Although languages have been a major part of my life for quite some time, I’ve never actually talked about it in much detail on this blog at all and that has been bothering me.
In the last couple of months (beginning June) I rekindled my flame with the German language, which contrary to popular belief is actually as beautiful as any romance language.
When I first started learning German I was probably about 14/15 years old and it was out of curiosity. At that stage in my life, however, I was already leagues deep with Spanish at school and also struggling with my French (which I eventually let go) as well as possibly 18 other subjects, so studying German was more of a hobby.
I learned basic things – days of the week, months of the year, counting to 10 or maybe even 20 – and I’d go to school and teach my classmates a new word everyday for about one month before German became too much. I stumbled across the Nominativ and Akkusativ cases and thought to myself, “Nope, this is me jumping the gun.” and shut the door on German temporarily.
Now as I mentioned before, German and I haven’t had such a lengthy relationship as is the case with my Spanish but after doing an introductory Morphology and Syntax course at the University in the first year of my Spanish degree, I felt confident enough that I had gained the right tools to to delve right back in to my autonomous study of the language. Even after I had stopped spending large amounts of time learning German I still bought introductory and intermediate German texts that would help me whenever I did decide to pick it back up.
One of the things that has really helped me get back into the language, apart from the course, isn’t the textbooks that I bought years ago but rather this little app called Duolingo. I couldn’t remember anything of the German I had learned or taught to my friends, with the exception of Mittvoch (for obvious reasons), but Duolingo was a great help because it essentially focuses on vocabulary building in a sort of game-like format.
At first I started off practicing regularly, every day I would visit the site and complete a level within a section and play it through until I felt comfortable enough with the new words, but eventually as I started working and the summer vacation kicked off, it became more and more difficult to find the time to dedicate five minutes to a little down time with Duolingo but whenever I could, I would. What I found, though, was that even though three days or a week had passed I could still recall the meaning of words and noun articles and any little rules I had learned. Occasionally I would reference the texts that I purchased but Duolingo really worked in helping me retain the information.
Now that I’m back at University and easily a month has passed since I’ve done any German and all my focus has been on my Spanish and Portuguese (and Communication Studies courses) I am more than pleased that I remember my Tiere, Essen and Adjektivs among the other things that I’ve learned.
Personally, I prefer to have some formal classes in the target language, and although Duolingo isn’t quite that it has been a great resource that I would definitely recommend to other people who are learning languages on their own. The great thing about Duolingo is that each lesson’s vocabulary is added to the following lesson in such a way that it helps you to build, not only vocabulary, but also learn the different ways that you can use the new words learned (ie. building sentences).
Hopefully though, I’d be able to take a formal German class to help me with the grammar of the language because as a language student at University I feel that it is just as important to know and master the grammar of a language as well as have the necessary vocabulary to communicate well with native speakers of the language.