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German – Just Do It!

December 2, 2011

The Little Engine that Could

Through all my hesitation to actually speak German in Germany (even when I knew what I wanted to say!), I’m just going to relay what my uncle Jörg told me.  My uncle is German, but speaks English very well.  Of course in Germany they learn English in school since 5th grade on and have plenty of British and American music and movies to choose from to help them practice.  They have a little edge over us Americans who only get a couple years of a foreign language and no real reason to practice it outside of class.

Still, he told me to just do it.  Don’t worry about not saying things right since you only get better by trying.  Annoyingly, I still couldn’t let go of my reserved nature to just do it, but it did encourage me to just say phrases when they come to mind with my mom.  Even more inspiring is hearing German’s practice their English on me and knowing they are in the exact same boat and making mistakes, but still trying.

In another case, at the Italian Eis parlor (there are tons of gelato cafés throughout Germany), one of the employees we saw often, Nadia, is Italian and though she’s lived in Germany for a while now, still speaks in broken German.  But at least she gets the words out, unlike me.  I certainly didn’t judge anyone’s ability to speak proper English and no one seemed to say anything about Nadia’s German, so I’m not sure why I feel like everyone will jump on me if I say something wrong.

Omi, Maria and me at the Eis Cafe

Oma, aunt Maria and me at the Eis cafe in Langenselbold

In the end though, I don’t feel that bad about not pushing past my comfort zone.  It will come one day.  Plus, my cousin Xenia has been learning English for the past five or six years and does know quite a few words, but she has yet to speak to me in English.  She’s written to me in broken phrases through Facebook, but has never practiced on me face to face.  She’s even planning to study in America for half a year come January, so I can tell she’s facing the same frustration as me: wanting to speak the new language, but too embarrassed to just do it.

Xenia and Me

Cousin Xenia and me in Langenselbold

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2011 2:27 pm

    I have a distinct memory of being in Mexico and haltingly asking a woman where I could find a certain store. Finally she stopped me and said, “Oh, you mean a sporting goods store” in English. I felt like a genius.

    • December 2, 2011 7:50 pm

      It really is the small victories! Me just asking for two rolls without stopping the flow of conversation felt like a win. I’ll be throwing a mini celebration when I get to the level of describing a sporting goods store…lol.

  2. Eliz permalink
    December 2, 2011 5:15 pm

    So true. The older we get the less willing we are to look foolish. It takes a brave soul to try to break through a couple phrases (and be understood), especially if it is something we have little practice at doing. As English is so dominant, even in foreign lands we are linguistically accommodated. Unless you are willing to look like a complete fool, you will never get anywhere with speaking a language. This is universal.

    • December 2, 2011 7:44 pm

      I wish I had the jester gene! I know German will get easier the more I practice getting the words out with my mom, but French? Who knows. Looks like you may have to be my French sparring partner…when I work up the courage:)

  3. December 5, 2011 4:29 pm

    definitely keep it up! I grew up with german-speaking relatives as well but only started learning two years ago. It can be frustrating at times but SO worth it! Now I’m writing a blog on how funny the language can be… check it out, I think you’d like it 🙂

    • December 7, 2011 2:51 pm

      Ha! Your blog is such a perfect complement to mine. So glad you popped in to share it!

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