Embracing my Imperfect German

I spent all last week dreading the start of my intensive German class on Tuesday. I was so nervous that I spent the entire day before binge-watching Netflix and willing myself not to throw up. Not only was I nervous, but I was a little bit depressed. I just graduated in May. I made it through classes and homework and early morning alarms. I deserved my slow-paced mornings and drinking entire pots of coffee and porcelain coffee mugs.

After all the worrying, it turns out that I actually love my class. Number one, because it’s literally a three-minute walk from my apartment. Number two – and probably more importantly – everyone actually wants to be there, which is a lot more than I could say for most of my young Klassenkameraden from university. We’re a motley crew for sure – sixteen students from eleven different countries – but there are definitely potential friends in there (yay!). I partnered up with a girl from Venezuela, spent the break talking to a guy from the Ukraine, and walked home with a Jordanian from Saudi Arabia now living in Germany. That’s pretty incredible.

And best of all, my German skills are holding their own in class – another thing I was previously worried about. After making introductions and playing an ice-breaker round of Bingo out, we quickly got into a review of the takeaways from the previous level. Past participles, check. Wechselpräpositionen, I can hang with the best of them. Adjective declension, meh okay. Confidence in speaking, nope. My complete lack of faith in my German is something that really developed once I got to Germany. I could study a grammar concept for hours (and I have) and still not be comfortable enough to talk to people. If I get nothing else from this class, I want to get rid of this fear. I just need to embrace my imperfect German and love it, at least for now. At the end of day two, I can’t say there’s progress yet because I still dread being called on, but I am excited for the next six weeks.

For all of you who are bilingual, how did you get to where you are? At what point do you stop caring about making mistakes?

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5 thoughts on “Embracing my Imperfect German

  1. I have to say that I think the fear of speaking a foreign language is a particular issue for us Americans. Unlike nearly everyone else in the world, most Americans do not begin learning a second language until we are 14 years old. Germans begin with 6, which I think teaches them that it is okay to make mistakes and to just try to use the words they know–a skill we were never taught.

    It has taken me such a long time to get over speaking German in front of people, and my German class in Germany (which was just like yours) was definitely my first step. Although my German still isn’t perfect, at least I am beginning to speak confidently. Heck, I had a meeting with the Dean of Students at my University and he said my German was great! I also had a job interview last week that lasted a full 30 minutes, and I got the job!

    So, I have slowly just learned that my German isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t matter. Just go for it. The Germans are very forgiving 😉

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    • I completely agree. America does foreign language learning all wrong. It’s broken me! I can ace a German test like nobody else, but put me on the spot and I fumble it every time. Who am I trying to impress, jeez! At least Germans really are great about understanding. 98% of the time they get my meaning.

      But it’s so great to read that your German is opening doors! I couldn’t even fathom holding a conversation for 30 minutes. Now I’ve got a long-term goal to strive towards.. What’s the job?

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  2. Ugh I always HATED German class, so cheers to you for enjoying it, that’s probably step 1. I will have another shot taking it again as an elective at Uni, but I totally understand the speaking fears. It’s been three years and I’m just now getting over them.

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    • I always hated language classes, but for some reason I really like my German ones. I’m imagining my road to actually being good in the classes will take a while.. It’s always encouraging to hear these are common problems, and not just me. And hopefully everything gets better with time for me too.

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  3. If you love Germany and just graduated you should apply for IPS! Awesome internship in the Bundestag for people from many different countries. The deadline just passed but I’d say keep working on your German for the next year and try for 2017. https://www.bundestag.de/ips

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