If I won money for each time I heard the sentence ” you need to talk to learn it” since I arrived in Germany, I would be rich!!
The first problem? It is true!!!! You can spend hours reading a book or doing all the grammar exercises you can digest (and trust me, learning German is a real digesting process!) or like me having studied it for 10 years at school, if you don´t actually practice speaking out loud, your progress is going to be very, very, very slow !
The second problem? As surprising as it is, sooooo many people here in Germany speak English. So at the minute they hear a slight accent or that you can´t find your German words, they switch to English, too happy for them to actually practice with someone.
So the third problem? Well, YOU didn´t practice your brand new, so well studied, hard to swallow, 25-letters-long new words and so, you are back to square one …
When we moved to England, I didn´t speak a word at all. (I learnt for a few years at school but hated it so as soon as my “baccalaureat” was done and dusted, I forgot everything !)
But I realised quickly that I didn´t have a choice to speak out loud if I wanted to belong.
Here, in Germany, it is another story!! Most of the radios diffuse English songs, some even do their programs half German / half English! Where I live, it is very international and many people speak 3 or 4 different languages. Very often, our common language is English.
In UK, very few people speak another language unless you are in really big cities, the radios/TV are in English, the songs are in English. Everything!! So you eat English all day long! After a few very painful/nobody-understand-you months, you can easily find your way around.
But the worst of all is: Netflix and other media platforms!! (didn´t have this 10 years ago in England). Why watching a movie where you will not understand a thing when you can binge on your favourite series in any language you mastered !
So you really have to practise (read, watching TV, listening to the news), not be scared to make mistakes when you speak, find the courage to say ” please let me try!” even if you can´t have a good conversation.
I tried …. REALLY! but I also realised that learning a language without an aim/purpose in mind (exams, job, …) makes it really hard to stay motivated. Since I know we are going to be on the move again in a bit over 6 months’ time and that I may never have to speak German again, well, let say, my German took some Holidays !!!!
It has been 2 months now (yep, that is some long holidays!!!) since I passed my “Prüfung” and spoke German with anybody. The motivation to push myself is really gone. Despite that, I am glad I took the time to re-learn it because if I didn´t progress as much as I wanted and I may never use it in my career, I met awesome people in my classes and didn´t feel so alone during that time and that, for an expat, it is essential !
I will add this video from Nathanaël Rochat (for anybody who understands French) who will teach you German in 4 minutes ! 😂
Sincerely, Lyvy 🙂