Lifestyle Living

I tried learning basic German for one week using Babbel

Wanting to learn a new language at 23-years-old takes initiative, time and patience. Being a millennial is already hard enough with uni life, countless jobs and saving enough for an Insta-worthy Sunday morning brekkie (it’s in your budget, don’t lie). Some of us might not be as busy, but we never seem to have enough time for new and quirky hobbies. My new hobby just so happens to be learning German in the comfort of my own home, or during long commutes to work by using the Babbel app; because let’s be real, there’s not enough hours in the day or enough courage in my gut to meet with a language tutor.

That’s right, you can learn a language while lying down in bed, not in a poorly lit room at your local community hall. Instead, I enjoy my week with Babbel by cuddling up with a blankie, hot tea and some relaxing music or white noise. It’s soothing. Well, it soothed me so I didn’t sound like my house was hosting a foreign domestic – we don’t want the neighbours asking who the aggressive exchange student is when really it’s just you and an app.

Thankfully, I am already familiar with European languages. I people-watch on my annual Europe trips and attempt to fit their body language with what’s coming out of their mouth. It’s a slow way to learn. I can also speak some basic French – or, as I like to tell my friends, ‘broken-fluent french’. This means I can understand almost anything someone says if they have a clear Parisian accent and speak slowly – unlike Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network – and I can give an almost solid reply. When I’m trying to say “we walked around the park today and saw some ducks in the pond”, I’m probably saying “I walk with friend in park, and I see animal in water” and then I move my body awkwardly to act as a duck so they know which animal I am referring to.

To truly challenge myself, I decided to learn German. Why? Because Spanish and Italian are too similar to French. I can now say after a week of learning the basics, it is a very difficult language. That’s already the stereotype with German though, and the stigma fits true; it’s hard, aggressive and the words are long. Too long. Don’t forget there’s also mastering first person singular, second person formal; the list goes on.

Essentially, Babbel is your personal tutor who gives you a number of courses to improve on your pronunciation, listening, writing and grammar. Along the way you’ll learn about the culture and traditions like Oktoberfest, dirndls (all our ho friends’ fave Halloween costumes), and Bavarian cuisine. Pro tip: don’t repeat German phrases aloud on the train home, you will look like you’re having a mental breakdown and you’ll probably be filmed by other passengers. This isn’t a personal moment of mine.

The app made it quite easy for me to get me started with repeating basic phrases like “hello” and “how are you?”. Pronouncing the words was hard, but writing them was beyond challenging. Do you remember the feeling you had when walking into the HSC to sit an exam for your least favourite subject? It was like that. Thank god Babbel isn’t one of those apps that make you feel like shit by blasting an alert that goes “Bah Bow” with red flashing lights if you get something wrong.

A nice little inclusion is that throughout the lessons within the courses, a little pop up tells you something useful about the relevant topic. For instance, when I’m ‘filling in the gaps’ in a conversation between ‘Agatha’ and ‘Adolf’, a pop-up will inform me on what the more formal or informal phrasing is in a conversation, and to remember to capitalise all nouns.  

It is a little overwhelming, especially when you learn a language that’s completely out of your comfort zone. I’m not a patient person – at all – and it’s still taking me forever to pronounce “Können Sie das übersetzen?” and write (correctly) “Entschuldigung”. It’s a headache – I won’t lie – but I wouldn’t know more than a small fraction of what I’ve learned with this pocket-sized tutor if I were to take on ‘learning German’ on my own.

You can start  learning your new language with Babbel here.

What language would you be keen to learn with Babbel? Tell us in the comments below!