Lessons From Learning German
For the past two years, a big part of my life has been spent learning German. Has it been challenging? Have I missed out on what regular people do on Saturdays? Have I studied so much that I replied my mother once in German by accident?
Yes to all the above! Along the way, I also learned other things and wanted to share them with you.
The lies I told myself were just that. Lies.
I didn’t realise how much of a hold messing up my A levels had on my mind until recently. I had let it define me as unintelligent so much, that despite doing well in LaSalle and the CELTA course at the British Council, I felt I was never good enough for myself.
With that negative mindset, I had put off the idea of learning German for a long time. After all, my Mandarin is so atrocious, I can’t manage more than order food at hawker centres. It stopped me from seeing the obvious, that German is a totally different language, that just because I suck at Mandarin, it didn’t mean that I’m bad at all languages.
As I practiced to stop discrediting the facts in front of me, my confidence grew. I have my off days for sure, but the best way forward is to just keep practicing. I’m happy to share that I finished near the top of my class for the last term this year =)
Mistakes are part of the growth.
Many times in class, we’re tasked to role-play with our classmates using a set of phrases we learnt earlier. Without realising it, I would try too hard to nail a phrase perfectly on the first try. My classmates would tell me that I have to relax, because it stresses them out practicing with me!
I guess this old habit of being highly critical of myself (read: self sabotage) doesn’t go away so easily. Instead, I need to remember to replace it with more positive thoughts, that the classroom is not a performance space but a safe place to make mistakes and grow from them.
It wasn’t easy to internalise the idea that mistakes and failure are normal, that they are merely markers along the path to becoming good at something. After all, if something was so easy that you never made a mistake, you’re not growing, you’re regressing.
You’re never too old to learn something new.
I don’t know if it’s just a Singapore thing, but living here often feels like you can see how your life will end up very quickly. Maybe it’s how things are structured? Perhaps that’s why I fell into a mindset that by a certain age, there’s no time to learn something new and I would just have to work hard till I couldn’t anymore.
Entering the classroom the first time, I expected to be surrounded by eager 18 year olds, fresh from attaining their A levels. What I saw was the total opposite: Majority of the people were around my age. Many of them wanted to pick up the language because they knew it would open the door to work opportunities beyond Singapore. Others, for love. I was glad to be part of a community of committed learners and that made me look forward to the weekly lessons. Another lie thankfully debunked, all because I decided to move against that fear!
The process of learning achieves balance.
Upon graduation, most of us dive straight into “adulting” and slog away at our careers until suddenly, we look up and realise that our lives have passed us by. Without the effort to constantly have input in our lives, there would be a limit to how much we can give to our work and the people who matter to us.
Just by taking one day a week to learn something new, I could feel myself becoming more balanced. More than that, the process allowed me to see, that there was more than one dimension to myself, more than just the songwriter.
I know that it will be a few more years before I become fully proficient in German but I know that as long as I keep working at it, I will get there someday. I’m grateful to the many teachers at Goethe, friends in Germany and of course my wonderful girlfriend Laura for their help =)
I encourage you to do the same and learn something new! If you have questions about getting started, feel free to get in touch with me. Tschüss und bis bald wieder!