German – Why Not?

I’m shocked at how long it’s been since an update to this, the blog that was supposed to document my move into an airline career. It remains empty in that regard, with good reason as, whilst I’m still with my airline, I am yet to fly. It has been a year and 2 months and I have done the required licence renewals every 6 months and who knows when I will actually begin what I came here to do. For now I’m not too fussed as I’m busy furthering my knowledge in a way only few English people ever properly do, I’ve undertaken language learning. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and at first I had a feeling that I would continue with French as I have some form of a foundation from Secondary School and from having lived with a French person for a couple of years whilst training for my pilots licence. In fact, I had started thinking about how I would go about relearning French and I was really looking forward to getting to know the language better however….

A visit to Munich during New Years 2013 saw me falling in love with the country. I’d never visited Germany prior to this but, this one visit, lasting only a few days, sparked my interest immensely and since January I’ve been self learning German by using various websites such as Deutsche-Welle and random grammar books. My motivation has been up and down more times than a student pilot doing circuits to build up take-off and landing experience and 8 months in, I’m still pursuing. There have been periods of about a month here and there where I’ve studied nothing, sometimes due to being busy with other things but mostly, it’s because I don’t know any German speaking people in the country I live in and so I never really get to practice what I learn, thus the motivation trickles off as quickly as any conversation I’ve ever had with a girl I take a liking to.

Prior to taking up German, I had the pleasure of reading Mark Twain’s ‘The Awful German Language’ which, I took to be quite amusing and felt that the rantings contained wouldn’t be an issue for me. I’d just put in a lot of time to learn the difficulties that he rants on about however, little did I know, the difficulties would be far harder than my mediocre human brain could handle on my own.

At first the basics can be very encouraging, a few simple phrases here and there and you start to think, “wow, this isn’t actually too bad.. sure there are some longer words in the language but the sentence structure is similar to English and there are a fair few familiar words here!”. Then of course you get into the harder grammatical points of the language, where you learn, amongst other things, that knowing the gender of a noun is highly important when you start involving the 4 cases that are involved in German but, I’m not writing this to repeat the words of Mark Twain, you can find that particular piece of literature by making a short search on a well known internet search engine. Anyway, with the difficulties I started having, I decided it was time for me to sign up for a German course.

My first thought was to go to one here, in Doha, however, the course was fairly expensive and I felt that I could definitely get better value for money elsewhere. I started searching for courses in Germany and was even able to get some advice from other German learners that I knew and often spoke with. Eventually, I settled on DeutschAkademie in Berlin as, not only were they recommended by friends, they weren’t that expensive. I was also able to find accommodation for a very cheap price with a guy who I would later be able to consider a good friend. People generally say don’t go to Berlin to speak German because nearly every German in Berlin speaks better English than you do German. This is very true and it took a few weeks for me to be able to get a German person to not reply to me in English. I think that, along with my English accent and my poor pronunciation of some words, people were able to tell very easily I was an Auslander and probably thought I was just trying German to be polite. I won’t write about my month in Berlin just yet, I’ll save that for another post, I will however recommend that you visit it when you can as it’s a really great city with lots to do and see.

During my first week I was extremely worried that I was in the wrong level (my entry test placed me at A2.1) because whenever the Lehrerin (teacher) would speak to me in German I would stare back with a blank face and reply – Entschuldigung (sorry) or Noch ein mal bitte (one more time please). Despite her saying mostly words that I knew, I was unaccustomed to hearing them out loud and felt like the class dunce. Eventually my hearing improved and I was able to hear words that I could read with ease and I was able to pick up on new words and ask for an explanation as to what they meant.

It turns out a course in German and being surrounded by German was exactly what I needed to kick me back into learning the language and I’ve actually gotten to the point where I can have a conversation in German, basic, but a conversation nonetheless. Since I’ve been back in Doha, I’ve continued my studies and I’m trying to tackle my biggest weakness at the moment – vocabulary, along with learning the gender. I’ll keep revising the grammar that I learnt during my course last month and try and pick up on some of the new grammar that I expect to learn when I do my next course (in September). I have all this free time at the moment, I may as well get down to things and use it properly. I hope one day I can move to Germany and fly for a German carrier and I also hope that, at that point I’ll have a better command of the German language.

For anyone wishing to learn German search for Deutsche-Welle deutsch interaktiv – this offers guided learning following the European Standard Framework for language learning and Warum Nicht? – a radio podcast from DW that helped me with my hearing and pronunciation.

One thing I’ve learned during this process is that you cannot learn with just one resource and I’ve found these quick learn books do not help. I also tried Rosetta Stone but I found that too repetitive and slow for me. Keep in mind that German is one of the hardest languages to learn and even some Germans have trouble with it’s complex grammar so don’t give in.

If anyone wants to get in touch and practice their German just post a comment!

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3 Responses to German – Why Not?

  1. Kat Ogilvie says:

    I think immersion is your best bet, but if you can’t immerse yourself fully you should watch movies and wrap your head around the dialogue. It helped me with French. Also, I nominated you for the Liebster Award and I hope you’ll have a chance to check it out and nominate some other up and coming bloggers! http://twentysomethinganecdotes.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/blogs-worth-mentioning/

    • Journeym4n says:

      Thanks very much for the advice Kat, I am wondering if you could advise further on how you watched the films – English with French Subtitles, French with English subtitles or simply French? I have tried all 3 and am yet to find one I feel I’m getting much benefit from.

      • Kat Ogilvie says:

        It’s tough, but I would advise watching without subtitles. Just French. Watch a movie you are really familiar with. Get a feel for what they’re saying, since you already know what the plot/dialogue is.

        My favourite movie is French Kiss. I’ve seen it a bunch of times in English. I was comfortable watching it in French because I was already really familiar with it. If you watch with subtitles, you’ll end up reading the subtitles and not focusing on the movie.

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