Benjamin Saff: Learning a New Language


How Ben Feels

One of my favorite aspects of my trip abroad has being learning the German language. As we all know, learning a new language can be quite challenging, especially when you’re not in your adolescent, sponge-like brain phase. I found that in the US, when taking my required 3 years of Spanish, my motivation was scarce. For me, learning a language for the sake of learning one just doesn’t work. I need a practical reason i.e. a situation where I am constantly exposed to it and have people to speak and engage with using the language. In the case of Mannheim, Germany, you can get away with speaking barely any but that, my friend, is no way to live. For the sake of readability I will list a few reasons why I am motivated to learn the language.

Empowerment of Independence

Without learning the language, you become dependent on others who can either translate for you or for signs to be in your language. You go everywhere with the hope that someone speaks English. Daily activities can become slightly more difficult such as grocery shopping or any shopping for that matter, ordering food, and conversing with local people. When you want to travel to other cities within your host country, knowing the basics of the language is extremely enabling and can make you feel more confident on any trip.

The Joy of Understanding

Seeing signs as I travel and hearing conversations between Germans and actually starting to understand more and more is hugely rewarding for me. In honesty, it’s a lot of fun to track your progress from when you get here and see your skills increase as the time goes. An added bonus is of course the ability to converse with the locals in their own language. Of course that is super tough especially when they speak fast and fluidly, but I find that even attempting a simple conversation with the locals is positively received and a great way to make friends and even get some helpful advice.

Confidence Booster

When you start to tackle the tough task of learning another language, it can be super intimidating at first. You make think, “How will I ever learn this crap? It sounds like gibberish to me.” But stepping up to the plate, digging in and spending time to study and practice can really pay off. Slowly you may start to pick up on a word here and there. Sounds words and phrases start to sound familiar to you and you are able to recognize the language immediately. When all the smoke clears, and that hard works pays off, you’ll be fluent enough to start having conversations. And if your abroad in the native country, you will constantly be learning new words everyday. Overcoming the challenge of learning a language can lend itself to an improved confidence in your general learning ability. When presented with new challenges in life, you know you can rely on that brain of yours to kick in to high gear and achieve new heights.

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