Author Archives: Syed Rahman

Adieu Level A2, Willkommen B1. Step by step to the next level

All good things must come to an end, the saying goes, but fortunately, good things are generally followed by something better. This has been the experience at Deutsch Academy as well. Having been here for three months, I can testify that the time spent here only becomes more fun and productive with every passing day, week and month. As many students will say, German is by no means an easy language to learn and neither is cramming in all the rules, cases and exceptions that fun, but this is exactly what makes Deutsch Academy special – effective coaching and an effort to make learning fun.

Last week marked the end of another monthly batch at the academy with everyone satisfied and happy at the progress we had made. As usual, its a relief to have made it through a heavily loaded intensive course, when everything is packed into 4 short weeks, but the rewards are definitely worth all the effort we have put in. So here we are, having made it to the other side, often doing well, sometimes barely holding on to the pace of course and sometimes getting through by just being goofy.

Sometimes impressive, sometimes goofy, but always fun!

The course ending is also marked with nostalgia. In a surprisingly short period of time, we build strong relationships with our fellow students and the course instructors and then when the inevitable tides of change come sweeping in at the end of the course, its time to bid goodby to those who have to move out. Its quite moving that people coming from different corners of the globe, sometimes barely able to communicate with each other without an online translation tool can build lasting friendships after facing a common challenge and having helped each other in the class and with coursework outside. The friends we make are also perhaps one of the best takeaways from the time spent here.

Thanks Deutsch Academy! See you next month!

Moving to B1. First thoughts!

Finally, this week, I made the big jump of moving from beginner level German classes (A1, A2) to middle level and I think its been an interesting change and one that must be shared with future students who will be making the same transition in due course. After all, it always helps to know the experience of people who have taken or are taking the same journey as you are! Additionally,it would also give me a chance to fondly remember the amazing time I had in the beginner courses at Deutsch Academy Wien!

Hard work ahead!

First of all, B1 does announce itself in with big bold headlines! The books are feel different and structured quite differently. The words we learn are noticeably longer (its German after all!) and more abstract, so cute cartoonish pictures to explain words are largely done away with. Instructors help you with the transition of course, but the message is clear – its a bit more serious now! Themes get more sophisticated and classes are more packed and some of us have to spend our break time going over new words that are not that easy to comprehend. Instructors also engage students assuming a certain comfort level in spoken and written Deutsch, so its quite a different ball game. Its generally the students who have to be more animated to get across to the teacher now!

All that being said, I really must mention the excellent coaching that we received at Deutsch Academy in the earlier levels as its the main reason for us being able to keep up with the demanding course work. I can definitely appreciate the effort that teachers spent drilling in basic concepts and lexicon into our brains, now that we have to rely on it so much for further progress. In many ways, B1 builds on top of concepts learnt in earlier courses and cements them further, so having strong basics matters more than ever. A big, heartfelt thanks to my instructors and my fellow students at the Zieglergasse location for all the help they extended to me over the past couple of months! I am grateful for it now more than ever!

 

Off the beaten track – some great locations that get overlooked

As with other top tourist destinations in Europe, Vienna is sprinkled with more than a fair share of ‘Sehenswürdikeiten’. The city has something for everyone – grand palaces, interesting and varied museums, theater, nature and much more. A single trip in the Vienna Ring Tram will take one through so many landmarks, that its impossible to stay indifferent to the rich cultural legacy of Wien and then there is just such a a great variety of things to see, do and experience here. So often, a few lesser known delights of the city do get overlooked when people are here on short visits. I thought that I would make a small list of my personal favorite venues in Wien that tourists could enjoy.

