Theme song of this blog post – “Nightshift” by The Commodores. And no, it’s not really relevant…but it’s still an awesome song.
My second German language course is in full swing: it’s the second half of the A1 level, still at the Migrosklubschule. However, I’ve switched from Saturday mornings to Wednesday & Friday nights. After work I head across town, grabbing some sort of dinner, getting to the Klubschule early and spending the interim time doing homework, writing letters or stuff like that. Then I take the 2 hour class and get home by about 8.30pm. No, it isn’t perfect – but it’s more do-able than I feared. It helps that the people in my course are likeable and the teacher is good at explanations and engaging the class.
…Well, slower than I would like. But then again, am I really expecting otherwise? I’m probably not getting enough input (e.g., books, magazines), not doing enough additional work in my spare time, not sharpening my conversational skills quickly enough.
Et cetera. There’s good news though:
- When I went to Vienna last month I managed to get by with speaking in German: ordering food & drinks, asking basic tourist questions to the hostel reception staff, understanding & giving very rough directions. The usual touristy stuff. I can’t claim my German was refined or properly accented or even correct, but I didn’t have the need to revert into English.
- Borrowing friends in Basel and attending a Meetup Language Exchange in Zurich has done something truly fantastic: given me confidence at speaking a foreign language. If I get through an hour of talking German…I get this buzz. I feel great about myself. As I’ve said before, lack of confidence was my main obstacle to improvement. Therefore, although my German is still full of mistakes when I speak in class…I’m fine with speaking.
- Just this morning I realised that I know the German names for 90% of the chemistry equipment in my lab. This is without active study or memorisation on my part – it simply came from reading the cupboard labels day-in day-out . While such knowledge is entirely useless for my A1 course…it shows how exposure and immersion pays off.
A friend lent me her DVD of the film Nigrendwo in Afrika (Nowhere In Africa). I’d watched it for the first time a month ago in German without subtitles and was able to follow the plot quite closely (it helps that when the characters speak in the African dialect they are subtitled, and there is also plenty of conversations in English). This time around I first read the entire screenplay translated into English – found by doing a quick Google Search – then immediately afterwards watched the film in German, again without subtitles. My comprehension rose exponentially after I’d prepped myself this way. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can go to the cinema to watch a German language film and understand it as I go along…
While I do feel frustrated by my limitations, I should keep the positives in mind too. When I get frustrated by lack of understanding my immediate reaction is to give up/tune out of the conversation. That stalls progress and dents my confidence. If I go around thinking to myself that I’m making progress and can learn the language…it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
*On the Horizon*
- I’m looking into a trialling a flashcard computer program to see if I can memorise my der-die-oder-das and plural forms. There are quite a few SRS (spaced repetition system) programs out there that help with memorisation, many are specifically aimed at foreign language learners. If I stick at it, I don’t see why it won’t help…
- 30 minutes of German a day. Every day. No excuses. Internet-wisdom suggests that’s the bare minimum you need to improve your foreign language abilities; hopefully my classes, time spent working alongside German speakers and conversational practice will add on top of that.
- I’ve been reading Blick Am Abend, one of the free daily newspapers distributed around the bus stops and train stations of Basel. However, it’s a not much more than a right-wing sensationalist tabloid…which just isn’t my bag, baby. It might be time to splash out on some high-quality German newspapers or magazines. I’ve seen National Geographics in supermarkets: since that’s something I would actually read in English I might be more motivated to try and read the German version. Or the Economist.