Language learning is not easy, we all know that. So it helps to step back and remember the little moments that make it all worthwhile.
Well, this year it’s actually unseasonably warm in Berlin. Not a snowflake in sight. I can’t decide if that’s better or worse than a white winter – on the one hand, it’s not cold enough to be uncomfortable. But on the other hand…snow! Snow is the best. Perhaps that’s is easy for me to say; I grew up in the desert. My winters were cold but very dry. When I first moved to Berlin I was enchanted by the thick white snowfall that blanketed the city, and it made the dark, frigid leadup of October and November all the more tolerable. Every now and again, as you’re slogging through the cold and grey, it helps to remind yourself of the moments that make it all worth it.
Language learning is not easy. If it were, we’d all be polyglots. It takes a lot of time-consuming hard work, dedication and self-motivation, and like anything that takes work, there are times when you wonder why you bother at all. There are ample opportunities for public embarrassment. You can study and train for years and years and still make mistakes a four-year-old would laugh at. And a lot of the work can be pretty boring.
In those times of frustration, angst and lots of sighing, it’s always good to take a deep breath and a step back and think of the little things that make language learning so rewarding. Like that first time you spoke to someone in a foreign language and they responded to you casually, like you’re just another normal person, not some brain-damaged simpleton. Or the time you were mistaken for a local by a local and gave them directions to where they were going. Or the old lady that complimented you in the supermarket, or the book you read from start to finish and in the middle you forgot you were even reading in another language. Or the friends from home that are so impressed just by listening to you order the daily special on the menu. Or realizing you get more from the radio news in a foreign language than the one in your native language. Or that electrifying feeling you get when you learn a new word, try it out in casual conversation as though it’s a word you’ve always known, and no one even notices.
The fact that language learning is so difficult makes these little moments all the more satisfying.
What are yours?