Learning German successfully with a fresh new perspective (and fun!)
June • 29th, 2021
By Konrad Schindler, language coach at Gedankenspinnerei
New country? New language?
When you just arrive in Germany, you have a thousand things to worry about. Different culture, different food, different norms, different people, insurance, healthcare, etc. And in the middle of all of this is learning the German language. A task that might feel insurmountable considering all the other things that you need to take care of. And after meeting other non-German speakers who find themselves in the same boat, you simply speak English with them. You put learning German aside for now, life is good enough as it is and you say to yourself ‘I will take up a language course when things settle down’.
Reasons to learn German
Even though you will get by in Germany without learning German, I feel it is also a really big missed opportunity if you don’t. Learning the local language will help you to connect to your German colleagues and neighbors, make local friends, find your way around the city, shops and public transport, feel less like an outsider, and give you a better understanding of the culture and habits of the locals.
How learning German can make you feel
While a language course is a really good place to start, you probably know that just learning from books within a classroom is simply not enough. To really learn a language, you need to go out into the ‘real world’ and start speaking, make lots of mistakes and keep trying and trying. Learning by doing at its finest. And for a lot of people this is exactly the point where learning a language stops being fun and becomes scary and frustrating and they might think to themselves:
“I’m not talented enough to learn a foreign language”
“I hate making mistakes while practicing out the new language. People will think I’m stupid”,
“I will never be good enough”.
Sounds familiar? Don’t worry, I am here to tell you that there are ways to turn around these thoughts and make learning German a positive experience! Just keep reading.
Trying to be perfect does not help
What I’ve learned (and experienced myself) is that for a lot of people the main reason for these thoughts often is perfectionism. That making mistakes might somehow mean that they are not good enough to talk to other people. And while this trait is very helpful in some parts of life (I prefer surgeons or accountants with such a trait) it is not helpful, when learning to speak a language. What I’ve learned and teach my clients is that this feeling is usually developed through language classes in school where making mistakes meant bad grades and/or failing.
How to ‘rethink’ making mistakes
I am aware that simply saying “Mistakes are only feedback, be thankful for the lesson.” does not solve the underlying thought patterns. Something that might be more helpful is to remind you of the time you learned other complex skills. Like walking. Children are deeply relaxed while taking in the world around them. They watch people walking and they simply want to do the same. They don’t start with “bend the knee, bend the leg at the hip, slowly move your foot forward, prepare for impact of foot on ground, etc.”. They just do it. They watch, they try to copy it, they fail, they try again slightly differently, and they do this until they go from crawling to standing to walking. They even take it to the level of running and dancing! They learn to balance on one foot and some even become amazing athletes. And it all started with watching and copying. One step at a time.
How to start language learning with a fresh perspective
If you feel you ready to tackle language learning again with a fresh perspective, then just do it! Because taking baby steps for a few years is more helpful than feeling sorry for yourself (I tried both. It’s true). Go find someone to talk German with, who is patient with you and go from there. Some people might still feel anxious every time they talk to a person. That is ok. Go find someone to help you feel more at peace with yourself in these situations.
I’m here if you need me
While I specialize in changing the negative thought patterns and finding learning strategies, partners, and partners, there are probably other wonderful people out there as well, that can help you. Should you want to learn more about how I might be able to help, you can choose a time slot for a free orientation call. There we will find out what still holds you back and how to solve it.
About the author
Konrad Schindler is a German native from near Munich, who knows what it is like to learn a new language: “Change Germany to Japan and you have exactly my feelings of living in Japan for a while. All of the people that said, “if you stay there, you will naturally learn the language”, “just find a girlfriend” failed to take into account, that this didn’t work for me. How can I find someone without knowing their language? How can I learn when I barely speak with them? How can I fit Japanese classes in my busy schedule? Why bother, when I have friends I can talk to?” As probably the first coach to date, he combines the dissolution of learning blocks with the teaching of learning and motivational strategies for learning languages. He loves to show people how much easier learning can be with fun and how much they already know. He believes that once someone has fun learning again, there will be so many new opportunities that will improve life!