From Blog to Language School: An Interview with Berlino Magazine

The Berlino Team

Despite your motivation or ability, learning a new language can be a drag: Until words start making sense, what you experience is constant confusion. The need of a language becomes even more imposing when you’ve moved to the country in which it is spoken: no matter how willing people are to speak in English to accommodate you, awkward situations where you don’t know what is happening in daily life are inevitable: the lady talking to you on the street, the cashier at the supermarket, the signs all around the city.

Berlino Schule, the newly created language school by the team behind Berlino Magazine, is ready to meet the challenges that make learning German unattractive, while keeping their price very very attractive: only 4 Euro/hr. They are devoted to providing a friendly atmosphere for their students, where they can feel as adults learning and not school kids. The groups are small in each class, and the staff keeps exploring new, innovative ways in order to make learning more effective and fun. We had the chance to speak with one of the Berlino founders, Andrea D’Addio, about how he came from running a blog about Berlin to running a language school and how to improve your German learning experience.

With Berlino Magazine you have one of the most popular Italian language Berlin magazines. What made you start a language school as a second project?

For years, we organized several events with Berlino Magazine, such as photography, theatre and journalism workshops, for Italian, as well as foreign people in Berlin. Through interacting with them, I realized they stopped studying German because the courses were too expensive or simply because the school they attended was too “German” in their approach to the students. Most of them complained about being treated as children and not adults. So, after the previous experiences of workshops I had in Berlin, I decided to open a school that has first of all very low prices, and then to recreate a cozy and friendly space for everyone who lives in Berlin and wants to make friends here.

What languages and levels do you offer in your school?

We offer German intensive and evening courses from A1.1 to C1.2 level. We also provide Italian cooking classes, English and Spanish courses, as well as  a lot of workshops in English, such as documentary filmmaking, photojournalism and film direction.

A Berlino Schule selfie

Many expats in Berlin complain it’s too hard to learn German in Berlin, because Berliners speak English with you. What do you recommend to avoid this?

My advice is to practice German at any chance you get: Studying, listening the Radio, watching  TV… the more you use German the more you improve it. Whether in the supermarket or by making phone calls to a telephone operator. Of course, we can’t make German friends just because we want to improve the language! A good alternative could be to find a Tandem partner!

How can you motivate people to start learning German in Berlin, since it’s so convenient to just talk English?

Speaking German means to be integrated in the society of the country that you live in. You will never fully understand the people around you on a deeper level without the language. Also, you can’t live here for a long time without German. It is useful for a job both in Germany and in Italy.

Common mistakes or surprising similarities of words in different languages that end up having totally different meaning, result in a lot of potential laughs in the classroom. Do you think “humor” is a facilitator for motivation and progress in learning another language?

Humor is the key. It is very important that the teacher can use other funny methods and not just boring lessons, the more the student is involved in the learning process, the more their interest grows.

Sarah & Andrea (Berlino Magazine founders) with iHeartBerlin Family

In your language school you have people learning German (and other languages) who come from very different countries. Learning German might be the only thing they have in common. Does learning a language bring people together, even create a sense of community? Would you say it is a form of cultural integration?

Learning a language together means that everybody feels similar to each other: age doesn’t matter, nor does the country of origin or social class. They are like “expats” with the same problems, not only the language problem, but everything. Of course they become friends.

Learning German and suffering. Would you say that’s the same thing?

On the contrary, studying a language is a pleasure! Learning a language means discovering something new everyday; it’s like opening one’s eyes little by little. The worst thing you can do is keep your eyes closed. And learning German doesn’t have to be about just living in Germany: we have to do it for ourselves, too.

When you compare the Italian and German sense of humor, are they very compatible or totally different? Can Germans easily laugh with Italian humor and vice versa?

They are very different actually. The Berliner sense of humor is dry, and sometimes for Italians who don’t know it, it could be offensive. Italian humor is less sophisticated.

A Magazine, the language school, food festivals. What’s next for the Berlino Team?

We are very focused on growing our school, and on our two upcoming food festivals, the first edition of Italian Guilty Pleasure Days ( an Italian sweet food festival in November) and the second edition of the 72hrs True Italian Food in September.

Thank you for your time!

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