French the natural way: my big fail!

Coucou les French learners,

I hope you enjoyed the three part series from my previous posts about how to acquire another language:

  1. Trust the process
  2. Relax
  3. Enjoy

Easy to do, right? Well… I have a confession to make: I failed to acquire German!

How I failed with German

How? To be honest, when I moved to Germany, I neither knew anything about the 3 steps above nor did I know about Comprehensible Input.

Although, I was so lucky (Merci Papa et Maman !) to become fluent in Spanish by immersing myself in Zaragoza, Spain for half a year, I hadn’t made the connection yet between input and acquisition! I had been trained as a language teacher to teach the traditional way and so I thought I would do the same to learn (NOT acquire) German!

First, I thought I would prepare myself and review the bit of German I had learned at school for two years. My experience at school was very negative because I lived in the Alsace region, next to Germany and most of my friends understood alsacien, which is a dialect very similar to German. Whilst I was struggling to understand the teacher, the rest of the class was cruising. My affective filter was very high!

Prior to moving to Germany, I therefore reviewed and acquired basic German with the Michel Thomas method. At the time, I liked his approach because its focus is on acquiring high frequency words. However, it is also relies on translating everything because the goal is to reconstruct the language for yourself and to form your own sentences. I like the goal but the mean to the goal focuses too much on conscious learning. It did nevertheless helped me to cope with very basic day to day situations.

Heureuse de faire du vélo en Allemagne ! Happy to ride my bike in Germany!

When I arrived in Germany, I thought I would mingle with german people and I would become fluent in a few months like I did in Spain. I was wrong! The conditions were very different! I had a family and job. I was teaching Spanish at an international school where the language of instruction is English. All day long, I would speak Spanish and/or speak and hear English. When I was home, I would speak French with my family. So there was little time left to immerse in German!

I was so caught up in my new exciting job (I was the first and only Spanish teacher at the school and I set up the whole program by myself) that I didn’t make an effort to find time to acquire German.

Teaching Comprehensible Spanish!

I could go on and on about how I am not fluent in German but the truth is I am still a beginner despite having lived 7 years in Germany!

Bottom line is I didn’t get enough Comprehensible Input. I didn’t trust the process.

What I learned from it?

How could have I done it differently? Looking back, I should have dedicated much more time to getting comprehensible input. I thought that listening to my German colleagues in the staff room would be enough. But it was not comprehensible enough to me and it was very limited!

I also tried Duolingo and Memrise to learn more vocabulary but again, there were just flashcards and words on their own. They were not connected to a story, They were not rich input.

I still want to become fluent in German but I know it is going to take longer than I anticipated. Acquiring another language (when you are not full-time at it) is a long process.

I have now another priority: to acquire Portuguese. This time, my plan is to:

  • watch comprehensible videos on YouTube. I am already watching a Brazilian woman, Mai Bella who lives in Porto and I can understand 90% of what she is saying. I also follow the Transylvania Girl who is Romanian but speaks totally comprehensible Portuguese to me! She is so interesting, I love listening to her!
  • read , read, read (I still need to find the right book to start with)!
  • get a language booster. I believe that the main reason why I failed to acquire German is because I lacked motivation. I was alone and I needed someone to boost me! I want to find a Portuguese teacher who will find compelling and interesting resources for me (for example the right book!). I will meet him or her once a week so that I can maintain a natural Portuguese conversation with someone real!

Language booster!!!

What do you think? Is it a realistic plan? I love hearing from you so let me know about your own experience.

Living in Germany

Although I AM frustrating (and ashamed) because I cannot go into deep conversations in German with my neighbours and friends, I deeply enjoy the way of life in Weimar, Germany. I am also grateful and proud of my own children. They are fluent in German and they get to experience German life to the fullest!

This week’s video is is a guided tour of a beautiful castle and garden near where I live. Weimar is a town you MUST visit when you go to Germany as it is filled with history and culture.

We are 3 days away from the end of the May challenge !!! I can’t believe it!!! C’est IN-CROY-ABLE !!!

If you have not started yet, jump in anytime! Share and/or leave a comment with #coucou

Happy French acquisition!

P.S. Got friends, family, colleagues or clients who want to become fluent in French? Share this with them, they’ll thank you for it 🙂


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