Monday, 20 December 2010

I get knocked down, but I get up again...

Most of the time I am excited and motivated about moving to Germany, but every so often I am reminded about what an absolutely mammoth life changing decision I have made.  Yesterday for example we had dinner with Uwe's family, seven of us in total, the food was lovely and I wish i could comment the same about the company. Now don't get me wrong I didn't hate the company, far from it, the lack of commenting is because I didn't understand the company.

I had really hoped that after a year of learning German that my understanding would be better and I would have the confidence to open my mouth and let some words of my own come out. Unfortunately none of the conversations over the dinner table involved booking hotel rooms or purchasing a train ticket, well unfortunate from my grasp of the language side of things anyway.  I could understand the odd word here and there, but mostly I was blankly smiling at people wishing that Star Trek universal translator thingies had been invented.

I think what disappointed me most was that even the few questions aimed at me sparked an internal panic, Uwe's half sister asked me when I flew over to which I turned immediately to Uwe and said "ummmmm Mitwoch?" I understood the next question too about the weather and I really should have been able to answer it had I tried but I didn't. Instead I ummed again at Uwe and he took over answering for me, which I was mighty relieved at.

I was pretty depressed by the whole thing, and I really don't know what is stopping me. Yes part of it is this panic, but I think part of it is because I don't want the attention on me and on my inability to speak their language.  Everything will take 10 times as long because i can't get my point across.  I totally understand why babies scream to get their point across, I felt like crying the entire time :(

I was totally exhausted after the experience but it isn't going to stop me, it just reminded me that things are a lot harder than I sometimes remember but I will get there in the end.  Although it didn't seem like it I am pretty sure I understood far more than I did a year ago, it's just that I still don't understand enough to be useful yet.


  1. Don't worry! Seriously, once you've been living here for a few weeks you'll get into the swing of it. I think it's harder to start off knowing some of the language because you spend far more time worrying about whether what you are trying to say is correct. I know that is the stage that I am at. When I came over I spoke hardly any German and the few words I did know I just USED! No matter how, no matter what the gender, no matter what the tense. I just had to get on with it as (ha, ha) I was the better German speaker!

    But you'll get there and it's easier when you hear other people using phrases you know, and even hearing the things that people in the street say all the time, it starts to click into place. Your confidence will come in no time at all. Look at me, honestly my German is terrible, I start off every conversation with "Es tut mir leid, ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch, ABER..." and then I launch into the world's most grammatically incorrect German you could imagine. Why just today I murdered their language buying a new washing machine, and managed to wrestle my way through enough words to get it delivered tomorrow, plumbed in, and the old one taken away. Stevie really wanted to know what the difference was between one at Euro 500 & one at Euro 350 and I couldn't remember the word for 'difference' so just rattled on about things being 'gleich' and the 'gegenteil' of gleich until the guy understood. Honestly, it ain't pretty hearing me speak!

    But I know I'm far better than what I was and in another 3 months I'll hopefully be twice as good. I'm 100% positive that it'll all just click into place within a few weeks for you, and believe me when you have your first really successful conversation with someone who speaks no English about something really dull like ordering chairs or wanting to know why your PIN isn't working for the tv, it feels like such an achievement.

    (and Happy Christmas, and sorry for such a big rambling comment)

  2. I totally sympathize with you and group conversations are the hardest and it is exhausting. We're spending Christmas with J.P.s parents who don't speak English and while I' looking forward to it, I know it will be exhausting to speak in German the whole time (although good practice). I also find I have good and bad days. Yesterday was a good day, I understand 80% of the weather report and had a conversation in German with a German friend, but the day before I felt like an idiot and couldn't even have a basic conversation. It's nice to know that someone else is going through the same thing. Happy Holidays!

  3. Thanks so much to both of you, definitely cheered me up. Fiona I am memorising that conversation starter!

    We had dinner at his parents again last night and I was a lot more relaxed (read drunk) and it certainly seemed to help me a. understand more and b. not care so much :D

    I totally agree it is nice to know that others are going through the same thing and we'll all get there.

    Hope you both have a very Happy Christmas, and thanks for being my inspiration!!

  4. YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT ALONE!! :) It's taken me 10 months of actually living in Germany and doing 12 hours of lessons a week to just about get up the confidence to speak to people. Being in class is so vastly different to being out in the open with real live Germans! Somehow just before Christmas it seemed to click for me and I no longer want to curl up and die when someone looks like they're going to try and talk to me. (In fact, I've sort of gone very much the other way and am quite happy to make an idiot out of myself - I think I'm turning into my mother.)

    Of course I have good attempts at conversing and bad ones (and really, really bad days!!) but I'm much less eternally mortified about the bad ones now. It can be a really painful process but you've clearly been working really, really hard and I can promise you that every time you make the smallest step forward you will be so proud of yourself that the pain will have been worth it! Keep going!!

    Sorry for my ramble too :)

  5. Haha I do the old pretend I haven't noticed them routine when it seems like someone might be about to address me. Your mother sounds like my mother and I have already realised I'll be turning into her one day, so it looks like it might even have upsides to it :D

  6. Haha, I'm still going through the same thing *despite* having lived here for a year and being able to converse relatively well. Now, I don't necessarily freeze over the same things as in the beginning, but I freeze about deeper conversations. Ugh. I would just really love to be in Matrix where you can just get programmed to speak the language. =/ It is nice to share the misery, though! And I know I got through that stage, so this too shall pass... Good luck!

  7. Thanks for the comment Joanna. I keep wishing I might miraculously wake up tomorrow and be able to speak German fluently... that and have the body of my dreams :p

    It really is comforting to know I am not alone in my insecurities and that the phase passes, will just sit it out tightly and (im)patiently I guess :)