6 years in Frankfurt and I’ve not taken the German language seriously. Any expat living in Frankfurt will tell you how easy it is to get around everyday life with zero or minimal German. But as my 4 year old comes home from Kita daily spitting more and more German words at me, struggling to find certain words in English, or using German grammar when speaking English, I know it’s time for me to buck up because I’m already falling behind him. Even my 18 month old understood whatever her teacher said to her while I stood in the corner trying to decipher if that was “accusative”, “dative” or “genitive”.
But how does a mum with 2 young children find time to study German? Intensive classes run daily for half a day and any parent with young children know that kids fall sick at least once a week on a monthly basis. I can’t commit to a class as I know I’ll be paying a lot of money for classes that I can’t attend when my child is poorly. We don’t have a cleaner, babysitter or family to help us out with chores and the kids BUT this is doable.
1. Utilise your German-speaking child
Yes, free tuition! When I don’t know how to phrase a sentence, I ask my son. He might not give me the perfect answer but kids are amazing. They come up with different ways to convey what they want to say. And in the meantime, I’m constantly learning new vocabulary from him. When in doubt, seek help from a native adult because kids love making up words too (as if German itself isn’t difficult enough!).
2. Read in German
Parents who believe in OPOL will hate me for this. But we actually have German books for the kids at home for storytime. I pick up vocabulary that are specific to my children’s interests or everyday life (Kindergarten) to help me communicate with their caregivers and teachers. Read those free magazines from Al Natura, DM or the pharmacy. They might not be world news, but that also means they are easier and lighter to read. And very often, they have family related articles which means you’re equipping yourself with vocabulary that could be easily applied to daily life.
This is where I do most of my “formal” German learning – via Skype. The great thing about using iTalki is that I get to schedule lessons around my other commitments. I have a few teachers so there’s even more flexibility – if one isn’t available at the time slot that I’m looking at, I could always get another teacher that I’ve tried out. I love that it’s one-to-one. That means there is no time wasted sitting around getting answers checked. I get a lot of speaking practice done during my lessons. As lessons are tailored to my needs, I could also inform the teachers beforehand about the topic I would like to focus on – Parent-teacher meeting, Apartment searching, Education in Germany and so on. Lessons can be as short as 30 minutes which fly by or an hour long. I usually go for 45 minutes or combine 2 45 minutes lessons with a 15 minutes break in between.
If you are keen to try iTalki.com, please use the referral link below. You will get USD$10 Credits.
These are just some of the ways I’ve been studying German. They are by no means going to get you from beginners to expert in weeks, but sufficient enough for mums who already have their plates full. Once you get your confidence up, you’ll be chatting away with other parents during drop-offs and pick-ups in German and feel super duper good about yourself.