Tuesday, November 19, 2013

language update: stalling

so I have a confession to make.

In the past couple weeks, I haven't really been trying.

But wait, this story has more to it...
You see, I've always been fairly good at languages. They've never been a struggle for me to learn, at least not to the point that I know they are for some people. In general, I can listen and mimic the sounds around me without too much effort, and the grammatical structure of the language makes intuitive sense to me. Something about languages seems to "click" in my head, faster than it does for science or math or computers or history or any other sort of subject.

This does not mean that I am perfect-- trust me, I have TONS to learn and my German is still pretty bad-- but it does mean that in general, both because I work hard and because I genuinely like languages, the learning curve is not quite as steep for me as it could be.
So in the first 6 weeks or so, I was at the "conversational exchange student" level. This means different things to different people, but what I mean by it is that I could say normal everyday things regularly and carry on everyday conversations. By the end of my two-month, I could figure out what the teachers were telling me and what to do. (I was still a lot slower than the rest of my class, but I could do the work and take the tests and everything. I've been taking tests with my class since day 2, so...) I could also ask for help, get directions from someone, and in general function as a normal person.
This doesn't mean that my German is native-level fluent. My grammar is pretty horrible, because I can never remember the articles to anything or the preterit form of verbs. But in general I had a non-distinguishable accent and I could communicate almost everything I wanted to say.
That's when the learning speed started to slow down. For the first 6 weeks, I felt like I was getting better every day, that I was learning more and becoming better at expressing myself in tangible ways. But for some reason, once I hit the two month mark, my German just sort of appeared to stay the same.
I'm not exactly sure why this was. My guess, though, is that after reaching the point where I could express myself, I stopped trying so hard. People can understand me, I can communicate, and in general my teachers are impressed that I've learned so much German in such a short time. My language level is almost the same as some of the Januaries in my area. Why would I need to learn anything more?
I did try to learn Swiss German in the meantime, and that helped a lot. For the past month or so, I've been asking my host family to speak Swiss German with me. I can understand almost everything now, and speak a little. But... and this is a big But... my German, both Swiss German and High German, is far from perfect.
So what I did then?
Well. I'm not particularly proud of it. But for the next two weeks I started to have an irrational fear of losing my English. I holed up in my room and read English online books, checked Facebook statuses. I hung out more with the other exchange students, and we speak English together because not all of us are comfortable with speaking German. English is easier. I stopped studying German outside of school and homework.
Granted, I'm still studying German automatically every time I turn on the television or read the newspaper or do my homework here. It's something I have to do, because I don't ask my family or classmates to speak English. 
But I wasn't studying grammar, or vocabulary, or sentence structure. It wasn't fun and interesting to do anymore, simply because I could already function in my host language. 
And so I fell into a sort of language slump. 
Please don't think that I'm giving up on my exchange... I love Switzerland just as much as ever, and I'm making new efforts to learn the language... but I think it's important for me to talk about mistakes on this blog too, because goodness knows they're a huge part of exchange.
and that is all for now, folks.
byyeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! :)

(p.s. I think you should know that I am now going through my language books and studying German with all I've got. And I'm learning grammar. So be proud of me. thatsallbye.)

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