You might have noticed that my latest post (here) doesn’t feature much German. In fact, it’s more about Japanese. What’s up with that? After coming all this way to Germany to learn German, why do I find myself talking Japanese so often?
That’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately. I’ve been going out with Japanese classmates and chatting with them in Japanese. Last Saturday, the highlight of my day was finding a pair of Japanese books. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these things, but shouldn’t I be absorbing as much German as possible while I have the opportunity?
I was feeling guilty about this last week.
Then I realized something. A big part of the reason I’ve attained some level of proficiency in Japanese is the fact that I incorporated the language into my daily life. Even when I’m not actively studying it, I still use it when I read novels or listen to music in my free time. So it’s natural that I’m continuing to use the language. And why would I regret making friends with classmates from Japan? Connecting with people from around the world is one of my greatest motivations for learning languages. The opportunity to use both German and Japanese to do so is a bonus, not a drawback.
After thinking about it some more, I also realized that I do use a fair amount of German in my daily routine. I use much of my time outside of class exploring the city, which includes the occasional interaction with strangers on the bus or in the park. I’ve been reading a German graphic novel and watching German television in my down time. And I’ve been attending meetings for German speaking practice multiple times per week. Perhaps I don’t need to be so hard on myself.
On Friday, I was given another reminder that time spent on one language need not exclude my interest in the other. I went to a Japanese-German Stammtisch, or common table, at a cat cafe just a few blocks away from my residence. I had a pleasant conversation – all in German – with a Japanese expat and an older German gentleman who used to live in Japan. We spoke about language learning, Japanese novels, and compared notes on our perceived difficulty levels of English, German, and Japanese. It was especially enjoyable because I wasn’t speaking German just for the sake of practicing. I was having a conversation with people who shared similar interests, and the communication just happened to be in German.
The Halfway Mark
It’s been four weeks in Germany, which means I’m halfway through my stay! I think now is a good time to assess my progress and write down some new goals.
Things I can do that I couldn’t four weeks ago:
- produce the different declensions of articles and adjectives almost automatically
- converse more smoothly in German using conversational filler words
- understand the meaning of certain new-to-me words by understanding their parts
- read and understand a German graphic novel without a dictionary
- watch German television and understand a significant amount without a dictionary
- bag my groceries at Aldi within seconds before the very efficient cashier starts glaring at me
- use the tram/u-bahn maps and schedules
- know which side of the road has the correct bus stop
- transition quickly from speaking German to Japanese and vice versa
- think/talk to myself spontaneously in German (sometimes)
Goals for the time remaining:
- read at least half an hour per day in German outside of class
- 3 or more spontaneous interactions/mini conversations per day in German
Tomorrow I begin my second four-week course at the language school and my last four weeks of summer in Düsseldorf. Here’s to more adventures and language progress!