Why I’m Quitting German Language School

Quitting German language school

I am not a quitter, yet I will be quitting German Language School as soon as my current course finishes in two weeks. I am rather surprised at myself. Where did all my enthusiasm go to learn German that I had when I first moved here? What about my plan to finish two more levels of intensive German? What about my plan to be fluent in German within a year? All gone, I don’t know where it all went, but it’s been long gone.

Don’t get me wrong, I still plan to learn German and I still have the goal of becoming fluent sooner rather than later (no I’m not quitting early because I’m so naturally gifted in languages and became fluent in German so quickly :) but it just won’t be along the nicely laid path that I had laid out almost a year ago. Strangely enough, I’m not learning as much German as I should be in German Language School. This time this is not the fault of the school, (see What I Learned from Choosing the Wrong Foreign  Language School) and the blame lies entirely with me. Although I go to class, I am a bum in a seat, counting down how long until the next break.  I don’t remember the last time I sat down to memorize a vocabulary list and most days I rush through my German homework while in physiotherapy for my knee an hour before class starts.  I realize this is not the way to learn German – although speaking to the physiotherapist in German has been very helpful and I’ve developed a good German vocabulary around knee ailments.

My motivation has come and went after five hours a day, five days a week for the painstakingly long last eight months. When I first arrived, I would ask expats how much German they had taken. Most had only taken a course, but a few had taken six months of intensive German classes and then quit. I didn’t understand it, if you were going to live here, shouldn’t you take all the German classes that were offered to the highest level?

Now I get it. Learning a language with the goal of becoming fluent is hard. Learning German is the hardest thing I’ve ever done academically wise, far harder than any university course I’ve ever taken, far harder than completing my Master’s degree while working insane hours at a full time job.

I am burnt out from trying to learn German combined with running my blog, teaching an online course, planning a wedding and recovering from knee surgery.    I have realized that my efforts to continue to learn German in an intensive German course have been fruitless.  I will continue to learn German and am currently exploring different ways of doing so, some conventional, some not so conventional (stay tuned), but yes they will be fun( see 5 Fun Ways to Learn a Language.)  But in the meantime, I am relieved to have arrived at the decision to quit German Language School.  Yes I am a quitter – and I’m OK with that.



  1. says

    Welcome to my world of foreign language learning capability. You will likely learn faster from conversational exposure and you can always back that up with the grammer and technical component. There is probably a ‘German for Dummies’ book which would be my choice. In my experience there are some excellent interactive, home computer-based courses but long term experience will likely do the job best. I know you will get the task done. Bonne chance!

  2. Laurel says

    Thanks so much to everyone for your kind words, encouragement, tips and for sharing your experience. I was hesitant to write this post, but feel much better after all your support. Thank you!

    @Inka – Yes you did tell me that (several times in fact). You make me laugh, I’m sure I’ll have more time for wedding planning in 2 weeks when I’m no longer doing German school :)

    @Lita – Thank you so much for your kind words and you’re right, I need to focus more on communication than I do on the grammar side of things, which at least now I have the basis.

    @Linda – I’m afraid of getting stuck in “intermediatevile” as well. At the very least I will start a conversational course once a week in September which will hopefully help, but I know that I need to make an active effort to move forward with speaking German.

    @Zhu – Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It’s really nice to hear from people who have succeeded at something that I’m currently going through.

    @Gina – Great tip, I’ll definitely try that thanks. I get lazy with J.P. We speak German for the easy stuff and then switch to English for the more complicated stuff, but that doesn’t help my German. If you have any tips or links that you could share, I would definitely use them/appreciate them. Thanks so much!

  3. says

    I totally understand, Laurel. Reading about all the things you do you are one busy lady. And you know, you’ll still be exposed to German all the time and will probably pick it up more easily from reading books, watching TV, talking to locals, etc! Being a native speaker of German, I am grateful that I never had to learn German grammar. So focus on the positive, no more rules rules rules!

