Wanting to learn a foreign language is a great tool for a number of reasons, especially if you live in the Windy City of Chicago, IL. In fact, more than 30% of Chicago’s population speak a second language in addition to English at home. With this much diversity, it comes as no surprise that the residents of Chi-Town would want to learn additional languages to better communicate with those around them.

From the Romance family of languages to the Germanic there are over 6,500 languages in the world to choose from. So, if you’re looking for a new language to learn, yet want something that has similar roots to English then you can minimize your options to the West Germanic group of languages.

German, English, Dutch, Scottish, Frisian, and Afrikaans are all part of the West Germanic family. German is the most prominent language of its group after English to be spoken around the world. German is a spoken mother tongue and an official language of five countries in the European Union (EU) which include Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Liechtenstein, while also widely spoken in parts of Switzerland, Northern Italy, and Eastern France.

Learning to speak German can not only help you engage with others in your community but also help you at a professional level by forming new relationships in business and other ventures around the world.

Attributes of a Great German Tutor

In Chicago, the process of learning to speak a new language like German has become simple and fun, with so many resources available. Yet, finding the right German teacher or tutor can take some time and some research. A few characteristics of a good language tutor include:

  • Patience
  • Personalization of learning style
  • Optimism and Encouragement
  • Accountability
  • Competency
Having a German tutor teach you the German language can improve your pronunciation
Tutors help form stronger frameworks and clearer pronunciations when learning a language.
(Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash)

Learning German or any new foreign language does not happen quickly. It is important for a language tutor to take that into account and promote patience regardless of the learner’s level. Yet, the most important attribute for a teacher is their skill and competency of the subject they are teaching, in this case, German. As a student, learning how to speak German can feel like a daunting new skill to learn, but with an optimistic teacher leading the way it can make learning fun and less intimidating.

The best language tutors are the ones who personalizes each class with multiple interactive lessons and encouragement. But, as much as a German teacher needs to have all of these traits, the student learning German should also have mutual accountability of wanting to learn. Leaning German also happens to be reinforced outside of the class and with great improvement. Practicing German pronunciation with others in the community and learning new words by watching German films or reading German literature are just a few ways that can support your German lessons.

Finding German Lessons Around Chicago

In the mid-1800s Germans were the largest immigration group in the United States. By the year 1900, there were approximately more than 470,000 residents in Chicago who had at least one German parent or who were born in Germany themselves. The German culture can still be found in a few enclaves around the city, most prominently in what was once historically the German area of Lincoln Square. The infamous Laschet’s Inn on Irving Park Road is still serving traditional German fare in Lincoln Square since 1971.

There are many German foods that are popular around the world today like the pretzel
The traditional pretzel shape is meant to symbolize the arms folded in prayer. (Photo by Daniel Shludi Unsplash)

With the city’s rich influx of German immigrants in the 19th century, you can rest assured that German lessons in Chicago are of the best quality and competency. Chicago offers a few ways to learn German around the city including cultural centers, language schools, and cultural events.

Built in the late 1920s, The DANK Haus in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood was originally built for the Three Links Association, a German gentlemen’s association. Today the DANK Haus offers Chicagoans space where German heritage is preserved and celebrated with a fully operational bilingual school for both kids and adults. DANK Haus also has an art gallery, museum on German American history, three bars, and event space. German classes are offered in 16-week intervals from Elementary I to Proficient II along with literature, writing, and history supplemental courses.

The Goethe-Institut with locations in cities around the US such as Los Angeles, Houston, and Boston also has a location in Chicago offering German courses at every level and exam accreditations. The Goethe Institut also offers cultural events every month, which can help support your conversational German and comprehension. Cultural events can provide the opportunity to engage with other German students in Chicago while showcasing German films, artwork, literature symposiums, and other language immersion experiences.

Local colleges and universities are also a great resource for learning to speak German. The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) campus offers students various German language courses at various levels including niche programs in German for Business, Science, and Engineering. UIC also offers students undergraduate and graduate programs in German studies with a well-rounded understanding beyond the German language.

Every student pursuing a German program at UIC has to go through intensive coursework that will grant them a wide set of skills including basic German language principles of understanding, speaking, reading, and writing; German literature and culture of German-speaking regions of the world; German dialects like the Yiddish language; German banking and commerce; and German journalism and marketing.

When learning German, you have to practice as much as possible
Practice, memorization, and interactions are all ways to learn a language at a faster pace. (Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

While courses at these institutions are only widely extended to their current student body the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Education offers prospective local students around Chicago access to German language and German literature courses year around.

German Learning at Home

Although taking German classes in Chicago’s multiple cultural centers, colleges and universities are great settings to immerse in the foreign language it can also put a strain on your already busy schedule with limited to no flexibility. Yet, with today’s technology, there are plenty of resources to learn German at the comfort of your home or while traveling around the world.

Grammar books and online-based games make learning German interactive and fun while presenting the basics of the alphabet, grammar, and vocabulary. These modes of learning often start with the constant hearing and repetition of sounds and stockpiles of easy German framework words but have a harder time optimizing when students can phase out from the beginner levels to harder levels of learning.

Try reading children's book in German to improve your language comprehension
Reading increases language comprehension and development. (Photo by Felipe Bustillo on Unsplash)

Although textbooks and interactive games can be great, they can also come with its hurdles when trying to learn to speak German. Without classmates and or tutors, students can often lack the motivation to keep going with their studies and at times stay stagnant at a certain level of German.

To make sure progress is being made at every lesson, private German tutors are often a great way to learn while still being home, with sessions either on a one-on-one basis or virtually. Online communities like Superprof have made the ‘German lessons near me’ browser search simple and affordable with sessions priced at as little as $17/hour to $45/hour while supporting a local Chicago tutor or one around the world in Germany. Another persuasive feature of hiring a private tutor is that you get to change and impose on when and where the lessons can take place while paying for each lesson as you go.

Want to learn how to speak German, but live in another city? Check out our other city guides on learning German in Philly, New York, and around the world.

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A California desert-native who has a passion for baking from scratch, reading 1950-era novels, listening to soul/jazz, and global trotting.