The back story
I moved to Berlin because I wanted to change my life. I was a storyteller trapped inside the body of a computer scientist. I was visiting East Germany for the first time and gave a performance of a story I’d written about learning to dance tango. I got such a warm response I decided to relocate from England to Berlin immediately. (Although I’m a Canadian...)
My purpose in founding Language Gym is not to teach grammar. The point is to use storytelling to explore speaking German. It is however necessary to learn the grammar before you can speak German with confidence.
‘German is so hard!’, people will tell you. That’s not helpful. You get the idea German people are proud of this. ‘They’ll tell you there are no patterns - you just have to learn it.’ It could be that your German teacher does not know what the patterns are. There is no need to even look for patterns if you grew up knowing the language. If you think about it - your German teachers have never actually had to learn the language the way you have to.
Nobody has ever just ‘picked up’ German and unless you’re a child, you need something different. You may have tried to learn German once or many times before and it hasn’t worked. (I hear that a lot.) The good news is that there are patterns and they’re easy enough. They make all the difference and if you want to learn German, you absolutely can do it with this method. I can tell you that, because I’ve done it myself using this method.
I didn’t go to language school for long. I went there only long enough to realise I hated it. I was walking home after my class and I thought “this is not for me. They don’t really want me to learn. They don’t really care. It’s about passing a test, it’s not about me speaking the language”. So I decided to figure it out for myself. I reckoned there had to be patterns there and I was going to find them. I figured I could do it, because I am a qualified high school teacher and I have a PhD in computer science. I’m used to finding patterns. I thought I could do it. So I dropped out of the language school and I started to figure it out myself from that day.
I continued to support myself working as a computer analyst and doing voice over acting until the program was good enough. Then I started teaching other people what I’d learned myself, following patterns that helped me, that I could teach, and that other people could remember and use too.
What’s your objective? How will you know you are finished? How will you know you are good enough? You can consider yourself fluent when you can go down to the pub and sit with a group of friends and tell them a funny story from your childhood and they laugh. That’s what it is all about, isn’t it? You get into a conversation. Somebody else tells a story. You have another beer. Life is good.
Our objective is to teach you as fast as possible and for you to go out into the world and live your life. We might even become friends in the process.
Peter Merrick Phd, BSc (Hons)