The Long Road Ahead

Most of my friends here in Hamburg are either expats or bilingual.  Therefore, all of our conversations are in English.  This has kept me in a rather nice bubble but it’s time to break out of that bubble somewhat.

On Tuesday night, I meet my new LARP group for the first time and they are all German speakers.  A couple of them know a little bit of English but the conversation at the table was all in German.  I left the meeting feeling very mixed.  On the plus side, I was actually able to follow parts of the conversation and felt very glad I knew the words spielen (play), probleme (problems), dunkel (dark), böse (evil) and glaube (think) as they seems to constitute a very large part of all the conversations – then again, they were discussing gaming.  However, I really struggled when people asked me questions directly.  I think I failed to understand the majority of them.  I soon learnt that there is a massive difference between the slow unaccented basic German that we hear in our German class and the fast accented daily German that everyone speaks. Also, that restaurants are really loud and noisy places.

I was down in the dumps all yesterday about this. But then I got thinking.  I have only done 48 hours of German class and as everyone informs me German is a hard language to learn.  I can’t possibly expect after 48 hours of class time to be able to participate in a fast paced German conversation nor to understand all the slang and accents.  I should be proud of what I was able to understand and begin to ramp up my out of class German learning.  The road to being fluent in German is going to be a long and hard one.  I will stumble along the way, but I shouldn’t beat myself up about each tiny stumble.

Take this post as giving myself a good stern talking to.

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About Meg

A thirty something queer Aussie geek girl who now lives in Germany.
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8 Responses to The Long Road Ahead

  1. Kim says:

    You know, in high school they offered German and I avoided it because the only impression I had of it was that it was hard. So I’ve been in awe of you this whole time. And I definitely think you should have some major pride in understanding what you did. I’d have been way too intimidated to take on the LARP and the associated socializing, so kudos to you!

    • Riayn says:

      Thanks :)
      Although, in all fairness, German is not as hard as some languages like Mandarin or Cantonese. I have nothing but massive amounts of respect for English speakers who have learnt to speak Mandarin/Cantonese. Now that is hard!

  2. Jen says:

    I’ve had so many of those kinds of moments. But keep working at it and working at it – it will get better. I have tremendous respect for you that you’ve joined that group with both feet in. What a great way to learn the language. You will do it! :-)

  3. Dixie says:

    Be very proud of yourself. Putting yourself into a German-only situation so scary but so important for improving your language skills. Be patient with yourself and keep at it and you’ll find it gets easier. So many expats hide because they’re scared to speak and it really holds their skills back. Bravo to you!

    • WaAussie says:

      I think you are doing really well, and to be honest I am fluent in German but I still sometimes wonder what on earth they were talking about. I grew up speaking a different German dialect ( Southern Austria) and then 28 years of English and the NRW accent and some of their words leave me wondering what they mean. Now I am this oddball that speaks German with a weird accent and an english sentence structure!

  4. I agree with everyone else, you should be so proud to 1) have joined the group to begin with – I would be so frightened! and 2) to have understood what you did. The estimate is that it’s 600 hours to get to a B1 level so at 48 hours you have to give yourself some leeway. I have many moments like this – it seems that I go from feeling so proud of myself to feeling like an idiot and wondering why I’m not picking it up faster. I think it’s normal to get down on ourselves…but I know that as you (and I!) keep trying we’ll get better and look back on these types of days and feel nothing but pride in ourselves. Congrats for being so brave!

  5. I empathize with you. I am also in the same situation and understand the challenges. My advice is embrace the experience for what it is and do the best you can. You could do some short courses, join some clubs such as dance, gym, and so on. German has a reputation of being hard but you will learn. Try not to think about the grammar as an obstacle. Try and read more, listen to the radio and watch TV and you will get used to hearing the pattern of the language. Above all be patient. It takes time.

  6. Kell says:

    Currently learning Dutch, have noticed I can read it easier than speak it.

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