  4. says

    Hi Laurel,

    Here were my favourite German-learning things:

    For learning:
    – the free interactive German course at Deutsche Welle. Goes from level A1 to B1: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/0,,9572,00.html

    For reading:
    – Deutsch Perfekt magazine for German learners (your local library should have it if you don’t want to buy it): http://www.deutsch-perfekt.com/
    – Neue Kontakt digital magazine for German-learners (although this seems more geered to teenagers): http://referentiemateriaalvo.noordhoff.nl/neuekontakte/digizine/archief.html
    – The “top thema” articles at Deutsche Welle. They’re simplied versions of actual news articles and the hard words have definitions: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/0,,8031,00.html
    – Actually everything at Deutsche Welle is pretty good, especially the “Deutschkurse” section.

    For listening:
    – Slow German – podcasts spoken in clean, slow German and you can read the text on your ipod while you listen: http://www.slowgerman.com/
    – Grüße Aus Deutschland – 60 episodes made for German learners.

    Obviously speaking and writing are both key factors. I think the once-a-week conversation class I was in was really useful for getting me to speak regularly. I also joined a local choir and I always stay after to socialize to make sure I’m speaking German regularly. Otherwise the time just slips away and you forget the last time you’ve “practiced”….

    Hope that helps!

  5. says

    I’m so with you on this. I’ve never actually been to a language school, so I shouldn’t really comment, but I’ve had people come to me for English lessons who were learning nothing in a specialist school. Obviously one or two to one is more concentrated, but some of the things they were told in school were so wrong I can’t believe it!

    Spanish was much easier for me to learn because I’d done French and Latin in school, and I spent a couple of years learning on the street/every life until I took some private lessons to sort out my bad grammar! I’m still dodgy on more advanced grammar, but I’ve taken courses in various things in Spanish, and most of my friends are now Spanish, or at least we speak Spanish, which was the best thing I ever did. Luckily for you, one thing you are not likely to do is get mired down in ex-pat life.

    German is different from English/French/Spanish and some other common languages, though, the grammar rules, like word order, are quite difficult for us, I think. Looking back I think what I did was good, but I should have taken the one-to-one classes sooner. The problem with those is (speaking as the teacher here) that you do need to motivate yourself between classes. I usually tell pupils I give them the tools and teach them how to use them, but then it’s up to them to become proficient by practice.

    However, you have far too much on, and this is the obvious thing to drop, because you will go on learning because of your circumstances, just a bit slower for the moment. Lots of luck!

  6. says


    Good idea. You need to take your foot off the gas to change gears.

    Learning a language may seem like an academic pursuit, but it ain’t. The brain is an organ. It gets tired. Relax a little and a lot of what you know will fall into place. Rather like practicing scales until they’re perfect before you move onto melodies.

    I used to teach Englsh to immigrants in Australia. We ggave them eight weeks of intensive instruction, and then insisted they couldn’t do another course back-to-back. Their heads were swimming in new words and ideas, and not letting them come up for air just meant thay would drown in the language tehy were supposed to be learning.


  7. Chris says

    You’re not being a quitter–you’re just taking a different path to the goal. Have fun with it!

  8. Jessica says

    I am going through the exact same thing as you did…I am feeling like such a quitter, yet your words are my exact words, at the moment, and reading your post has really lightened my mind and reminded me that an intensive course is not for everyone. Thank you.

  9. says

    I keep telling people that German is most like up on the pedestal with Chinese when it comes to difficult languages. ;-)
    The best way to learn it is to speak, read and listen (kid’s TV does wonders for beginners, watch KiKa).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Wielkopolski National Park,near Poznan, Poland.

Wielkopolski National Park in Poland

Wielkopolski National Park is a popular getaway for Poznan locals! If I lived in Poznan, I’d be there every weekend! Located just 15km south of Poznan, Wielkopolski is easily reached by bus or train (the Poznan to Wroclaw line), or you could even cycle there for more of a work out. There are two look […]

Black grouse. Photo by Jari Peltomäki.

The Number One Bird Watching Spot in Finland

Liminka Bay is the number one bird watching spot in Finland, according to wildlife photographer Jari Peltomäker, who promises that he’s not biased. You can find over 200 bird species there!

Getting ready to do some bouldering on Mount Blanc and put our X ALP gear to the test.

Growing On and Off the Mountain

What happens on the mountain doesn’t stay on the mountain! The confidence that you gain carries over to the rest of your life.