  1. Wien’s flea market: The Naschmarkt near Karlsplatz is really one of Wien’s best attractions. Open on all days except Sundays, visitors can come here to enjoy a tantalizing selection of small shops selling fruits, vegetables, spices, homemade foods and milk products that will thrill even those among us with the most particular culinary tastes. The sheer variety of foods, from authentic Austrian cuisines to French bread  and Turkish kebabs makes one’s mouth water. If you need a break from the shopping, get a coffee and just enjoy looking the beautiful market from the window.
  2.  Stadthallenbad: An indoor swimmingpool complex, the Stadhallenbad houses three swimming pools open to the public (for a small fee). You can enjoy a clean, well maintained 50 meter pool for lane swimming or just to hangout by the pool. There are also many other indoor and outdoor pools dotted across Vienna, so just find one that’s close by to enjoy a nice dip.
  3. Some Middle Easter Culture: One of the most surprising things for me about Wien was the spacious, modern mosque near the Neue Donau Station. Beautifully designed and situated right by the river, I would recommend a small stop by the Vienna Islamic Centrum for people who would like to get a glimpse of Islamic architecture and social life. The people working at the center are extremely friendly and most of them speak Deutsch, so you can spend some time chatting with them. You will often find student groups from local schools and colleges visiting the center to learn about Islamic culture and theology.

Some Middle Eastern culture right by your doorstep!

 

Backup Options to Getting Around Wien

Getting around Wien is not usually a lot of sweat, thanks to the excellent public transport system here. Most residents and students in particular in the city are hooked on to the system to go about their tasks as much as millennials depend on their mobile phones for meaningful social interaction. Although the cost of the services is a bit on the higher side, commuters get to choose from the fast U bahns that trundle quickly through tunnels and over bridges to get you to your destination in a jiffy or Strassenbhans (trams) and buses that lumber through roads and make for a good alternative for those who want to look around at the beautiful city. However, its a large, complex network and every so once in a while, something does go wrong and while the highly competent staff at Wiener Liener get about to setting it right, we the people generally have to wait and watch.

It is quite interesting, that its exactly because the system is so reliable that so many Wieners are unprepared for transport system stoppages. Recently, I was stuck near Florisdorf for almost half an hour as a problem somewhere was forcing trains on both sides to use the same platform. Most other people around me had to just stand and wait as well and by the looks of it, some were being kept from important engagements. This got me thinking, what are the options that we have to deal with such black swan events?

The white knight arrives to save stranded passengers!

Students will more often than not lack the budget to buy their own vehicles and cycling is not everybody’s thing. Also, as much as one would fancy it, getting a boat and paddling your way though the Donau is not very practice. So what do we do when the good old lines do not function? Turns out, your phone can come in handy (yes! finally I know enough German to come up with some pun!). Here are some apps that can help you move around should the need arise.

  1. Uber: Although not as ubiquitous as in the US or some other markets, Uber seems to be a good option for commuters in the city. Functions exactly like in other places and the rates are reasonable (although rush hour price spikes can and will happen). Internet feedback over the app is generally positive, so just tap that app when you have to!
  2. Car2Go: A car rental app, Car2Go is an option for students with a valid driving license. Pick up a rental car from a close convenient location and use it. Internet reviews I came across for the service were a bit mixed.
  3. MyTaxi: A rather famous taxi hailing app in Europe, MyTaxi services are available in Wien and let you connect directly with taxis nearby. You can also pay for the ride using the app and have favorite drivers and other useful functions that make this a rather interesting option.

I do hope that readers will find the post useful. Please comment and let me know if you think something else should make it to the list!

Study aids for Deutsch learners

Hi all! Now that we are back from our short four day vacation, I thought we would move away from our theme on travel and focus on the last week of classes for this month’s courses. I’ve decided to list down some useful online resources for Deutsch students that come in handy from time to time (read, when completing housework). While we generally rely on Google translate to understand bits of German that we do not yet understand, often you need some more specialized tools for the trickier bits. Most of these websites provide a decent amount of content for free, so go ahead and try them out!

Relax and use these online resources to make studying German easy!

  1. Deutsch Academy online exercises: Yes! I thought it would be a good idea to begin with the great content that our very own Deutsch Academy has posted online as a starting place. Follow this link to get to a vast array of exercises that are categorized by your fluency level. The content is largely designed to improved your grammar and comprehension and students will find them incredibly helpful in consolidating their classroom learning.
  2. PONS: Most students will already be familiar with PONS as a high quality translation and dictionary site for German. However, the site also provides tests to help students with grammar, vocabulary and other aspects of the language for free. You can also download a fairly comprehensive word list for A1 to B2 language fluency level.
  3. LEO: The LEO online dictionary is an excellent resource that you can help you with the deutsch student’s minefield known as ‘Verb Konjugation’. The site also has high quality translation service to convert text in Deutsch into other major European languages.
  4. Cactus2000: This one may have a whack name, but it is an excellent resource for verb konjugation. Its easier to navigate than LEO, although there are some irritating UI issues. You will also get useful tools to help you around with verbs, adjectives and other pesky little subtleties that bother you.

