lessons from my first semester in German

I’m really happy to be learning another language and actually making progress in it for the first time in my life. I took Latin in high school, but I never had practice speaking it and I never practiced it outside of class, so I’ve retained next to none of it.

This semester in Beginning German, I’ve learned a lot of German, but I’ve also learned some other important lessons.

1. Don’t be afraid of sounding stupid when you speak up in class – you definitely will. But it’s okay. It’s okay to sound stupid. Everyone else is too preoccupied with not sounding stupid to notice that you sound stupid. And if you don’t risk sounding stupid a few times, you won’t learn what you’re doing wrong. When I study abroad, I’m going to be grateful that I’ve had experience in sounding stupid in class.

2. Real improvement requires a little bit of time every day. Consistent daily effort fosters learning; cramming does not. (It’s kind of impossible to cram for a German exam. I tried it once – or twice – and would not recommend it.)

3. Additionally, it’s not enough simply to do the daily class assignments. I’m realizing that if I really want to learn a language, I’m going to have to spend a lot of additional time working on Duolingo, reading the news online in German, and actually speaking! (Side note: It’s impossible to study a language without picking up on cultural differences. But that’s another post, another time.)

4. I’ve also realized that some people are really talented at picking up languages. If you are not one of those people, it is easy to become jealous and resentful. But it’s more productive to channel that resentment by working even harder than by complaining and attributing your failure to your lack of natural capability.

Beginning German has been a lot of work and a whole lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to being in the Honors section next semester.

But at the same time, I’ve gotten weirdly attached to my class this semester and I’m going to miss it a lot.

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