At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here I go again writing about language. I can’t help it, really. As a stranger in a strange land, language is one of the dominating forces in my life these days, and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about vocabulary, grammar, and communication. Before German, I never committed myself to learning a language. I had only an abstract idea of how hard it would be and wasn’t prepared for how it would bring out both the best and worst in me.
For example, I like to do things right and I hate being wrong. My approach of “do it perfectly, or not at all” does not work very well for language learning. Believe me, I have tried. It has been quite a struggle to swallow my pride and put myself out there, knowing that I am constantly making mistakes in conversation and in writing. But I am slowly allowing myself to learn by doing, and to treasure the moments when total strangers correct my grammar – a little social embarrassment goes a long way towards making sure I get it right the next time!
And the best part? No matter how much progress I make, there are always new mistakes to be made! More complex expressions to master! Finer distinctions between vocabulary to decipher!
So instead of trying to pass myself off as a native speaker (my do it perfectly, or not at all inclination) – which only sets me up for disappointment – I always try to stay true to what I am: a foreigner doing the best I can to learn a new language as an adult. And when I present myself as such, I receive nothing but support from those native speakers around me. Sure, I don’t sound as eloquent as I would in my mother tongue, but at least I keep learning.
Even with all the frustrations, I love the challenge of wrapping my brain around the German language, as well as the triumph of mastering ever-increasing levels of communication. My most recent point of pride? Meeting with a local non-profit organization and discussing the possibility of collaboration on my research project. Alles auf Deutsch, thank you very much. Did I make mistakes? You betcha. Do I still sometimes trip over my tongue while buying croissants at the local bakery? Of course. But that is all part of the process, now isn’t it?
Leave a comment about your experiences and thoughts on learning a new language!