3 Stunning Good Reasons to Learn German with Discord

3 Stunning Good Reasons to Learn German with Discord

It’s obvious, now more than ever, that the classical idea of learning has changed dramatically. No more do you have to go to school to learn math, nor do you have to read through a dozen books to understand grammar. The internet has redefined the way people learn new things simply by making information more easily accessible. You can learn to cook, paint, write or even speak a new language simply by using resources that are available to you at the push of a button, be it on Youtube or any other content-creation site. 

Realizing just how useful all these internet services are in making learning easier, people have been coming up with all sorts of innovative ideas to use them now more than ever. You take classes on Zoom, you complete group projects on Slack and you read up on any subject on Wikipedia at lightning-fast speed. Discord users, however, have taken all of this to the next level by trying to learn German with Discord.

For starters though, I’m sure you might be wondering:

What is Discord?

The short answer is that Discord is a chat app. The more informative answer is that Discord is a mix between the communication functions of Skype (voice and video calling) and the collaboration functions of Slack (multiple channels for various purposes on a single platform where users can share files and talk to each other.

For the majority of the users, Discord is what they use to communicate when playing video games (I’ll explain why this is

Can I learn German with discord

important later on). It offers the ability to create a server. In this case you could imagine a server as a building, in which small online communities can be built. On that server, you can create multiple channels for texting and voice calling, so that theoretically every single person on that server could connect with any other person there.  It also has search features and the ability to share a live stream of anything you want from your computer or mobile to other members in your server.

After what you just read, I’m sure you’ve realized that you also can learn German with Discord and that it can be a really powerful tool to host a forum-like community for more than just video games, and you’d be right for thinking so.

Discord has over the years become a place for people to gather on topic-specific servers to discuss everything from international business to yoga and most importantly for us, the awful German language (to quote Mark Twain).

So, what does a German learning server have to offer you?

Well, to answer that question, I joined a Discord German learning community with over 25,000 members and here’s what I learned:

The Discord Group German learning experience

The moment I joined the discord German learning group, my screen filled up with more than a dozen channels on the left of the screen, and in the center a huge wall of text showed up: Introduction.

It took me more than 15 minutes to read through all the introductory information about the server. There were many rules about the different ways members can use each text and each voice channel and about what was allowed and what wasn’t. I was also asked to assign myself a role which allowed people to instantly know which CEFR level of German I was on.

It was also made very clear to me that this community wasn’t based on the knowledge of tutors or classical teaching. But rather it was a group of people who shared a love for the German language and for helping one another with learning German.

After I was done with the introduction, I started to familiarize myself with the various ways people interacted with each other and helped each other learning German. 

The first thing that I came across was a curated list of resources that you could use to teach yourself German. It had dozens of valuable, carefully picked articles and courses from all over the internet on everything from grammar and vocabulary, to stories and exercises. So for the most part, the studying took place outside of the server itself.

Another aspect, next to that curated list of resources to learn German, that I liked was the use of text channels on the server. There were a few channels where you could submit your writings for other members to correct them. Unfortunately corrections were made the old school style which can at times be very discouraging. (Watch this video of Michael Schmitz, the creator of SmarterGerman, about how to correct in a more supportive and more effective way.)

You could ask about the pronunciation of words and other learners, or even native Germans would respond. You could practice your speaking skills by simply talking with natives in the all-German channel. All in all, I found the text channels a good way to practice your German in a learner-friendly environment. 

There were also voice channels that were used by the more advanced German learners to host sessions on topics that other members in the server asked about. While it’s amazingly generous of the people giving the sessions to host them for free, I felt like those sessions could be rather harmful for my learning process. Just because someone knows so much about something, doesn’t mean they can communicate their knowledge well. And this was the case with some of these sessions. Ultimately, the inconsistency of the quality of these sessions made them not very helpful for me. I felt more confused and didn’t really take much out of these sessions.

As you can see so far, the learning experience on Discord has been very community-based, except for the times when the server asked me to venture to an article on a separate site. So it’s a fair question to ask; what is the community like?

