Back in early 2016, my goal was to learn German as quickly as possible.
I first took the conventional route. I signed up for a certification and enrolled in classroom sessions. I bought textbooks and pored over them. I managed to clear the beginner certification, but I wasn’t satisfied with my progress.
My teacher mostly wasted time – he spoke to us in English for the most part. I could not push myself to study through the week – the textbooks were drab and boring. I skipped several classes because I felt that they were a waste of time. I wasn’t getting any listening or speaking practice. The classes were not cheap either. For the intermediate certification, which was considerably harder, I knew I had to change things.
I then explored online resources. I saw how a website offered free German courses structured around the beginner and intermediate levels. I used a variety of apps – ones that gamified language learning and helped me practice vocabulary. I found a conversation partner for speaking practice. I watched German sitcoms on Youtube and subscribed to podcasts for German learners. With this constellation of online resources, I managed to clear the intermediate certification by covering all my bases – speaking, reading, writing and listening.
When I resorted to learning German online, I had thought of how it would be a compromise. I had thought that in-person classroom sessions with a good teacher were surely superior. However, I realized how active self-paced learning online offered several advantages over passive classroom learning. I could choose material that was on par with my level. I wasn’t bound to a schedule. I could learn and practice on the go or at convenient times. I could select approaches that worked best for me. Besides, none of these online resources cost me any money.
We are anchored to approaches that are familiar and conventional. But an obstacle can turn out to be a blessing. By going around it, we may explore alternatives that are far superior to what we had always assumed was the best way.