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Ich Weiss Nicht: My German Troubles

Welcome to this week’s Travel Tuesday post! It’s all about foreign languages!

I grew up in a family that raised me in two different languages. We mainly spoke French at home, but it was a norm for some family dinners to take place completely in Spanish. I also grew up in a bilingual city (although it took me a while to catch on to English). It’s normal, in Montreal, to hear a conversation being spoken between two people that goes back and forth between French and English.

While I do tell people that knowing multiple languages has made me unable to speak correctly in any of them, I do believe that my situation gave me an ability with languages. I pick up things quickly and am fluent in the universal language of tears and miming (if in doubt, miming a toilet is probably always the wrong approach).

The one time I’ve been throw, in my quest to learn languages, is when I went to study in Germany.

I decided to take a German class with my best friend while in college. I picked it up pretty fast and did very well in my classes. No no I’m not saying this to brag. Just wait a little, you’ll understand.

There was this opportunity that came up to go to Germany. The programme picked 30 students, from the colleges across Quebec. All you needed was to be enrolled in German class and to be in good standing. Because I jump at opportunities like those and qualified, I was picked, along with 29 other students. A month or two later, after some prep and some financing activities, we were flying to Germany. Just like that!

I stayed downtown Berlin with my partner, in the flat she shared with two other college students. A day into my adventure, I was already overwhelmed. It was my first big trip by myself (although we were well looked after by our programme) and it was the first time I was in a country where people speaking around me made no sense. It was the first time in my life I realised that classes don’t really help you out there in the ‘real’ world. My (few beginners) classes had not prepared me to be flirted with by drunken guys, to hold a discussion about smoking laws, to understand the U-Bahn self-service machines, etc.

Although I had a base in German, it wasn’t nearly as much as I should have needed. And walking around with a dictionary is only helpful to a certain extent – holding up a line to check a word in the traveller’s bible isn’t advised. Thankfully, Germans are wonderful with languages and I got away with speaking English most of the time. But that defeated the purpose of my language-focused trip!

After the new years, we started going to school at the Deutsch Institute. It was fun, but I had the hardest time. It was the one time in my life where I didn’t do very well in school. It became renown that every time the teacher asked me a question I would be like a deer caught in headlights. I did learn a lot, but I never got over my fear of making mistakes (which I knew I made lots of).

After a while, I stopped trying to understand people. I knew I wasn’t there long enough to get my shit together, so I just stopped. The pressure decreased exponentially. I got to listen to Germans speak and I got to enjoy it. Just hear the accents, notice the words they use so much (I love when they say ‘ach so!’). I find German absolutely wonderful. People always think I’m lying because German has this terrible reputation to be a harsh sounding language, but honestly I think it’s beautiful!

I also adored Berlin. Oh my gosh! If there was a city in the world I would live in, it would be Berlin, above any others! I thought it was so green, so convenient, so beautiful, so full of history. I LOVED it (post to come in support of this)! I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to grasp German. It’s sad but true.  But give me a job in English and I’ll move to Berlin tomorrow!

Have you ever learned a language you couldn’t quite get?xx

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