One of the fun aspects of being an indie-publisher is seeing how a book travels around the world, not just in terms of regional clicks and sales, but hearing from actual people.

In the last couple of years I’ve dedicated myself to publishing entertaining and time-effective German learning books, and before long I started receiving emails from German learners and learning groups from all over the world that were using my books: America, Italy, Australia, and even as far as Iran and Kazakhstan!

I’ve always been fascinated by the many reasons why people are learning this language (career, ancestry, hobby, etc.), what their biggest struggles are and which tools and tactics they find most helpful. And recently I thought: why not share these experiences here on the LearnOutLive blog, to bring this global community of German learners just a little bit closer together.

Today I’d like to start off by featuring a German learning group from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Big thanks to Jeff Richards for helping me put this together and interviewing his co-students.

If you’d also like to tell us about your German learning experiences, please see at the end of this article for more information. Looking forward to hear from you!

But now, over to Jeff:

Warum lernen wir Deutsch?

L to R: (front) Ron (Rudi) Griebel, Dane Steffen; (back) Ginny (Greta) Beck, Jeff Richards (Dieter Schmidt), Dr. Kristin Kuchenbecker, Gary (Gerhardt) Kessler, Rich Siegmann

Weil Deutsch toll ist! Ja wohl! As adult learners, we started our “language adventure” in a Beginning German Community Ed class in the fall of 2016.

Dr. Kristin Kuchenbecker quickly led us through basic expressions, the German alphabet, hobbies, leisure activities, weather expressions, times and dates, foods, giving directions, etc. We also watched videos, played games, practiced with partners, and even sang!

We had such a good time that we continued with Intermediate German in the spring of 2017 where we reviewed and expanded our German language skills. When no more Community Ed classes were available, we continued to meet privately with Dr. Kuchenbecker in the conference room of co-student Ron (Rudi) Griebel’s upscale workplace, Architecture Inc. in Sioux Falls, SD.

This is our “classy classroom” where Deutsch becomes the official language for one night a week!

When Frau Kuchenbecker returned to Germany in December, 2017, we were lucky enough to engage Stefanie Shkinder, also a native of Germany, as our instructor. Since then, the fun has continued with classes moving outside the conference room and occasionally being held in coffee shops and pubs!

Was machen wir im Deutschkurs? Nun, wir sprechen, spielen, lesen, sehen Videos und haben viel Spaß! Und wir lernen gleichzeitig viel Deutsch! Apropos, wir mögen Café in Berlin von André Klein. Ja, es ist ein sehr interessantes Buch mit Dino, seinen Freunden und ihren amüsanten Abenteuern!

Who’s Learning German in Sioux Falls?

Name: Gary (Gerhardt) Kessler

Job/Profession: Senior Systems Analyst (retired)

Previous Language Background: High school Latin

Reason(s) for Learning German: Ancestral language

Greatest Challenges: Continuity, not being able to speak Deutsch daily

Helpful Tools/Resources: German class, German group of friends/classmates, books

Favorite German Expression: ein Prosit-ein Prosit (Cheers!), Guten Tag! (Good day!)

Name: Ginny (Greta) Beck

Job/Profession: Utility superintendent City of Crooks, SD, Tri-Valley School bus driver

Previous Language Background: two years of high school French and one year of college French

Reason(s) for Learning German: I am 88% German. It was the spoken language of my grandparents.

Greatest Challenges: Since I work two jobs, finding the time to study!

Helpful Tools/Resources: Duolingo, Google translate, other Internet sources

Favorite German Expression: Ausgezeichnet! (Excellent! Great!)

Name: Richard (Rich) Siegmann

Job/Profession: Hausmann, arbeite auf dem Bauernhof, Diesel-Mechaniker, Märklin Modeleisenbahn, Hausrenovierung

Previous Language Background: kein

Reason(s) for Learning German: Wir haben zwei Jahre in Darmstadt gewohnt (1999 bis 2001). Letztes Jahr hatten wir einen deutschen Austauschschüler aus Potsdam.

Greatest Challenges: Vokabeln lernen

Helpful Tools/Resources: Hueber learning wheels, Wie Geht’s Buch, Kinderbücher und natürlich Dino lernt Deutsch

Favorite German Expressions: Scheibenkleister, Ich möchte ein Bier bitte, Noch ein Hefeweizen bitte, können Sie mir helfen? Ich brauche ein Bier. Das Bier schmeckt gut.

