Since I turned 50 last year, I decided the time had finally come to conquer one of my own language fears: speaking German 😉.
Yes, I have studied German in school, I even am ¼ German… and I know all the grammar rules and I can understand it for 99%. But whenever I tried to speak it, I would start sweating, my tongue would fold in a weird knot and I would end up saying nothing in the end, because I was thinking too much about grammar and I was trying too hard to say everything perfectly.
Sounds familiar to you, ?
Well, I have decided to follow my own advice that I have been giving to my students for the last 27 years: just do it! Nothing can go wrong, you can only improve. And so, last month, I and my husband went for a roundtrip to Germany in our little MGB convertible and I actually spoke German.
In the begining, I was quite intimidated by all the things my husband could say, without having had any German lesson in his life.
But I still ploughed on, and I experienced myself what my students experience when I lure them out of their comfort zone so they can improve their Dutch by making mistakes! You cannot learn without mistakes!
And I did make mistakes, oh boy. I mixed all languages that I know (and I even threw in some words from non-existing languages).
I told a lady that she had a nice little poop instead of puppy...
I asked for the news instead of a dessert…
All a little embarrassing at the time, but I smile when I think back of it now, and I will never forget how to say those things properly. And: those people did not become angry, they were extra friendly and helped me out. The world didn't come to an end! Pfew!
In the meantime, we enjoyed the beauty of Germany with all the good food and the friendly people…One day, my husband and I were invited to spend the evening with the owners of a lovely B&B, and that made me feel quite a bit worried in the beginning, but after drinking some of their delicious home-made ginger beer, I rambled on in German for about 2 hrs. After a while, I got very tired of speaking German (or just had too many beers, who knows 😉), and I finally asked if we could continue in English.
(We have been in so many beautiful B&B’s, if you want to see our absolute favorites, have a look here)
After 10 days, I thought in German and I couldn’t even speak Dutch or English anymore. I even got a compliment about my nice German speaking skills, just out of the blue!
During our tour and our daily walks, I had lots of time to think about work and my private life. And I realized that I would have liked to have a native German “guide” on our walks, to ask all kind of things about what we saw, and to chat some more in German. In my lessons, we usually do walk a lot as well. In fact, that used to be the core of my lessons, but, due to my broken ankle, it has been difficult to keep that up for the last few months.
Plus, after losing a very dear friend and gaining some pounds (due to that broken ankle, of course… yeah, right), I really felt the need to get back in mental & physical shape by spending less time on the computer, and even more time walking in nature than during a Dutch immersion week.
This resulted in the idea of a “Dutch Digital Detox Day”.
What if you could hire me & my dog Mister (& perhaps some Dutch speaking friends and/or horse Morpheus too) as guides for 1 or 2 persons for a whole day? We would go walking and talking in Dutch and I’ll show you my favorite places to go! Just like I myself would have loved if someone would have done this for me in Germany...
Here you can find the information on how to book one of those days.
And for those for whom it is not possible to join me on one of these days: you can mail me your 10 most useful sentences (In Dutch (just try!), German or English, to email@example.com, before August 1st) and I will translate/check them for you, free of charge. Of course, there are many books and sites with useful sentences, but what is useful for me, like: “Do you have anything without gluten?”, is probably not very useful for you. So just take some time to figure out what Dutch sentences you could use. Send them to me, and then: (get a ginger beer), relax, let go of perfection and start using your sentences as much as you can and build on that!
That was it for now, tot ziens!
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