Monday, December 17, 2012

Learning a new language

After being here over a year and feeling as though my German was getting nowhere, I decided my language skills needed a big boost. I took the plunge and signed up for a German intensive course at a school here in Bamberg. It was a full immersion course where German was the only language spoken pretty much at all times. After much anticipation, I finally completed two weeks of the course. It's offered in one-week intervals. You can register for as few or as many weeks as you'd like. Based on the cost and the busy-ness in our lives, Big R and I decided I could easily take two weeks worth. And it was an amazing two weeks.

This course was seriously intense. They have you take a placement exam before you begin so they can put you in an accurate level. The first day wasn't too bad. I left thinking this was going to be a piece of cake. The second day I felt like a deer in the headlights. Holy crap. It was so freaking hard. I felt incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated. I had thoughts that I needed to be in an easier level because it felt so far over my head. Then I realized I needed it to be difficult. They would never put me in a level that I couldn't handle, and I wanted to be pushed. I needed to be pushed if I wanted to take my German to another level. The challenge was completely necessary. Otherwise, I would have just taken a more elementary level course at a community college.

Learning a new language is no cup of tea. I found myself having days of being overjoyed at what I was learning, and then days where I felt I could cry from frustration. Despite spending 40 hours completely immersed in a challenging language class, there is so much German I need to learn. I listen to conversations on train and bus rides and I get upset that I still have trouble understanding. I also know that my vocabulary needs a boost.

All that said, I can't believe how much I did learn. The learning environment at the school helped everyone feel comfortable using their German. In fact, we had to use German to talk to each other, and colleagues that are in the same situation are extremely forgiving. I still have a difficult time finding the words when I need them, but I'm less anxious about trying. I'm thinking in German sentences now, I just need to get over being shy about using them. It's tough.

My intelligence is something I have always had to work hard for. Might seem strange, but I was not born being smart. I was born being motivated. I put a huge effort into accomplishing my goals, and happily, I often find a reward for my work. With learning German, it was so much more difficult than anything I had ever done before. I went to law school and this seems harder for me. I'm convinced now that the idea that someone can have an affinity for languages is absolutely true. I am not one of these people, so I have to work much harder at learning a new language. I'm frustrated that I didn't take more language courses in school. Training your brain to work in a certain way can be critical when trying to accomplish a task like this. I hope that I am successful at convincing my children as to how important learning other languages in school can be. Despite how difficult or time-consuming it is. Just like learning how to play the piano or a musical instrument is important for brain development, I think language is the same way.

So, despite having some days where my brain went on overload and I literally felt it "turn off" during class, I think every minute of this course was worth the money and the time spent. I only wish it would have been possible to have taken more, and maybe this Spring I can take another week or two, we'll see. Although I have an incredible amount to learn, I understand better now how the German language works. I'm hoping I take the time to continue studying on my own and practicing the language with my German friends. They are always willing, I just need to push myself.

Probably the most important thing I learned these past few weeks is that it's worth taking the plunge and setting your mind to something. When you see a goal in front of you and you can find a way to achieve it, don't hesitate. It will always be worth it in the long run. Now if I could just apply this to other facets of my life, I'd be in great shape :)



  1. Hello,

    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?

    I look forward to hearing from you,