Emma in Euroland

Tea, Cake and Travel: a year abroad in Germany

A long long way to go…

A long time ago, my Dad asked me to translate a review about his band that was written in a German magazine. He was very excited about hearing what the magazine had to say so I kept promising to do it but being in the middle of exam preparation, it always seemed to slip my mind. I eventually decided I could no longer keep promising to do it ‘tomorrow’ or ‘this weekend’ and instead insisted that I would do it when my exams were finished and I was home.

Well, that time finally came this morning and I finished it! Dad will come home this evening and open his email to what I hope will be a welcome surprise :). The text was quite flamboyant, using lots of rather obscure words and made up words that I would never find in a dictionary. Therefore, it represented somewhat of a challenge for me. Whilst this was quite welcome and I rather enjoyed translating it and trying out different words until I felt I had got the perfect one, it did get me thinking. Just how difficult will next year be? I always had this vision that I would come back totally fluent in German. I am a deep believer that the only way to learn a language is to completely immerse oneself in it and just let yourself absorb it. Maybe this is an idealist’s view though, maybe this is my way of convicing myself that the year will be easy and I’ll just pick it up without really thinking about it. Now, I’m not one to be afraid of hard work, but I am an economist and I absolutely cannot stand wasting my time due to inefficiencies. I hate the thought of looking back on my year and thinking that I could have done more.

So how is the best way to learn a language? Really learn a language? I will have an infinite amount of resources available to me, newspapers, radio programmes, TV shows, actual Germans to talk to. I’m not really sure how best to use them, whether I should force myself to read through a newspaper each day or whether watching desperate housewives in German will be enough. I am pretty set in the view that grammar books and vocab tests aren’t the way to learn, certainly not for me anyway. I could tell you all the silly grammar tables but that doesn’t mean I’d be able to use them in a conversation. Furthermore, I am not someone who learns new vocabulary by reading or rewriting them over and over again. I need to use them, find them in a new way, experience them, hear them. I guess this is why I feel a bit like I’ve been waiting for my whole German learning career for the opportunity that has been granted to me to spend a WHOLE YEAR just living around German.

I have come to the conclusion that there is only one rule that I need to follow to make the most of my year: Always say “Yes”. Or “Ja!” as the case may (and probably should) be. “Do you want to come round for dinner?” YES “Do you want to join us on our trip away this weekend?” YES “Do you want to come to the staff meeting tonight?” Erm… “and for the staff drinks afterwards?” YES. I will only get one chance at this. This will be my year. A year to grasp at the chance to do exactly what I feel like I’ve always wanted: to be able to speak another language. As far as my other English counterparts go, my German isn’t half bad. I always get good marks in my exams anyway. But I am under no illusion, I can’t really speak it, not fluently anyway. But I will be able to. Who knows, in a year’s time, these blog posts might be in German ;).


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