Languages Magazine

Learning German in Berlin

By Tlb

german-carAs well as being the native tongue of outstanding literary and musical figures such as Goethe and Mozart, German is the most widely spoken first language of the European Union. However, despite its popularity, German isn’t always seen as the easiest language to learn.

Potential pitfalls

German is filled with long and twisting words, three grammatical genders, four noun case endings, and pronunciation requirements that native English and Spanish speakers find difficult initially.

Many German words are surprisingly long because of their compound nature. So, for example, the resuscitation method known in English as CPR is described as ‘heart-circle-run-again-enlivenment’ or herzkreislaufwiederbelebung in German. Other favourites include hoechsgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung, meaning ‘maximum speed limit’, and hubschrauberlandeplatz, meaning ‘helicopter landing pad’. The secret to mastering these tongue twisters is to read the word slowly out loud.


In 1998, the language was made a little easier to learn thanks to a government-imposed spelling reform. This helped standardise some of the language’s inconsistencies when the new orthography became the official standard in 2005.

Differing dialects

Within Germany, there are a number of dialects, but the Berlinisch dialect of Berlin is one of the most distinctive. The ‘ge’ is pronounced as a soft ‘je’, while the soft ‘ch’ is pronounced as a hard ‘ck’. Das, meanwhile, may be pronounced as ‘det’. Slang words unique to Berlin include olle for ‘woman’, molle for ‘beer’ and stampe for ‘pub’.

Benefits of Berlin

For a study-abroad trip at a German school Berlin is the ideal destination. The country’s capital and largest city, Berlin is loved by language students from around the world. The reason lies behind the city’s legendary climate of openness and tolerance, culminating in everything from avant garde art to cutting-edge architecture.

More practically, the city is cheap to live in and has an excellent public transport system as well as unusually safe streets, even at night. Nevertheless, Berlin has a sometimes frenetic pace of life, and more tranquil students may prefer a German school Freiburg is home to.

Situated in the extreme south-west of the country, Freiburg has been heralded as the ‘greenest city in the world’ thanks to its dedication to eco-housing, car-free streets and its socially conscious citizens. It can also offer a number of options to anyone wanting to learn German there, such as ESL – Language Schools.

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