Seriously sunny holiday destinations: Doha, a unique blend of the tradition and modernity

Quizzing enthusiasts will know Qatar as the country with the highest per capita GDP in the world. A few more may know it as the host nation for the 2022 Football World Cup, but not all of us will be able to place the tiny Middle Eastern country on a map and its easy to see why. The country is smaller than Montenegro in size and has just over 300,000 citizens. Doha, the only sizable city in the country is generally overshadowed by the regional superstar metropolis Dubai as the go to destination for people looking to experience the desert, magical Arabian nights and to get a glimpse of the oil wealth that has completely transformed the region in a matter of a few decades.

However, for those who have been rather taken aback by the rather cold weather that has been persisting in Wien since December and for travelers who like to indulge in learning different cultures, I would definitely recommend a short stay in Qatar to experience the many delights that this small country has to offer. I would even recommend it over Dubai for people looking for a more quieter, less commercial (and cheaper) vacation. Students on a tight budget may choose cheap flights run by Pegasus or the many other budget airlines that fly there.

Breathtaking view from the Doha International Airport

To being with, Doha really has one of the most picturesque airports I have been to. Right by the faultless gleaming aqua marine waterfront, a modern highway connects the Doha International Airport to the city. The water, sand, exquisitely maintained lawns and the beautifully designed infrastructure all come together to make it a really special welcome lounge for visitors.

Almost everywhere you go, you get to see the transformation that oil (largely natural gas actually, but lets not get pedantic) has had on the country. Most locals drive big, expensive 4x4s and you see some remarkable constructions wherever you look, but the city does continue to maintain its Eastern charm. Qataris generally dress up in their traditional costumes and you have pockets in the city, where you find old markets (souqs) and other remnants of the old ways of life here. Qatar also hosts some of the best museums highlighting Arab and Islamic Art. A number of scenic locations in Doha have the mesmerizing blue sea as a backdrop and feature architecture that incorporates modernity and tradition in such a seamless fashion that its hard to figure out where one ends and the other begins.

Qatar’s architecture – A blend of heritage and modernity

If you happen to know any locals, you must visit ‘Majlises’ that big families host regularly. Guests are welcome and everyone gets a warm reception and excellent snacks. Most Qataris are extremely soft spoken and have a easy going charm that you will come to appreciate almost immediately. Young locals are usually highly educated and have spent time in (often top) western universities, so you can have interesting, informative discussions with them. The country also attracts a lot of affluent expatriate talent, which means that you may also find people hailing from your nationality if you look around (expats comprise over 80% of the total population).

The best time to visit the country would be from October to March to escape the intense heat and humidity, but if you don’t mind some sun, then just go there in the early or late summer.

Hope you enjoyed the post! Do comment if you have anything to add.

Some good Youtube resources for Deutsch students

We all know that Youtube is a practically infinite resource for all types of content. Its almost always our first resort when we are looking for some lighthearted clips featuring funny cats, cranky kids, unfortunate pedestrians being swallowed by sink holes, old nearly forgotten songs from our childhood and lessons in how sometimes instant karma gets dished out to bad people. The video sharing site is also a great resource for educational material (although they are not anywhere close to being as popular as Gangnam style) and I went around looking for some good content in Deutsch that could be useful for neophytes like me.

Below are some channels and links that have good, entertaining audio-visual study aids. I must mention that I have not checked if the links are free of copyright infringements. Credits to all content is with the due owners.

Gothe Instutute – Learn German as you follow the life of Nevin!

