Have you ever been in a class that seems so above your head that you look around at other people and think: how do they understand what’s going on? What are they doing? If I copy them I’ll be on track right? Then your teacher says something and you’re like…. say what now? This has been my jarring experience in German class thus far. I totally understand that in order for a class to fully learn, they need complete immersion. But I’m beginning to think this is not my learning style because I have no idea what’s going on or being said sometimes. I feel like a dunce and inept to understand German when it’s spoken too quickly or when the sentences are too long.
Everyone says I’m being too hard on myself and that I actually understand quite a lot, but I think people are too optimistic about me. Sure, most people who know me would consider me a smart person, and every once in a while I have these truly genius moments that are astounding and impressive, especially to me. But those moments don’t happen very much in Deutsch-Kurs. Although when I practice speaking and do my homework, it all starts coming together, and these last few days have been wonderful for me. I’m speaking more than ever, thinking things through and just going for it. My mistakes didn’t disappear but my confidence has reappeared.
There is a big difference of learning a language for fun, or learning a language for survival. In Germany, in some ways, you can get by without really needing a full understanding of German….. until you have to make a phone call to the dr’s office and none of the receptionists speak English and/or want to speak English and some (in my experiences) pretty much just say I don’t understand you and then hang up. It took me months to actually set up an appointment for certain things. I’ve been embarrassed, humiliated and quite often made fun of my receptionists here. They are not the nicest group….
Knowing the language of the country you’re in is important. What if I have an emergency? I can almost never understand my mail from my insurance company when it comes, and I’m constantly sitting a table unable to really take part in anything. And don’t expect all Germans to speak to you in English, forget that fallacy straightaway. Yes, many Germans speak or know German, but that doesn’t mean they want or feel comfortable enough to speak it. And you’re in their country, so the ball is really in your court. And don’t expect them to be super nice when you try to speak their language either, sure they’ll be happier than if you went with English, but at the same time, Germans are not known for being the most super friendliest people.
If you live in or are moving to a foreign country where the language is different from your mother-tongue, then buy some books, cds, dvds, you name it. Get enrolled in classes as soon as convenient. Because although I can tell you it sucks to learn a language to survive, I’d rather learn it than still having no clue what’s going on and feeling like a social pariah. And as for understanding German culture….. well that’s another post.
And in other news, the Europameisterschaft is pretty exciting, eh?