Remember me blogging about the need to learn German last summer? After completing Deutsch 1 by myself, I stopped for the entire winter. I had plenty of reasons to not continue with German. Firstly, everyone I hang out with speaks fluent English. Secondly, my doctor & health insurance provider speak English. Thirdly, the lady at the supermarket speaks English to me too. There was no sense of urgency to learn the language. Basically, I am living in a country whose official language is German but there is almost no need for me to learn it.
When we moved here almost 11 months ago we knew there would be one thing we wouldn’t like about Germany (or Europe in general) and that is the dark winter months. Unfortunately, I have no special powers to lengthen daylight hours or make the place warmer during those bitterly cold 6 months (yes, even autumn isn’t our friend). But other than the cold, life in Germany has been great and I really like it here.
And if I do like it here, I think it’s very important to try to integrate into German society. A good way to start integrating is to learn the language. I’ll be able to understand train announcements so I don’t stand on the platform like a fool when it’s delayed. I’ll be able to read important mails and communicate with my landlady. I’ll be able to build better relationships with my German-speaking neighbours and not nod my head shyly each time I see them. I’ll be able to expand job opportunities in the long run. And even if we ever moved elsewhere, I’ll be able to say I speak, read and write German.
Language learning is a fun process. As a kid, learning a language seems like a natural process. When I was learning Japanese at university, it was a conscious effort. But the year abroad in Japan did help improve my Japanese a lot. If it’s true that being in a German-speaking environment helps one pick up the language faster, theoretically, I should acquire the language fairly quickly. It does take effort, but being able to converse in simple German (even if it’s only a couple of sentences) is exciting. We’re excited to share with each other the little German conversations we’ve exchanged with others during the day.
As a beginner, there is no need to be shy of speaking incorrect German. It’s really comforting to know that my German teacher doesn’t mind us making mistakes because she’s there to correct us. If it’s your first time learning a foreign language, I urge you not to be afraid. Be brave, speak up and practice, practice, practice.