Unlike a lot of language learners, I didn’t have a particularly bad experience learning languages in school but I didn’t think I learnt as much as I could have done. In this blog I’ll pass on some tips and share some of my experiences.
I also found that although I could understand what people were saying and I could answer basic questions, most four-year olds were speaking more than I was. I had been learning German for maybe a year when I began to grow frustrated with my progress. After spending a year doing about two hours of german a week, I was still learning the basics, so I went to Germany for a week. I found an amazing Austrian teacher who agreed to teach me but she seemed a bit worried at the beginning of the week when she realised that I didn’t even know the past tense.
We spent quite a lot of time learning grammar (which really is essential with German) but for the majority of the time we just talked. My teacher also followed me to lunch so speaking German became second nature extremely quickly. I only had my teacher for four days, after that I spent some time with very distantly related German cousins and suddenly I was speaking German. I kept forgetting words, making mistakes and leaving out the verb altogether but I was still getting my point across. I didn’t feel like I knew many words at that time but apparently my year of German had taught me a few things, I just didn’t realise how much of the language I knew.
From then on, German just made sense. I definitely wasn’t fluent and even now I don’t know if I would call myself fluent because there are certain topics which I have absolutely no idea about. An Austrian friend once tried to talk to me about cars. I think he was talking about something to do with engines but I could barely understand what was going on. Moments like that can be disheartening but it’s probably better to think of them as challenges and honestly how often do you talk about engines in English?
Learning languages is the most frustrating, time-consuming and often expensive hobby you can find, but that moment when you talk to someone from another culture, in a language that’s not your own, it feels so incredible that it has to be worth it.