style (see http://www.languageresourceonline.com/group.asp?grp=947 for examples).
Cobble together your own curriculum based on tapes, language learning books available online or at your local bookstore, and German conversation groups in your area.
Once you’ve arrived in Berlin, your classroom options increase exponentially. Following are some German language schools in Berlin (which is also a great way to meet other new arrivals).
- The Sprachenatelier (“Language Studio”) in Berlin is an institute for languages, art and culture. They provide German courses and foreign language courses, mixed with lectures and symposia from visiting artists. http://www.sprachenatelier-berlin.com/en/content/german-language-courses-berlin-learn-german-sprachenatelier
- DIE NEUE SCHULE welcomes students with previous knowledge and advanced learners can begin courses any Monday. An oral and written placement test ensures you a place in the right course. Language courses for absolute beginners always start on the first Monday of a month. http://www.deutsch-in-berlin.de/
- The Goethe Institute has 50 years’ experience in teaching German as a foreign language. Courses offered all year round, for everyone from beginners to advanced learners and combine language training, culture and leisure time. Examinations available every month. http://www.goethe.de/ins/de/enindex.htm
- International House Berlin PROLOG has business German courses that are customized not only toward the language but also your schedule – in the morning, after lunch, or in the evening; in-house at your office or at the school; one-to-one, a small group, or a range of classes; a crash-course with 30 teaching sessions or a weekly class with two teaching sessions. http://www.prolog-berlin.com/en/index.htm