Why, hello there. Didn’t think you’d see me ’round these parts again, did you? It has been a long time. And I’ve played out this reunion in my head many times. Has there been too much space and distance? Well, let’s just let it be awkward for a minute and then be done with that.
Over now? Good, moving on!
In case you’re new here, nearly four months ago I excused myself and backed away from this blog, forcing myself to turn and take one shaky step in the direction of serious language learning.
Fighting the this is never going to work fears and I’d rather be blogging thoughts, it took all I had in me to walk in the door of the language school near my boys’ kindergarten and ask what they had available.
You see, in our little city, the options for learning a language are as follows: (1) take an intensive course at a language school which means 5 days a week, four hours a day, (2) take a course at the community college for two days a week, two hours a day, or (3) find a private German teacher and pay through the nose.
That’s it. Take your pick.
What do you think I chose? What would you choose?
Like many bloggers, I’m an introvert. I despise group work and small talk. Busy work for the benefit of the whole class kills my desire to learn. Plus, I’m a mama, and I know from my previous experience taking an intensive course that there is just NO WAY I can manage being gone all morning, every day of the week, plus do homework at night for more than one week at a time.
The second option is just too slow. Plus, I honestly had no clue what level I was or which class to take.
Believe it or not, I swallowed my thrifty ways and tossed an incredible amount of cash at a private teacher.
But, old habits die hard, and I could not pass up an offer I found for two weeks of nearly free German classes. The catch? It was every night from 630-830pm, the absolute worst time of the day to leave my husband to solo parent. I love that man.
Over the course of nearly sixteen weeks, I took over forty hours of private German classes as well as eighteen hours of group classes. In between that, I struggled to finish my homework with one hand while warding off the laundry, dirt, and stench beasts with the other. We may or may not have had pizza and chicken nugget dinners every other night..
Learning a new language as an adult is incredibly humbling.
I watch my sons chatter away auf Deutsch, and I can’t help but be a tiny bit envious. It’s true that they essentially are in their own intensive course while at kindergarten four hours a day, five days a week. But, they also have no inhibitions. They’re not self-conscious at all when it comes to making mistakes or speaking with an accent. Ah, to be six again..
My German classes literally brought me to tears on several occasions because I felt so unbelievably stupid. Why is this so hard?! I would ask myself. My brain is just not wired to learn foreign languages.
Undeterred by the snotty nose and runny mascara, I kept the end goal in sight: I am doing this for my sons, to help them keep up the gift of being bilingual as well as for own enrichment and mental health (ha). So, here I am, still plowing through, one umlaut at a time.
Despite the difficulty, I’m happy to say that the payoff has been huge.
Before these classes, I would shrink away from any opportunity to even attempt speaking German when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. I started almost every encounter with, “Do you speak English?” Now, I do my best to tuck that question away and only pull it out for serious situations like doctor visits and the like.
Just yesterday, I met with another mom from my church that I barely knew. I was aware that she spoke English, but I made myself start things off with, “Wie geht’s?” (how are you?). I occasionally had to explain a few things in English, but I steered the conversation back to German after each detour. Thirty minutes of this kind of mental workout left me exhausted and literally sweating.
Oh the things I never thought I’d do!
Here are a handful of other examples that just a few short months ago would’ve been impossible..
- Argue with a police officer about why I was breaking the rules (if you must know, I was riding my bike on the sidewalk with my kids at a dangerous intersection).
- Select, order, and pay for festival tickets over the phone (no hand gestures!).
- Read an entire parent letter from the kindergarten without the assistance of my pal Google translate… and understand what I read.
- Sign up for a tandem partnership with a total stranger.
- Consider asking all my German friends to only speak German with me (okay, I’m still on the fence about this one..).
Sounds amazing and like I’m doing swimmingly, right? Well, don’t believe everything you read.
Some days, the words won’t come. Other days, I won’t let them because I just don’t feel like it.
And, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there’s a downside. There’s always a downside, isn’t there?
The truth is, I now feel like I can’t speak any language well. I often trip over words in my native language, often forgetting what common items are called in English (!). I end up stuttering and then scrunching my face up in frustration because I just can’t manage to squeeze the right words (in the correct language) out of my brain.
I mean, I love bargains and all but the whole “buy one foreign language, get a free speech impediment” thing wasn’t exactly what I had in mind..
And when I’ve had a conversation with my tandem partner, for instance, I can’t seem to turn the German off and end up jabbering away in German to my husband who would rather just understand what his wife is saying, thankyouverymuch. The Deutsch monster just won’t shut up once it has been awakened.
So, what now?
Well, I simply keep on keepin’ on. At this time, I am done actively taking classes, at least the expensive private kind. I feel like my German is at a level now that I might be able to handle a regular group class (though my introverted, anti-group-work self will surely protest this possibility).
And, in between all of that, I’m going to try to hang out here at Thrifty Travel Mama more regularly. But, don’t worry, I won’t start blogging in German any time soon.
Though I have missed blogging at TTM, I’ll admit it’s been a good thing for me to have a break, to refocus and, honestly, to decide whether I would like to continue writing. I’ve come to the conclusion that I do really enjoy blogging, because I often feel I have something to say either with the intention of helping others or simply throwing my two cents at the blogosphere.
So, pull up a chair, add me back to your Blog Lovin’, feedly, or subscribe to posts by email and let’s do this Thrifty Travel Mama thing again!
I often think to learn a second language you need as many of these things as possible – time, money, youth, and a live-in dictionary/language tutor. What do you think?