Never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.
I have been learning German off and on since 2008. Am I fluent yet? I wish.
I like the German language a lot. Sure, there are lots of rules (though plenty of exceptions, aka Ausnahmen) and enough cases (Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Genetive) and articles (der, das, die, den, dem, des…) to make your head spin, but the more you learn, the more the language seems to come together as a whole.
I started learning German in Vancouver by taking a few beginner and intermediate courses at university. In my first class we learned the German alphabet. How can I describe the feeling of learning something so elementary in your twenties but still feeling such a thrill of accomplishment once you get the hang of it? We then proceeded by learning numbers, telling time, making requests, and so on. Our textbook featured 4 fictional cartoon characters, 2 guys (Peter and Martin) and 2 girls (Stephanie and Claudia). A helpful sidebar in Chapter 1 let us know that they would develop romantic relationships as the book progressed. I was captivated.
We had to perform a few skits in class — I remember having dialogues about ordering at a German restaurant and mimicking a scenario at a Berlin tourist information office. I still remember one line I had: “Von hier gehen Sie rechts diese Straße entlang und nehmen Sie den Bus 102.” (Translation: From here, turn right along this road and take bus 102).
After 3 courses, I took a break for a few years. When I started planning to move to Germany, I began taking courses again, but this time at a private language school in Vancouver. There aren’t many German language schools in the area, but I was able to find a class that took place once a week for 2 hours in the evening. Though the course wasn’t intensive and progressed rather slowly given the limited class time each week, I was learning more and getting back into learning die deutsche Sprache.
Moving to Germany and understanding the language outside of a classroom context is quite another matter altogether. The language would wash over me like a sea of accents, dialects and slang. Here I was bobbing in the open ocean when I was used to walking on the beach and dipping my toes into tidal pools.
It’s awful undermining to the intellect, German is; you want to take it in small doses, or first you know your brains all run together, and you feel them flapping around in your head same as so much drawn butter.
-Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad
Did you struggle with learning German or the language of your new country? How did you adjust? Let me know in the comments below.