You have been learning German, on your own or with an instructor or class. Now you want to put what you have learned to the test and try speaking German in Germany (or Austria, or Switzerland). Ready or not, you had better be ready! I wanted to share a few of the things that I learned on my most recent trip to Germany. Here are five lessons that I learned from trying to speak German in Germany.
- Have Courage
- Look and Listen
- Find Another Way to Say It
- Wie bitte?
- Speak German.
First things first: have courage! As Nike’s motto says: just do it. You have gotten this far so try not to be shy. Find the courage to try and speak German. I can speak from personal experience when I say that sometimes just finding courage to speak German is the hardest part. But the best way to get over your fear is to bite the bullet and go for it.
Sometimes it is the most simple of tasks that you may not have thought about. For example, how do you order an ice cream cone? If you are not sure of how to do something — order food, ask a question, or complete a task — watch how locals do it and listen to what they say. A difference in language is not the only thing you may have to contend with. There are also plenty of cultural differences, some you may never have even thought of! Observe what other people are doing and saying. You will learn a lot that way.
Cat got your tongue? I promise you that you will forget a word or how to say something. Likely it will be something simple that you knew until you had to use it. That is just the way it goes sometimes. But never fear! Do not worry. Simply find a different way to say it with other words. Sure, it may not be “the” way to say what you were intending but instead, focus on getting your idea across and likely the person you are trying to communicate with will understand.
While sometimes you can use context and predict what someone is saying to you, that may not always be the case. For example, are you ready if someone approaches you at a train station and asks a question? Do not be afraid to ask them to repeat. A simple “wie bitte?” (the English equivalent of “pardon me?”) will get them to repeat what they said and give you some extra time to process. Just having an extra moment to think can sometimes make all the difference.
The more you practice speaking German the easier it gets. There is no way around it, it is simply trial by fire. Simply put, don’t give up. For example, a waiter in a restaurant may try to be accommodating and speak English (or your native language) with you. Try to keep going in German anyway. Keep making the effort because it is the only way you will improve your German language skills. Each conversation, each attempt will teach you something, make you more comfortable and get you closer to whatever your language goals are.
Do you have any tips for speaking German? What have you learned? Be sure to share in the comments below.