As soon as you enter DAS Akademie, you will notice that it is not like any other Berlin language school. In fact, some visitors wonder if they came to the right place.
“I was looking for the language school DAS Akademie…”
“Welcome! Here is the language school DAS Akademie.”
“Really? Now, this looks more like a…?”
Once Upon a Time in a Berlin Language School
Positively surprised, just as I was when I first came to this magic space. Is it the funky music surrounding you? The high ceilings and antique doors? The curious internal design which makes you feel at home? What the employees had for breakfast? Is it karma, or perhaps fengshui?
Back then, I had a problem. I had lived in Berlin for a long time and learned German here and there, without any real structure or consistency. Actually, I was expecting to go through a pretty standard process. I though I was going to take a written placement test, after which I was surely going to be sent to a very simple class to get the basics right. In fact, I was ready to do just that. I was tired of speaking broken German.
The person who welcomed me took the time to get to know me first. She asked me about my background, my education, my goals and struggles. Had I attended German classes at another language school in Berlin or elsewhere? As soon as she heard I could speak German, she started speaking German to me. She offered me coffee and it felt like talking to a friend rather than a teacher.
A boutique language school?
After I took my written assessment and handed over my results, she raised a puzzled brow. She said I could speak much better than that. She took me to a stylish classroom and asked me to wait for the teacher for a verbal assessment. The head teacher personally came to me. He immediately lit up the room with his energy, and I felt like something extraordinary was about to happen. Was he going to take a rabbit out of his hat?
I enjoyed talking to him, and for a moment, I forgot that this was an assessment and that I was at a language school in Berlin. Indeed, it felt more like a conversation with my best buddy. He asked the right questions and listened very carefully. At the end of he session, he went to the white board and drew a diagram. He told me exactly what I was struggling with and pointed out calcified flaws. Instead of immediately recommending a course to me, he started coaching me. “The best language school,” he said, “is understanding how you learn best.” I received tips to improve my accent and to fix some of those calcified mistakes. No, I was not to be sent to a basic class, I was going to be integrated into a challenging evening German class combined with a few one-to-one lessons to fix the flaws.
My Journey to Fluent German
And so, I started my journey to fluent German. I came to school everyday because I did not want to miss out. Hot topics were open to discussion in class. Our teacher, a woman with an engrossing presence and fascinating knowledge, made us speak German. Not to mention I learned so much more than just German. We played games and had fun. Sometimes, the director played his guitar to all the students during their break. Some sang along, some danced along. The weekly breakfast brought us together and I met very interesting people, some of whom are now still my friends. What a funky language school, I thought.
Today, I can speak German. Good enough to speak to my lawyer, for example! I still visit DAS Akademie because I miss the funky atmosphere so much. They still offer me a coffee and the director still plays the guitar:
“Well, it’s one for the money
Two for the show
Three to get ready
Now go, cat, go”
Now that’s a different kind of Berlin language school for you.
*We would like to thank Fede, one of our former students, for writing this article about our funky Berlin language school and for making us so proud!