I arrived in Berlin, terrified of sounding like a toddler and a moron while trying to speak German. So, I just didn’t — I spoke English. After a while in Berlin, I signed up for another language course, again starting at the beginning. This time it was serious: three hours a day, five days a week, for four months.
I was pretty religious with attendance and the course was completely immersive based on necessity, not just as a learning strategy — English was not the lingua franca of this school. I had classmates who were from Iran, Yemen, Turkey, China, Italy, Spain, Russia, and Brazil.
Again, my story was a sob story. The moment I left class, I didn’t prioritize the hours of homework, the mandated flash cards, the rote memorization of verb conjugations and noun gender — I had a business to run and I had a social life — with Berliners who were happy to practice their flawless English.
Eventually, I realized I had been fetishing German learning more than I have been trying to learn German. After three years of German language grazing, I have half-a-dozen German-English dictionaries, another four packs of German vocabulary flash cards, and an assortment of German workbooks, verb books, grammar books and the whole lot. It was almost like I got confused — I was collecting German instead of learning German — like buying classical CDs instead of learning how to play the viola.
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