Pardon my brief descent into craziness, but I am feeling very proud of myself at the moment. Why you ask? Yours truly after only 4,5months has tested as an intermediate German speaker. Oya, everybody clap for me. Thank you, thank you! ;)
When I decided to start learning German in the second week of December, I set myself some goals and panicked when I realised the magnitude of the task before me. Then in February or March, I booked a ticket to go see T's family in May, and promised myself that I would be done with all the lessons/exercises on Duolingo by the 7th, the day before I was supposed to travel. At one point a few weeks ago though, I started to panic because I realised that I was so behind that it was unlikely I'd achieve my goal, but for some weird reason I became motivated again and due to some intense work, managed to finish the whole thing one week before my deadline. During this time, I noticed that the more German I did (on Duolingo/by watching TV or through reading), the more I became used to the language, and the easier it was for me to learn further. It was a virtuous circle, and so efficient that it almost turned me into a German freak. I have had(and still have) so many ups and downs with this crazy language, and have often felt like abandoning it(even taking a few breaks when life got too overwhelming), but I am so glad I never completely gave up. Of course I am still far from fluent, but I thought I'd share how I did it anyway, because it might help someone else.
So a few takeaway ideas from my experience of learning French, Italian and now German:
- Set goals and try to be accountable! Even if your boyfriend and friends side-eye you for your obsessive behaviour.
- Speak, speak, speak. People (again my boyfriend and even my conversation partner were guilty of this) will laugh at your pronunciation and/or just not understand your babbling, but don't let that discourage you. Practice makes perfect, and your efforts will eventually bear fruit. Oh and the same people who laughed at me now compliment me on the progress I've made.
- Living in the country and immersing oneself in the language and culture while important, is not essential. I learnt French a bit quicker than I am learning German now, because I was immersed in the language 24hrs a day, but I've realised that these days there are so many ways of surrounding oneself with the target language. Books, the internet, radio, watching TV are all ways of bring the proverbial mountain to Mohammed.
- Ups and downs are normal and to be expected in language learning (and with everything in life I suppose). Embrace them. Celebrate every high, mourn every low but never stay static. This is also one very good reason for evaluating and re-evaluating your progress regularly; sometimes we don't notice the progress we've made until we take an objective test or someone else compliments us or points something out.
- Surround yourself with "encouragers". Blog readers, my conversation partner/friend, my boyfriend's mum and T have all been very helpful, especially whenever the going became difficult. So yeah a big THANK YOU to everyone that encouraged(s) me, you guys have been absolute darlings. DANKE SCHÖN!!!
- No dream ever materialises without some effort, elbow grease and a good dollop of sweat. So to everyone that has some goal they want to achieve, my advice in the great words of Nike, would be to "just do it!"
Addendum: After putting up this post, I suddenly realised that it might mislead people, causing them to think I speak German perfectly. Well I don't. I can communicate verbally and read without too much difficulty, and I understand a huge percentage of what I see/hear on TV/radio. However (due to insufficient interaction), my speaking language skills still need a lot of work, mostly with pronunciation and acquiring more advanced vocabulary. So yeah I'm definitely still a long way away from fluency!