fountain mainz germany travelling

On Learning German (or any language)

Since I have decided to stick around in Germany for a minute (or 2), I am learning the language. Well, learning the language is actually one of the reasons I decided to stay. As I bounce around, I like to feel productive (whatever that means). My love of all things culture and language usually dominates any other desired travel activities. Why German? For some strange reason, I always thought it would be cool to learn (I am a nerd, remember?) AND it’s one of the hardest (grammatically) of the Western European languages (again…nerd here. I actually thrive on challenge).

So here I am. In Deutschland wrestling cases to the ground and slaying nonsensical articles (if you know -of- German, you will know what I am referring to. The Grammar has cases and articles which make no sense). If you don’t know what I am talking about, do a dance. Horray for you! It means you have never had to learn this language.

It’s actually not as bad as I am making it seem. I have had major triumphs lately (such as actually understanding the amount the cashier is requesting without a long embarrassing delay and hold up of the line behind me).

I would attribute my triumphs with German (and any language, really) to the following:

1. Giving up on English

I had to force myself to stop defaulting to English. Because so many Germans speak English, it is so easy to just ask someone “Sprechen Sie Englisch? (do you speak English?).  Now, unless the situation is dire urgent/critical, I fumble around trying to construct a semi-correct German sentence. This does lead to many occasions when I receive long replies that I have no idea what the person is saying (I just smile and nod. smile and nod).

Moral of the story: ditch your native language as much as possible. It keeps you in your comfort zone – you know, that zone where you are NOT learning. If you are still at home (surrounded by your native language), try to find as many opportunities as possible to speak and hear your target language as possible (ex conversation exchange/skype, meet up groups, going to stores/restaurants where they speak the language GET CREATIVE).

2. Meeting cool people

I have met some great people here and this has been KEY to my progressing so quickly. When we hangout, they speak a lot of German (and some English). At first I would feel so frustrated. Sitting amid a group of people who are having a conversation that I have no idea what they are talking about. Then….things started to click. Not instantly. But I have noticed that I am picking up words and the basic concepts of some of what is being said. I notice this has trickled over to my overall German comprehension. It is so much more effective than sitting at home memorizing vocabulary (I still do that, too).

Moral of the story: meet cool people who speak the language you are learning AND hangout with them.

3. Use ‘filler’ time to review

What’s filler time?

You know, those times you are daydreaming when you KNOW you could be using the time effectively:

*on public transport

*in line/cue at the store

*on the phone on hold

waiting for your ride/ public transport

etc etc

Moral of the story: I don’t think I need to spell this one out any clearer than I already have :)

So, those are some of the things that have MASSIVELY helped me with German so far (of course, they can help for learning any language).

Auf wiedersehen!

Get free weekly updates
Updates + more purposeful travel tips