This post has been a long while in the making. I have slowly been nurturing it since we got back from Germany and now it is ready to release into the world. Originally it was a single post as a little update on some thoughts I had about language learning while we were travelling and has now become a series of posts I am very excited to share with you. Make sure you follow me on WordPress and all social media to know the minute something new is available.
The trip itself was absolutely amazing! Seven days of driving through the beautiful countryside, enjoying the traditional Bavarian (and Franconian) food and meeting some lovely locals along the way. The full diary posts about everything we did (and all the food we ate) will be following shortly, so keep your eyes peeled.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip was how much I got to use German. When I spent the many hours curled up in the living room with podcast playing and scribbling in my notepad I hardly expected that I would get so much practice in such a short amount of time. I am still taking my first steps with German but I have a good base of common phrases when travelling which served me well. There were a lot of words and phrases that I didn’t understand but I managed to muddle along and get more than I thought was possible.
The biggest change that I found was my confidence. If you follow my exploits, you will know that I set a resolution this year to be more confident; which has really taken root. Even before the trip I noticed the change when I started having skype calls with my German language partner. Usually I would make excuses to avoid this because I was always really nervous of talking and thought that I didn’t know enough or would make too many mistakes. I am always more comfortable with a good book and some headphones on rather than sitting in front of a stranger speaking (and pretending that I understand what they are saying). This time I threw caution to the wind and just got stuck in. I found my language partner on iTalki and managed to actually have a conversation in German for 30 minutes. Lots of pauses, lots of “ich verstehe nicht” and “Entschuldigung” but we got there.
I took this to the next level when on the trip. After arriving at the first hotel and dragging the massive suitcase we had brought, that didn’t even fit in the boot of our tiny Fiat 500, I checked in to the hotel… completely in German. No swapping back to English when they look confused or just giving up halfway through. I understood pretty much all of what the receptionist said (all the important stuff anyway) and she clearly understood me as within a few minutes I had the keys for our room, knew that breakfast started at 7am and that we could take the stairs or the lift to get to our room. What a success! I have never had this much confidence when we first arrive somewhere. It has usually taken time during the holiday to build; resulting in me finally having proper conversation on the final day of the trip. I have to say that this way round worked a lot better.
When I think about this, it just shows that if you put a little effort in and step out of your comfort zone the opportunities that are available will shock you. You don’t need to go from sitting in your living room to talking on a stage in front of 1000 people in fluent German to get the results you want. Just take it step by step and remember that any mistakes you make are new things that you will learn from and not something terrible to be avoided. When we all learnt our mother tongue we made mistakes and most of us, myself included, still make mistakes. If I live in England and have nearly 27 years of experience under my belt, it is puts the mistakes I make after a few months of German into perspective.
I went on from this to speak German everyday. Ordering food and drink in cafes, checking into hotels and asking for beer recommendations when we went out for dinner; which were all sehr lecker!
I would love to hear your stories of how you get on with your language learning and how you build confidence in using it. Let me know in the comments below.
Ciao for now!