  1. Gothe Institut: The worldwide Gothe Institut features a lot of high quality content for German students on its online portals. Their Youtube channel has a number of videos and playlists with a variety of content in Deutsch related to current happenings in Germany and useful information for students hailing from different countries. My personal favorite from here are short videos featuring a Turkish girl Nevin, who has moved to Germany recently. They track common situations that a newcomer to the country may face and are handy to get a basic, practical grasp on the language. The clips will also expose viewers to a lot of aspects of life in the OSD.
  2. Lingorilla: A popular online website with video content for people learning foreign languages, Lingorilla has a lot of great short clips for students learning German on its YT page. One of the nice things about Lingorilla is that their videos are categorized by fluency level, so you can jump right to the content that will be most suitable to you.
  3. Deutsch für Euch: My personal favorite! Unlike the other two links, this channel is not produced by a large institute with substantial resources. Instead the videos on the site are generally monologues by a German girl on one topic either in vocabulary, grammar or comprehension. While the videos are short, they are rich in grammatical rules, vocabulary content and I have often had to watch them multiple times to understand everything that is dealt with. I love the videos from this channel because of the unique, unconventional and often funny way in which the presenter will explain a topic. A word of caution – I don’t think that a normal student like myself can follow and remember all the information that is included in a single video in one go, so you may have to persistently stick to one lesson till you perfect all the topics that are touched upon before moving to the next.

I hope that readers will like this list and find it useful. Please comment if you would like me to include your favorite resources in this list as well.

Some popular indoor getaways in Wien

Although, we have had one nice sunny morning this past week, I thought I would play it safe this time around and stick to some indoor recreational avenues in Wien. Almost all the districts in the city have shopping centers and theaters, but some of them make for better evenings than others depending on your preferences. In making this list I have also prioritized places that are easier to access using the U Bahn network, so you may see some popular names missing.

  1. Lugner City: Among one of the most popular shopping destinations of the city, my first tryst with Lugner was way back in 2009, when I visited the center regularly to visit a really reasonably priced, all-you-can-eat restuarant, which has since shut shop (probably because of gluttonous clientele like me I imagine). However, the place is located close to the inner city (the station next to Westbahnhof on U6) and has a variety of shops, which feature good offers quite regularly and a great food court. Lugner City also has a kino for all you film buffs. Definitely a top destination to shop for some clothes and electronics! Do note that the place can get quite crowded in the weekends.

    Lugner City: Great choice of shops and activities

  2. Wien Mitte: Billed as the largest shopping center in the city, Wien Mitte is conveniently accessible by U, S and regional train networks. The place boasts of multiple supermarkets (some open even on Sundays), fast food, coffee houses, shops, restaurants and a multiplex. It does not matter if you are looking for books, hats, consumer durables or just a nice place to dine at, this center has it all.
  3. Millennium Shopping Center: Located in the lower floors of the Millennium Tower (next to Handelski Station on the U6), this is one of the quieter, more relaxing shopping areas that I have been to. Its right next to Neue Donau, so the view from most places within the center is spectacular. The place boasts of some upmarket coffee houses, a spacious and well maintained food court with a really good variety of cuisines to choose from. As with the other places listed above, this center has a multiplex thrown in as well. It also has a great recreational center for gaming and a disco.
  4. G3 Shopping Center: Located at quite a distance from the city, you will need to hop on to the U6 and go all the way to Florisdorf and catch a free shuttle that will take you to the G3 center. While the place is quite far from almost everything, it is quite popular with people looking to do their shopping on a budget. You find a number of brands selling clothes and other merchandise at good discounts and a few coffee shops when you want to take a break from the shopping. It also houses a couple of big supermarkets.

Hope you find the list useful! Please use the comments to add your suggestions to the list!

Together is the way forward with a new language

I know you are thinking that the heading for the article looks like the slogan for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign and that does not exactly bode well for someone looking for an interesting and informative read. However, in the context of learning Deutsch, I think being a part of a diverse class has many benefits and wanted to make it the topic of this write up.

While having a bunch of interesting chaps from different cultures bumble their way through the arduous maze of picking up a foreign language with its many well concealed traps is a proven goldmine for British comedies, it is also a very good idea to be a part of a multicultural group when you are learning a new language.

Currently, in our class, we have people from four continents and over nine countries. All the diversity helps add to the richness of the classroom experience. We have students who are for example stronger with their German vocabulary than in pronunciation and vice versa. Its common to see such pairs help each other out with the course work. These different backgrounds also help in bringing different perspectives to the proceedings.

