I think it comes to a point in every English speaking person living in Berlin’s life that they realise “Fuck me, I really need to learn German.” For some this will happen immediately, because they have time can take part in months worth of intensive German classes and generally wrap their brain around the complexities that are the German language. For others (read: me) it takes 3.5 years, because working a full time job that only requires English in a city where people either want to:
a. Practice their English
b. Have very good English, so why waste time bumbling through in German
…Leaves you very little opportunity to get your head around it all.
We have made the 3.5 mark and I’m, just quietly, being a little reckless. At the end of this week I’m packing up most of my winter clothes and jumping on the fastest train I could find to a city called Haan. This is not airport Hahn, but Haan (two a’s) 17 kilometers from Düsseldorf, 40 kilometers from Cologne. In Haan, I will live with a parent-type couple, work remotely and only speak German. It’s like student exchange, for grown ups.
Largely I’m terrified because this sort of intensive learning requires discipline, which I don’t have. If I tell myself “don’t message that guy” I message that guy. If I tell myself “Say no to chocolate” I’m eating the chocolate. f I tell myself “go for at least 3 runs a week” I don’t go for one run in an entire month. If I’m poor and all like “girlfriend, no shopping for you” I’m shopping my face off. I’m a product of our 2015 more’ish, now-now-now generation whereby when it’s uncomfortable I excuse myself.
You see, the difference between doing an exchange at 15 and at 31 (! this is the first time I’ve referred to myself as 31 since my birthday, also terrifying) is that when you are 15, you don’t have a say (or anything to say, really). You get up, go to school, come home, eat what you are told and go to bed. At 31 my life is PACKED; I have a dinner or drink situation every night this week, last weekend I was touristing the shit out of Antwerp, a month before that driving around Sicily – you are your own human. So the terrifying bit is, how do you go from total freedom to a life that probably should be disciplined and school like… I’m going to fuck it up.
For this sort of stuff to actually work you have to:
- only speak German.
- only listen to German.
- only watch German.
- only be German.
That’s a lot of German for someone who can only really order food with confidence, and sloppily bumble through a phone call with o2. It’s also a lot of German in an Internet world. When I was 15 and did exchange the internet was as useful as tits on a bull. There was no Facebook, no one was using email, pen and paper and postcards still made sense, you couldn’t stream on Netflix or access English with a click of button. All of which made immersion easy, by default.
During the next 6 weeks, things will still function as usual here but in an attempt to fully get myself involved in the German language I have also made another blog, Luzi Gegen Haan (a total work in progress), which I will be updating (in German) with all my thoughts and feelings about Germans, Germany, the West, Haan and anything I have the vocab to cover.