If you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend a language exchange event or meet up, you might find yourself spending little or no time talking to native speakers. This can feel like a bit of a shame, but it’s an experience shared by anyone in a language course, when the teacher is the only native speaker in the room. What can you gain from practising with other learners?
Teaching is a great way to learn. If you discover gaps between your knowledge and theirs, explaining a small grammar point or new piece of vocabulary helps cement your own knowledge.
Listening will often be easier by virtue of them speaking more slowly… and if they sound more British than Valencian you might be able to follow them better (even if you’re not honing your accent).
Sympathy is a good thing to find with a fellow learner – with Spanish, I think people have trouble with the speed, and almost everyone rolls their eyes at German grammar. (See also the perfect German word for sympathy: Mitleid, literally with-suffering).
Tips and Resources! Everyone can suggest a film, app, podcast, musician or travel destination to help your language journey and cultural experience.
I just returned from one of these experiences, where I ended up chatting in Spanish with a Danish person (like you do), and came back thinking about the benefits of non-fluent chat. You can still make the most of it!
English can be found everywhere in modern German. It varies depending on location, environment and person, but you regularly hear things like “sorry”, “happy”, and “das Meeting”. This is perfect, right – the more English that gets absorbed into German, the less vocabulary you need to be understood.
The catch, though, to this linguistic invasion, is the homegrown Denglisch which has to be reinterpreted. Here’s some more obscure examples…
Homestory I could not work this one out from context. A Homestory is when a tabloid newspaper pays to have an exclusive photo session and home-visit with a celebrity and their family. They tell their story… from home. I guess it works?
Sprayer If you want the English interpretation of this slang word, urban dictionary has some graphic examples. For some Germans, it refers to graffiti artists.
Youngtimer I should have better things to do than to let this word infuriate me, but it’s such a bad name in such an elaborate way. Youngtimer is actually a descendent of the famous misappropriation Oldtimer. Oldtimer has long meant a vintage car in Germany. Youngtimer means a less-vintage car, i.e. vehicles from the 80s rather than the 40s.
Fake rage aside, it is inevitable that languages evolve over time – who’s to say that it’s only native speakers who are allowed to influence the evolution? English is not a language that needs “protecting”.
I’ll continue to highlight great or baffling Denglisch when I see it!
Language learning can feel full of setbacks if we start with super-high, new-year style goals. In an ideal world, you take up studying, speaking and writing in Spanish, and 18 months later you’ve got a mountain of vocabulary and speaking confidence. Most online resources – including bloggers like me – don’t often acknowledge lost motivation and ‘lost’ skills.
Instead of goals, here’s my language failures and ‘abandoned’ languages:
French || My first – and worst – foreign language! Like most British kids I started French aged 11, and I always liked the language but I really disliked learning it. There were two classes sorted by ability, and it really put a nail in my French ambitions when, in my final year, I was moved from the ‘good’ class to the ‘less good’ class. The mandatory classes ended when I was 14 and I never looked back – until Summer 2017 when I spent a month cramming basic French for a vacation using Memrise… that convinced me French was still tricky but that I could actually enjoy it.
German || My school made us take two languages, which was a nightmare for some of us. I was randomly assigned to take five years of German (other option: Spanish), and I liked it, but by the end I had a B grade and could tell someone I had two sisters and lived in a detached house. Since 2015 I have gone from apps, to evening classes, to intensive courses, to using German at my job. But those feelings of inadequacy are hard to shake – while my understanding is 100%, I often second-guess myself or feel self-conscious when speaking. I know lots of people who are fluent in English but they focus on tiny weaknesses or small errors. It sucks that imperfections and anxieties feel like failures, but it happens to everyone.
Spanish || The second foreign language I can actually speak! I started an evening course a year ago, and I am at the intermediate stage – so still optimistic. Nevertheless, every day I regret all the learning I’m not doing: I started a diary in Spanish – stopped that! I have a lovely tandem partner to learn with – but when did I last see her? Where are the handmade flashcards? Why am I not reading El País every day? Will I ever finish ‘El Ministerio del Tiempo’? When I do pick up my phone to learn, I enjoy it, and that’s the important thing.
Okay here’s one resolution for 2019: there’s limited resources to learn Swedish (because it’s not super useful) but there’s course for German speakers called ‘Sprich mal Schwedish’ and my Noble Goal for the year is to have a crack at it. (I don’t know, I can enjoy the Scandinoir better? I’ll have a leg up if Sweden ever invades?)
My advice: keep your goals flexible, don’t feel guilty about taking a break from a language, and download a dictionary onto your phone!