David Talbot

Improving my language level

Wed 26 October 2011 / german

In terms of learning German, I'm in the fortunate position of having a wife who comes from Hamburg. We've been together five years.  "Job done" I hear someone say.  "You must be fluent by now".

Hmm. Not exactly.

That's not to say I'm unable to use German effectively.  I'd say I'm somewhere between the B2 and C1 level on the CEFR scale - I can hold my own pretty well in conversations but I'm presently finding myself grasping for the finer points of conversation a lot of the time.  I feel as if I should be better than I currently am.

I've been having a bit of a think about the next steps I could take in terms of pushing forward past this current impasse.

1. Use Flash Cards more
As much as I know that Flash Cards are a great way to commit information to long-term memory, I just have a problem using them.  I have a stack of cards at home and about five pieces of SRS software on my laptop at home, none of them really used extensively.  I think the reason for my not being successful with these is that I just don't grab essential snippets of real language.  I guess were I to have these essential snippets then I'd me more inclined to want to remember things. Which leads on to the next point...

2. Start recording things
I've got a smart phone with a voice recorder on it and also a dictaphone which is small enough to carry around.  If I remember to use it, that is. That's the current problem: when I find myself lost for words, I know then exactly what is important to learn but I generally don't record what I need to say and bring it home to be logged and memorised. To my mind, if I could set a goal of bringing back five phrases a day to be written down and memorised I'd be well on the way to improving my language level.

**3. Use less English at home **With reference to the opening paragraph: the reason I speak any German *at all* is because of my wife.  It seemed natural to me to want to learn German when we met - how else could I *really* know about her and her family and friends?  I think the problem is that since our default language is English, this is the language that we always revert to if it gets tricky to communicate a point.  So I'm not really having to do the hard work of learning how to communicate difficult issues.    In terms of practicalities, though, this isn't always the easiest one.  When something has to be said urgently the last thing either of us want is to be grasping for the words.  Saying this, it has gotten better.  We probably use German at home about 20% of the time.

4. Make sure I spend as much time as possible in small German-speaking groups
Just the other night, a German friend was visiting for dinner.  One of the best things for me in terms of language learning in these moments is that that I can hear German spoken in a closed environment (no external distractions) and with a level of German that (can be) a step above my comprehension.  There is enough comprehensible input for me to follow along with what is going on but also enough novelty for me to take note of what I don't know and need to learn.

5. Getting along to a language class
I tried this a few times last year and, to be honest, it didn't really work for me.  I think the problem was that I'd gone for classes below my level and I really wasn't challenged enough. Add to this that my current disposable income is a bit low right now, I'd rather find other ways to learn than being sat in a classroom.

This isn't an extensive list but should at least show what I think are the some way forward for me at this point in time.  Do you think my list is inclusive enough? Am I missing something obvious? Please let me know at the comments block below!