I do not want to peddle stereotypes, but I have noticed that people with more exposure to Deutsch (live closer to OSD) are better at the pronunciation, while people from outside Europe generally do better with the grammatical rules (similar to seeing non native english users do better than native speakers in the GMAT English section). This becomes a great aid for teachers as they mixing people up in groups for activities and see students help each other and learn at the same time (teaching something cements the concepts in your head as well). So, yes, being a part of a diverse class helps everyone learn better! Share your take on the topic in the comments section below!

Some great things about studying at Deutsch Academy

In my third month of studying at Deutsch Academy, I thought it would be a good idea to pen down why its a great place to learn the language. Its obviously a great choice for students because of the brilliant teachers and its convenient locations, which helps us save time on the commute and go out for a quick bite in the break time! However, there are many small things about the pedagogy and the time we spend here that makes studying here both enjoyable and rewarding. Here is my take on what makes the Deutsch Academy experience excellent!

A game makes things more fun!

  1. Use of well designed activities: The instructors at the academy try to incorporate a variety of activities and games to help us practice new concepts and grammatical constructs. Students generally have to work in groups to solve a puzzle or to play a game that incorporates new words or sentence completion rules. The games make classes more interesting and add variety to the proceedings, while giving you the all important practice.
  2. Practical, flexible schedule: Personally to me, the 4 days a week, 3 hours a day schedule is perfect for someone looking to learn a new language. The classes are sufficiently long to do justice to topics, at the same time we are not overloaded with information. We also get 3 day weekends to plan some out of town activities to enjoy the great tourist locations close by.
  3. Helpful, friendly office staff: Office staff at Deutsch Academy are really helpful towards the students and ensure that they do their best to help us with our issues. Be it with accommodating delays in making payments against a seat reservation or helping you decide which studies level would suite you best, you will see that the staff will go out of their way to ensure that you get the best advice and flexibility possible.
  4. A simple, fun environment: One of the things I absolutely adore about DA is the simple layout that greets the students. There are no busts of Sigmund Freud or Bismark, or wall hangings with odious, patronizing quotes on how learning foreign languages makes the world a more beautiful and safe place for our children. What you get instead are clean, uncluttered, well lit rooms with simplistic, yet comfortable furniture that helps us focus on whats happening in the class.

Hope you enjoyed reading the article! Comments welcome!

Some tips to top up on new languages (Part II)

Hi everyone! Last week, I came up with some tips for students learning German and with some additional reading on the subject, I thought that we could expand the list a bit further for the benefit of my readers. As stated in the earlier blog post, language learning is an extremely personal process, so not all tips will be relevant to you. Its all about experimenting and finding out what can work out!

  1. Find an app that works for you: One can choose from a number of teaching apps that can help you in your quest to learn a new language. Many of them offer a decent amount of quality content including practice exercises and reading material. These will help you practice and consolidate your skills and can be used to keep up with your quest even while commuting.
  2. Make friends with whom you share just this language: The best way to practice is to have real life conversations and to force yourself to dive in headlong. I notice that having friends with whom you just share this new language is quite useful as otherwise, you often tend to default to a language you are all more comfortable with (usually English). This is not as easy as it sounds in Wien, as most people here do speak good English and kind of try to relive you from the blushes of making mistakes in rudimentary Deutsch, but with some searching around, you will find suitable partners. Make sure you chat with them regularly and don’t worry about the mistakes, but try to notice your weak areas and work on them. Also, if you are unable to complete a sentence, try using an online translator rather than switching to your native tongue.
  3. Figure out your study pattern: Some experts recommend that you try to try to saturate your brain with information in study sessions to pick up skills quicker, while others say that you may try making your sessions more fun with imaginative exercises such as trying to translate your favorite rhyme. Try out many methods and with time you will figure out what works for you and then stick with it with a slight amount of further tweaking to optimize you studies with your learning pattern.
  4. Consistency is the key: Ensure that you devote some time to leaning German every day. Taking long breaks from the language can reverse some of the gains you have previously made. Habitual practice will reap rewards over time!

I hope you benefit from reading these tips! Comments are welcome. As noted earlier, I have borrowed and paraphrased a few ideas from these two links that you should definitely check out.

  1. 22 Tips For Learning A Foreign Language
  2. 10 Tips And Tricks To Learn Any Language

Tschüss!