Name: Dr. Kristin Kuchenbecker

Job/Profession: Teacher (German as a second language and English as a second language)

Previous Language Background: German, English, some Russian and Spanish

Reason(s) for Learning German: I come from Germany and 2 foreign languages are required for a high school diploma. Have fallen in love with the study of language and culture ever since.

Greatest Challenges: staying up-to-date with new teaching methods and recruiting students to study a foreign language

Helpful Tools/Resources: the internet, apps and print materials

Favorite German Expression: Heidewitzka! (Es ist ein shout-out wie „Ooffta!“)

Name: Jeff Richards (Dieter Schmidt)

Job/Profession: French teacher (retired); free-lance reviewer (all components), consultant (Teacher’s Editions), and author (Video Books & Semester Tests) for Discovering French program

Previous Language Background: French, Spanish, e un poco italiano

Reason(s) for Learning German: I like the sound of German and would like to swing over into Deutschland the next time I visit France.

Greatest Challenges: Everything German!

Helpful Tools/Resources: textbooks, YouTube instructional videos, Duolingo, and readers, including Café In Berlin & Dino lernt Deutsch!

Favorite German Expressions: Gottseidank! (Thank God!), Was geht ab? (What’s up?), Mist! (Shucky darn!)

Name: Ron Griebel (aka Rudi as per Dieter Schmidt)

Job/Profession: Senior Project Coordinator, Architectural CADD Tech

Previous Language Background: none

Reason(s) for Learning German: Ancestors’ language

Greatest Challenges: Grammar and not able to speak it every day.

Helpful Tools/Resources: German class, friends, Babbel and books

Favorite German Expressions: Was ist das? (What is that?) und Das ist nicht gut! (That’s not good!)

Name: Stefanie Shkinder, geb. Dill

Job/Profession: gelernte Krankenschwester zur Zeit aber Mutter und Hausfrau

Previous Language Background: Ich bin in Deutschland geboren und meine Muttersprache ist deutsch. Meine Eltern (aus Russland + Ukraine) brachten mir als 2. Sprache Russisch bei, die ich bis jetzt flüssig spreche. Seit der 3. Klasse lernte ich die englische Sprache, die ich bis heute noch lerne und spreche.

Reason(s) for Learning German: Ich unterrichte nun die Gruppe in Deutsch und lerne selbst dabei beide Sprachen: Die deutsche Grammatik sowie die englische.

Greatest Challenges: Meine Herausforderung ist, dass ich noch nicht genug Vokabeln im Englischen kenne und auch leider noch zu wenig Englisch spreche.

Helpful Tools/Resources: schaue mir Filme an, lese Bücher und der Kurs hilft mir

Favorite German Expressions: Echt?! (Really?!), Komm schon! (Come on!), Am Ende wird alles gut und wenn es noch nicht gut ist, dann ist es noch nicht das Ende. (In the end everything will be fine and if it’s still not fine, it’s not the end yet.)

Name: Paul Shkinder

Job/Profession: Drafter

Previous Language Background: My first language is Ukrainian. I learned English when I moved to the US in 2005.

Reason(s) for Learning German: To communicate with my wife, daughter, and her family in Germany.

Greatest Challenges: self-motivation

Helpful Tools/Resources: my wife and our German group

Favorite German Expression: Echt?! (Really?!)

Name: Dawn Bagherpour

Job/Profession: Retired ESL and elementary teacher, missionary

Previous Language Background: Turkish, Farsi

Reason(s) for Learning German: Heritage and love for Germany since I was 13, work in Germany.

Greatest Challenges: FEAR of speaking mistakes and failure. My teacher reminded keeping silent and not speaking you will surely fail. Just go out and speak!

Helpful Tools/Resources: YouTube German lessons, Duolingo app, German movies,

YouTube sitcoms: Loriot, Türkisch für Anfänger, Geschichten aus dem Leben, and Deutche Welle langsam gesprochen Nachrichten

Favorite German Expression: My grandma always said “Arbeit macht das Leben süß.” (“Work makes life sweet.”) That is the one that was ingrained in my brain.

Name: Safi Bagherpour

Job/Profession: Microbiologist, teacher, missionary

Previous Language Background: Spanish, Farsi, Turkish

Reason(s) for Learning German: Job in Germany

Greatest Challenges: Learning at my age 60.

Helpful Tools/Resources: Duolingo, YouTube Deutsch lessons, German movies & TV

Favorite German Expression: none yet

Are you learning German, too, and would like to be featured on our blog? Write an email to [email protected] including a photo, a bit of background about yourself, why you’re learning German, what parts your struggling with, and which tools/resources you find most helpful.

Global German: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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