Posted in Reflection

From language teacher to language learner (versuchen, Deutsch zu lernen)

I’ve always wanted to learn a language. 

And, it pains me to say to my students, with them often being gobsmacked, that I can only speak English. So, not wanting to be jealous of my students’ abilities any longer, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I had been studying on and off with Spanish for some time, but I wanted to delve into something fresh. Enter German, oder sollte ich sagen, Deutsch. 

I feel as if I have a good idea of what it takes to ‘acquire’ a language and that’s why I have decided to write this series of posts to see if my beliefs and research turn out that way. 

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that when it comes to me and learning languages, I am like a fish out of water. However, during the pandemic era and having all that free time during lockdown, I gave it a real go this time and I have managed to keep going. I guess the trick to diving into a new language and staying committed to it is to have a solid foundation of resources (when you get tired of one you have others to fall back on), routine, realistic and achievable goals, and strong motivations.

I made sure my resources aligned to some of my beliefs in language acquisition which are outlined below:

  • Studying language through context.
  • Noticing patterns in form.
  • Comparing and contrasting between L1 and L2.
  • Not getting caught up in rules but attending to meaning.
  • Matching spelling to pronunciation.
  • Trying to balance receptive and productive skills practice.
  • Recording language in full sentences without translation.
  • Reflection after each study session.
  • Recycling language, often through different contexts.
Some of my resources.

I have used the following over the last 12 to 18 months:

  • German Tutor (coursebook)
  • Complete German (coursebook)
  • Babel
  • Memrise
  • Duolingo
  • YouTube – ‘Easy German’ channel, Luzi from ‘Your German Teacher’
  • Playing old video games through German

I haven’t gotten tired of these materials at all and there is a lot to do and accomplish. The great thing about language learning is setting goals and reaching them. I revel when I complete a unit on Duolingo or understand a sentence in one of my favourite role-playing video games. It’s those small victories that push me onto the next challenge. The only thing I crave more than anything else, with slight trepidation, is speaking practice which I will get after recently enrolling in an online course with the German Language School (GSL) in Berlin in July. I’m nervous as hell, as to be expected, but raring to give the course a good go. 

I make sure that I spend at least an hour every day learning German. Routine is crucial. Just like any other skill or hobby you like doing, if you don’t tend to it on a regular basis, you fall into the trap of not continuing. 

Here are some things that have helped me with my German which align with my beliefs in acquiring a language:

  • Reflecting on words or the order of them that I got wrong and writing them out in German without the aid of English translation to help me focus on form and build automaticity.
  • Recycling language often and in different contexts to keep things fresh and to build further associations to those words.
  • Not worrying about getting the grammar on the first try as I will understand a bit more on follow-up visits.
  • Breaking those notoriously long words into syllables and remembering the patterns of spelling to enhance recognition and familiarity with German spelling.
  • Paying attention to the sound structure of spelling and syllables to help identify sound boundaries during listening practice.
  • Not getting wound up when I don’t hear everything during listening practice as those words have not been recycled enough yet.
  • Not to overdo German speaking practice as it is a real workout on the mouth as I am using articulators I haven’t used before e.g. the hard /r/ sound. 

I think I am now finally committed to learning languages, and I will report back on anything of note. 

Wish me luck!

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