It’s never too late to learn
I’ll be perfectly honest with you. The very first day when I joined a night school to learn German, I got so frustrated to a point that I wanted to quit instantly. I sat there in a cramped room with my fellow students, all struggling to mimic these weirdest, harshest sounds that this German teacher was making. It was my first ever contact with the language. And rightly so, the teacher did not speak a single word in English! As I was so close to packing up my belongings, I reminded myself of why I wanted to learn this language, and so I was able to regain composure and succumbed to the situation.
You see, I had made up my mind within months of meeting my German that ‘He is the one’. And so learning his language would just smooth communications among the family, even though I had not even met them yet, how presumptuous of me. The rest is history, as they say.
I’ve had my fare share of struggles with the language. I’ve no problems tying to speak it but I worry so much that I make huge mistakes with the cases which go hand in hand with the three genders in German: masculine, feminine and neutral. Recently, there’s been a big turn of events. I sweetly surprised myself as I watched my level go up and up. It is all thanks to these few new tricks which I added to my repertoire of learning activities. Naturally, I’m more than happy to share the knowledge.
Watching TV Series
Some four weeks ago, I started watching a German TV series called Verboten Lieben, which shows the lives of families caught up in love affairs which are categorically not acceptable. I watched it relentlessly as I was on sick leave. What I really love about such TV series is that, one learns a lot about the daily life language, not just the grammar and vocabulary you learn from school. You will find that the language you learn in soaps (albeit a few minutes) is more utilised than pages and pages of a grammar book. My husband and my in laws keep commenting on how I’ve changed in a matter of weeks. There is my proof to the pudding.
A Story Book
I re-read a book called Die Scorpion-Frau, a gift from my fellow scorpion mother in law. It’s a grade below than where I am currently but It has actually helped me a lot. The biggest advantage of reading is that: (a) you improve vocabulary, the word order and general comprehension and (b) you have more time to analyse the language, in my case the dreaded Dativ/Akkusativ cases. So I took my time reading whilst analysing the entire book, why the hell did they use meiner and not minen!
I recomend such teaching books as they come with a CD so that you know how to pronounce the words and another reason is that teaching books will also have an explanation of any difficult words on footprint.
On line Teacher
This is just another miracle of the good old Internet. I watch lots of classes on You Tube, absolutely free. But can I just add that perhaps it would be a good idea to comment/like the videos if applicable. It takes time and effort to prepare such content and perhaps a little encouragement from the audience wouldn’t be a bad idea. I personally like German with Jenny. She also has a website where she posts a lot of practice exercises. She speaks clearly, repeats, gives lots of useful examples and she also posts the text of what she is actually saying. She’s been a great help to me. Danke Jenny.
Speaking to Natives
So all that learning needs to be put into practice, if not it’s just useless. The sounds are so different to our native language and so one needs to learn how to formulate these new sounds and perhaps learn how to position the mouth in order to pronounce correctly. For me, the umlaut sound, for example: ä or ü are a nightmare! I speak with my husband, even though he forgets sometimes that I can or try to speak German. With my in-laws, we speak German on the phone almost every Sunday. I must admit that I do slack in doing so with my friends, especially in a group. I feel better on a one-on-one basis, so I still need to amount to this challenge.
Use Post It
If I struggle a lot with certain words, I use stick on notes to remind me. I have little notes everywhere where I think my eyes would see. I have scribbles on my computer, notes on my desk and I carry a chart, a constant reminder of the bloody dative and accusative stuff. I also have little books in the toilet (I stuff a few reading materials there too!) and by my bed. These little reminders are great for waking up my brain. I don’t necessary spend more than 5 minutes looking at these reminders, just a quick glance is all it takes to recall the details and the word gets more imbedded in me. Give it a go!
A friend in need
Having to learn with someone who also wants to speak the language is great. I’ve got a Tandem partner. She wants to improve her English and me my German, so it is a symbiosis relationship. It’s easy to find excuses, the biggest one being lack of time. Here is my suggestion. How about killing to birds with one stone? Yesterday I met up with my friend at the Sunday Bio market. I actually learnt a lot about food and lifestyle. We are both into healthy eating and totally oppose the idea that the food industry pushes more processed foods onto our plates, full of non-nourishing elements. It was a great discussion and we both walked away with different ideas and full of new useful words and phrase. So I would definitely pursue this angle if time is of an essence for you.
Is there more I can do?
I always ask myself if there are any more ways I could have more exposure to the language that I’m trying to learn. I’ve recently changed my iPhone language. It’s all in German now. Go on, you can do it! Besides, you know where on your phone the apps are located and I’m almost sure that you know all the commands by heart. I base my argument purely on smartphone usage statistics but sorry If you don’t fall into the 95 percentile. Anyway, thanks to memory, you will robotically access your phone with no major problems. Just don’t forget to spend a few seconds in learning the new vocabulary.
Another thing is to ‘use & abuse‘ the apps to your own advantage. I have an app for news and German radio. I read n-tv and listen to Bayern radio. What is actually great is that the news repeat, over and over, and over again! Chances are, you’ve read the piece in English and so it’s easy to make an association with the foreign language. The radio is fantastic for training our listening skills, perhaps a difficult skill to master depending on a person or language. Taking an example about the French people; English is so difficult for them to comprehend, and vice versa.
Use & abuse the Google Translation app intelligently though. For a language like German, it will not necessarily know that the verb should go at the end of the sentence. Generally speaking, we have too many gadgets free at our disposal. Another thing you could do also is to install the foreign keyboard and you are happy, no need for unnecessary typos. Alles klar!
Praise goes a long way for any learner. Just as you got lots of praises from your parents and this encouraged you to do even better, we continue on the same string as adults. I know for sure that I do my best when I receive praise and on the flip side, I crawl into my shell when I am critiqued.
Without the encouragement and constant praise from my husband and his family, I would have probably thrown in the towel by now. But here I am, getting better and better. I can’t thank them enough. The biggest reward for me is about being able to communicate with my loved ones in their own language.
The great Nelson Mandela once said:
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”
I hope these will inspire you to learn any language that you want to learn. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me on the comment box below. Good luck. You can do it! I’ll leave you with more inspiration, just access this link.
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