Learning a new language is never easy. I moved to Germany at the age of 13. Not only had I to adopt to the culture and environment, but I also had to learn the language. Coming from a multilingual country, Kenya, where various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their communities with a total of 42 languages, it wasn’t a new exposure to a language with new sounds, rhythms, and tones.
Still, the German language did sound very strange to me, but I admired how fluent most foreigners I had a pleasure of meeting spoke, and I looked forward to someday be one of them. Sometimes I worried whether my brain would be capable of absorbing especially the pronunciations of words. I was just like a toddler learning to produce a language by hearing, writing and parroting sounds.
At home, I started simple with the basics, 30mins to an hour every day using books and audio resources and I was quickly able to advance. It is just amazing how the brain is capable of feats of memory. It is a matter of frequent repetition and determination. I believe everyone can do it because we have already done it with one language! Yet, it does take a little bit of time.
Two weeks after my arrival, the schools re-opened, and I joined my first school in Germany. I never for one minute imagined that moving to a school would be so frightening. To those of you that have switched schools or jobs more than once, I really do salute you because that week I way out of my comfort zone. In addition to the usual “will I remember all that I have learned for the past week?” worries that I got meant that not only was I nervous but also was I scared. I thought I would overcome most of my concerns by finding out “stuff”, by getting to know all those new students, teachers, policies and procedures – you know, all the things that we take for granted when we settle into our familiar school routines.
The whole week was intense, with so much information thrown at me. But the best part is in my class I wasn’t the only one who was being exposed to the language for the first time. The class was a mix of students from different countries. It was fun, the whole class was relating pretty well. I genuinely felt comfortable, with time things started falling into place. I made my first new friends, we mostly communicated in English outside of school and I was exposed to a lot of news things and activities.
The school had established a special simple learning strategy for us to tackle all syllabus subjects. I got exposed to the intense parts, I encountered new vocabularies daily, and for each grammar rule, there was a dialectic exception or irregular verb.
It took me a year to really learn the native tongue to an educated level, I could understand the news, books, TV shows even fluid conversations. I joined a “normal” class in the 8th grade. My performance was excellent, and I went on till I graduated the business/commercial school.
Having had a good contact with the language and maintaining motivation, I gradually build my level of exposure. In addition, a good method was also incredibly important because it helped me better interact and learn the material that i found and helped me maintain motivation by making the process as efficient as possible. Until I achieved the native-like fluency, there was be some level of ambiguity.
From my experience, Learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t learn in a few days, months or even years. If you wear yourself out in the beginning, it becomes a passing whim rather than part of a daily routine. Don’t have unreasonable expectations, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment. The good news is you capable of doing it, set goals that are challenging but realistic and reassess often.
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Until next time, stay healthy.