Learning German vs. The reality of having to speak in person

What I learned about myself and the progress that I’ve made in speaking, reading, and writing in German will keep amazing me. As soon as the group made it to Germany I had the instant urge to start speaking in German to see what I do know and what not. At first, it was a very clumsy process. When speaking for the first time to a native German speaker I stumbled through sentences because speaking in real life is different from filling out answer sheets of what the correct words were. It was extremely embarrassing and I would eventually ask the person if they could switch back to English for me. I felt defeated, to say the least, at that moment I couldn’t speak German at all and was extremely flustered in front of this random person. I thought to myself that after three years I learned nothing and my education, testing, and pride of trying another language had gone down the drain. Even though it was an embarrassing experience I wanted to try again and wasn’t going to give up so easily. I knew in my head that I knew German and that I enjoy learning the language and the culture, so I tried again. I kept trying and trying until I could rehearse basic sentences or responses out and I focused on my accent and honing that into a somewhat understandable accent. As I kept trying, I began to see improvements in how people talked to me and their body language. The people’s faces began to twist from confused and bewildered to neutral and content. As I began to become more comfortable speaking German, I also started speaking German when store clerks insisted on answering in English. To me, this is the funniest experience I encountered. I refused to speak in English, and the store clerks refused to speak in German, so we would have a short dialogue in different languages but still understand each other. As I became comfortable speaking the language with others I noticed what I didn’t really know about. When I get back home, I’ll take a personal study on medicine and how to read the prescription and what it’s saying. Overall, I’m happy with my experience speaking German in Germany and now I know what I should study to further my knowledge of the German language and culture.


By Cleo Yarber

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