23 January 2012

Fake It Till You Make It - Language Edition

Fake it till you make it. Good motto, no? Who needs to know anyway? This is what I tell myself about speaking German. I can understand like 65% of what I hear, but am terrified to make it come out. I must sound like a 5 year old. Reading is even more difficult, but definitely getting easier. :) I thought I'd share a few strategies I use in learning a foreign language:

1. Listen. German radio has a lot of talking and the news/traffic reports. I listen at the office and in the car (I can always switch to Drowning Pool when necessary). I've gotten very good at the traffic: Stau=bad traffic Stuttgart=Stau Got it? In 2010 I was working in the office that all incoming personnel, family members and local national workers had to go through to get base access. A few people assumed I could speak German - no way! I also got good at saying 'Right index finger, Left index finger. Sign here, there are three copies.'

2. Read. Yes, as much as possible. My choice is children's books. I want my kids to learn German too. Kids books are simple, and familiar. My favorite right now is Der Gruffalo. It's so much fun to read in either language. I find books very cheap at the library sales, the second hand stores and Flohmarkts (both the normal ones and ones for kids). Sometimes we trade with friends too. At the librar I've found books with German on one side and English on the other (Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

3. Magazines. Celebrity mags are great, but I always feel a little guilty buying them. These are good b/c the captions are just snippets, small bits of info at a time. I also like the little newspaper like mags for women. I forgot the name of the one in the US, you know it's like a buck or two and there is always a fad diet on the front. Yes, that one. There is a German version too. Not so much the diet part, but it has lots of recipes, fashion and feel good stories. I usually don't read everything, just what catches my eye (the same with English mags).

4. Bulletin Boards. Lots of stores and gathering place have boards that people can sell or post things they are looking for. Handwriting is still handwriting, but there are always print outs too. If I don't have time to figure everything out I will just snap a pic and look at home when I have more time. I've found flohmarkts, and classes for the kids this way.

5. German Textbooks. I bought about 3-4 language programs. None are great, but they give you a heads up. I prefer ones with a cd b/c pronunciation is hard! I also have a few vocabulary books. Rosetta Stone is available to AKO users - only service members and DOD employees. Mission Europe is fun too.

6. Forcing yourself in uncomfortable situations. Would you say something in an awkward silence. Absolutely! If I would say something in English, then I should say the same thing in German. I've been ignored and answered in English. Not so good for self confidence, but at least an attempt was made. I also love to shop for produce at farm stores. German, at least a little, is a must here. I have been know to mix English/French/German all together. I've even used sign language - this brought enormous amounts of laughter from my ex husband.

7. Dictionary. I have one, but prefer the free translator app. It's great while you're out, but is only useful for small blocks of text.

8. Language schools. I took a couple classes at the Viernheim VHS (Die Volkshochschule-night school) a few years ago. These are fabulous for the price, extremely reasonable. I think a 6 or 8 week class, 2 nights a week is about 60 Euro. I believe all or most cities have a VHS. There are more expensive and intensive schools: Goethe Institute, Berlitz, F + U Academy, Heidelberger Paedagogium. There are plenty others. If you want more info let me know.

I believe this is about all. What are you doing? To those of you that have mastered a second language what advise can you give to the rest of us?


  1. Would you be interested in a language tandem? My mother in law is VERY interested in getting together. Her English isn't great so it would be a great pairing - it is awful when the tandem partners have a significant difference in skill level.

  2. send me an email: nicole (no space) trick (at) google (no space) mail (dot) com

  3. I found the best way to learn (besides classes) was to join a German organization. I joined a choir. It was all in German and everyone spoke German as well. I have made the best of friends and my German is darn good!

  4. I seem to be an English speaking magnate. My German friends all (three) speak English too. I would love to be more involved in the community, but I'm a big ole chicken. They'll figure out that I'm way too different.


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