Ich lerne immer noch Deutsch.
For those who don’t speak German, that means “I am still learning German.”
I started taking classes in German when I was in middle school, and lately I’ve been trying to refresh my memory with online lessons. Nothing specific motivated me to pick it up again, but I’ve enjoyed attempting to sharpen the skill.
In my hometown school district when I was growing up, you had the option to start taking foreign language classes in middle school. Spanish or German. I chose German in part because I have German ancestry on both sides of my family, and also because I have a tendency to like to go against the trend. Because most of my classmates signed up for Spanish, I decided to be different and take German.
I actually got to know the woman who is now my best friend through our eighth-grade German class. I continued taking classes all through high school and was involved in my school’s German club for all four years. I participated in statewide modern languages competitions, and a friend and I were co-presidents of the club our senior year.
We went on a school-sponsored trip to Germany, and it was an incredible experience to see the history, from castles to communist housing in East Berlin.
I continued taking classes all through college. I took five courses over my four years.
You would think all of this time studying the language would have made me near fluent, but I never felt I was. I reached the point where I could write two-page essays in German for assignments, but I used so much assistance and made so many mistakes that I still felt I had a long way to go.
I loved learning another language, but when it came to actually using it, I got nervous. Speaking more than one language is no small feat, and it takes lots of practice, but when I had opportunities to practice, I didn’t take them. I think the perfectionist in me was too afraid to make a mistake.
Once I graduated from college, even those opportunities fell away. A few years ago, I realized how much I missed learning German and decided to brush up using the website Duolingo. I went through its lessons, but when I finished them I dropped off again.
I logged in again a few weeks ago and have found that I still enjoy trying to translate back and forth. It becomes a little bit of a word puzzle, trying to get all the words in their correct forms in the correct order.
I’m a little rusty, but I’ve been able to shake some of that off with practice over the last couple weeks. I don’t think I’ll ever become fluent in German at this point, but I’ve found it really rewarding to try to learn at least some.
I’ve even considered dipping my toe into learning a little bit in a few other languages. Maybe soon I’ll be writing about my first steps into Italian.