Learn a Language as Painlessly as Possible

I’ve been struggling with German for some time now due to many factors in my life. Here’s a link to one of my numerous German posts. Anyways, since we received some extra money at Christmas time, I thought I’d finally get my butt moving on learning German, so I signed up for the Goethe Institute. They’ve been around for decades teaching people how to speak German. I figured I’d be held accountable more with a tutor than doing lessons on my own. Up to this point, I was learning on Busuu and loving it, but I had no one to answer to.

Sometimes we think a company that’s been around for decades will be the best match, and sometimes it turns out to be the worst decision. This was one of them. I decided to compare the Goethe Institute and Busuu and share my experiences, so whoever wants to learn German or another language, will have a better understanding and warning before proceeding.

Now there are those of the mindset that total immersion is the way to go, and that’s great for those who don’t struggle with languages. I find, along with my husband, that total immersion might help at the beginning for the taste of a new language, but not when it comes to understanding grammar and writing. And if anyone has ever attempted German, they know grammar is key when it comes to learning.

GOETHE INSTITUTE

With a 695 euro booking, I received the below:

The “At A Glance” makes it seem like I’m receiving a lot for this amount of money when all I’m receiving is the Online-Tutor, chapter lessons, and a certificate upon 6-month completion.

After I signed up on December 26, 2019, I hadn’t heard anything and figured it was due to the holidays. On January 12, I sent an email with this text. “Hello, I registered on Dec. 26th, but as of today, I haven’t received any information. I’m assuming since I haven’t heard anything that my account hasn’t been activated yet. Please inform.”

Their response on January 13 (this is only the relevant part): “Thank you very much for choosing our online course “Deutsch Online Individual”. In order to find the right course level for you we would like to get a precise impression of your German skills. We would like to ask you to access the online-placement test with your personal password which you will find at the end of this e-mail. It takes approx. 1 hour to complete the test. Do not use dictionaries or grammar books and do not ask friends or relatives for help – as this would not reflect your actual knowledge of the language.”

NOTE: Nowhere in this email does it state I was sent an earlier email.

Now onto the first A2 lesson:

What the hell kind of hobbies are these? My husband, who is German, was baffled as to why they wouldn’t use every day hobbies, such as walking, bike riding (these are things Germans do), and reading. Instead, they use Guerilla-stricken, which is tree knitting, by the way. LOL! I’ve been living in Germany for almost 8-years now, and I’ve only seen a few trees in southern German with these on them.

I was already put off by the content and function of the site and stated so to my tutor. For 695 euros, yeah, I was going to complain. My tutor told me I would need to contact tech support. So on January 25, 2020, I sent an email detailing the issues I had with the site: 1) “Adding Assignment” meant I had to click on the link to do the assignment, not add after completion. 2) There are no pop-ups when you hover your cursor over anything, so I accidentally clicked on an “x” to a comment and it deleted it without warning. 3) There is a little pad of German symbols to use during the exercises, but when I had to submit a written assignment to my tutor, they didn’t provide the symbols.

On January 28, I received an email from them informing me of another person’s concerns, and then followed up the same day with an apology for sending the wrong email. Two days later, they responded: “many thanks for your patience! We have taken your comments and suggestions into account and we agree that there is a need for optimization in our course at all the points mentioned. For this reason we have forwarded your comments directly to the development team. However, we must ask for your understanding that the implementation will take some time. Many thanks for your critical view! If you have any further questions, we will be happy to be at your disposal!”

NOTE: As of today, the site remains the same (6 months later). First, I’d like to reiterate that this company has been dealing with international people for decades and the email is written poorly. Second, I can’t believe a company that has been around this long hasn’t figured out these issues already.

By March, I returned to Busuu and couldn’t believe the difference, and frustration was eating at me because of the loss of money. I had kept receiving emails from my tutor every few weeks through March, and every time I responded, it was bounced back. Prior to this, I received emails from my tutor with no problem. All of them showed my tutor’s name at the top, so I just would read and respond. It turns out that the email address my tutor was sending the emails from was noreply@lernen.goethe.de, which I never noticed because why would I think my tutor would send an email to me that I couldn’t respond to.

BUSUU

I did a year of premium, didn’t renew it once I signed up with Goethe, but then I received a 50% discount email, paying half the price. Look at all you get with it, along with choosing a plan and a money-back guarantee. This is much more than what Goethe offers and at an affordable price.

Now onto my first A2 lesson:

I copied and pasted each hover link to show you what the lesson offers. Some lessons also have you write or speak an answer or description to be corrected by native speakers. I can go from doing a lesson to reviewing words. It also keeps track of weak, medium, and strong words I know.

Along with this awesome lesson is the tips and grammar information, which I found very little of on the Goethe Institute site. Again, I copied and pasted each hover link to show you the information.

I had contacted the Goethe Institute to see if I could get reimbursed but of course, they refused even after I sent attachments to back up my complaints and issues. My husband found the emails rude, and they never acknowledged any fault on their part.

To whoever plans on learning German, I suggest you forego the Goethe Institute. You’ll get far more of your money’s worth with Busuu.

Choices and Mistakes,
Denise

4 thoughts on “Learn a Language as Painlessly as Possible

    1. I started off with Duolingo, but it lacked the grammar and depth of words I needed to know. I think it’s good for those who want to learn a few things before traveling.

  1. When I was in Germany, one of the places I stayed at welcomed a weekly gathering of Germans who got together to socialize and speak English. Maybe you could find a group like that? As much as we can learn from textbooks and courses, speaking (and speaking horribly at times and making all kinds of mistakes) is a faster way to get used to speaking in another tongue.

    1. I live in a small town, so I’m not sure they’d have a meeting with people. I could look online though, which I feel more comfortable with doing. Yes, speaking the language, no matter how horrible, is definitely the best way to getting used to the language but not so much for grammar. Any tests for certification are heavily based on grammar. Since I’m at 53% (A2) level, I’m at the point where I need to speak the language, but there are so many roadblocks here for that. I need to kick my husband’s butt into speaking German.

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