Did I know German?
Not before the moment I started teaching German, no. Not actively anyway.
I had had a summer fling with a German girl in 2005. We did speak German some of the time. She said she wished her Dutch was as good as my German.
As a child I had watched the series ‘Ein Fall für zwei.’ With subtitles, but some of it must have stuck.
I remember speaking some German to German tourists on the beach in Belgium when I was a kid.
We had German in highschool. First only one hour a week. I remember not liking it for some reason. I didn’t like anything that year, except video games.
Later we had three hours of German per week.
One year we had a teacher who really tried to teach us some German. Some of it certainly stuck.
Most of our German classes later were more like German history classes, but in Dutch. We did hear some German. I remember we had a lot of hearing comprehension tests.
About 15 years after highschool I – for reasons I don’t really know – started reading books in German. Given my obsession it started with a German book on the American Civil War.
Maybe I realized I could read it easily and I got a taste for more.
I started bingewatching German documentaries. Eight hours in one day was no exception. I understood everything.
When I was asked to teach German I felt my German wasn’t good enough, but something in my personality can be labelled as ‘do first, learn later’, so I accepted.
The students were beginners so there was not much of a problem, but I didn’t feel the ease as when I teach English.
Then I accepted to teach a large group.
I forgot to ask which level they had.
They were not beginners.
Several of them had grown up with German speaking grandparents.
I intensified my study of German.
I got the priceless opportunity to talk to a lovely German lady every week. The deal was that she didn’t want to be paid for lessons, but that I could buy her lunch. I took her to the best restaurants I could find in Bratislava, and she totally deserved it and more.
Gradually my German got better.
It still needs a lot of work. I want to be able to walk into a classroom entirely unprepared and teach a lesson in German with no sweat.
The truth is that if I had waited with teaching German until the moment I would be considered perfect at German…. I would never have taught a single class.
If you’re going to wait to be perfect at something before you do it, you’re not going to do much, except study eternally.
I love this quote:
‘You don’t need to see the whole staircase to take the first step.’
I can’t tell you how much faster I have learned by doing rather than by passively studying at home.
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