The community

After spending some time learning the ins and outs of the server itself, I decided to go on the general chat channel to introduce myself. After stating who I was and what I hoped to achieve learning-wise, I asked a few members how the experience has been for them on the server. Immediately, a member asked for me to be kicked out of the server for being an outsider who was asking strange questions. Now, if you have experience with Discord, then you know the specific demographic that uses the app almost religiously for everything. And this server was no different, so that member’s reaction wasn’t unfamiliar to me.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, however, then you need to understand that Discord started out with a very specific demographic in mind: video game players (I told you this would become important later on). Since then, it has branched out to host servers for all kinds of topics. But the culture that was created on the platform by the original demographic persists in almost every Discord server out there.

No one on the platform uses their real name or picture. Instead, everyone uses nicknames and avatars. It’s more expressive for them and it’s what the platform encourages. They use words and expressions that might be completely unfamiliar to an outsider, like tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) or /thread. Even the attitude of the members is completely different than what you’d find on any other learning platform. 

All of this can create a very intimidating experience if you’re unfamiliar with the Discord culture. You might feel like people are rude to you for no reason, when in reality they are simply being authentic. Love it or hate it, this has been the experience Discord has offered me in every server I have joined, German related or not.

You must keep in mind though, that despite their gate-keeping attitude, some of the server members mostly have nothing but good will at heart. Once I clicked with them, they answered all my questions and helped me with everything I needed. Most of them see the server as more than a place to learn. They have strong friendships and connections and they use the community as a space to express themselves in a lot of different ways like talking about their hobbies and passions. And I think that is why they feel somewhat defensive of the environment they have created.

Here’s what the community members had to say when I told them I wanted to learn German with Discord

They mostly agreed on a number of key things that made the experience worthwhile for them:

  • It’s fun; using the same platform for both playing video games and learning creates a very familiar atmosphere that’s also engaging.
  • It’s good for practice; there’s always someone online willing to help you with your writing or your pronunciation and your questions about German will all be thoroughly answered.
  • It’s good for contacting natives which could be difficult if you don’t personally know any native Germans you can talk to.

They did also mention a few setbacks:

  • It’s not good for starting out; while the resource list helps to find materials, you’re really on your own in learning the very basics of German. As a beginner you’d want structure and guidance as how would you even know where to begin and what’s good for your language learning goals?
  • There are better options out there for learning grammar and vocabulary. Grammar is often merely presented and rarely explained. And most explanations out there are pretty weak if you ask me. Check out the SmarterGerman’s German online courses to see an outstanding example on how to instruct German grammar in an efficient and effective manner.
  • It’s essential to be social on the server to make use of it, which makes it less useful if you’re shy. It can also be quite a shocking experience to join a server where the users are rather protective of outsiders. Brace yourself for some very straightforward words. That kind of communication not for everyone.
  • The average demographic of a typical Discord user is college students between the age of 20-30. Of course, that might not hold you back to hang out there but might make all the difference when it comes to common interests and pop-cultural references. 

My verdict

After using the server for a while, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the best option for someone who was just starting out. And it’s even less of a good option if you’re not familiar with Discord and the culture and spirit of its inhabitants itself. The technical aspect alone could be considered a downside here, as Discord is fairly complex in practice and not as streamlined as other community-platform apps.

Add to that the fact that Discord users have almost an entire culture of their own, and you get an experience that would turn off almost any new user and might harm your motivation to learn German for quite a while. It’s tough to get back on your feet after a deep blow. I’ve experienced that myself several times in my life.

However, if you already have an understanding of the basics of German, and already use Discord, then it’s definitely a good idea to also to learn German with Discord and to join similar German-learning servers as they will help you connect with like-minded people who are cooperative and supportive. You’ll be able to assess your progress and learn some new things along the way.

For anyone else I strongly recommend working with SmarterGerman’s online German courses as it will provide you with everything you need as a beginning and slightly progressed German learner. It will allow you to focus on learning instead of organizing and worrying about whether you are wasting your time. It’s based on over 20 years of experience in the field as a teacher and as a learner and ongoing research in the field of learning psychology.

Written by Abdullah Aldabbagh