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My Experience and Scientific Results about Second Language Learning Posted by on Jan 26, 2011 in Current Events, Grammar, Language, People, School

In this post I would like to tell you about eine Begegnung (an encounter) I had some weeks ago because this zufällige Begegnung (chance meeting) gave rise zwei Themen in einem Zug anzureißen (to touch on two topics in one go). Additionally, you have the opportunity to enlarge your vocabulary. One of the two topics is language and the other one is music.

Recently, I got to know an Australier (Australian) who has been living in Germany for about four years now. Although, he speaks German every day I could recognize that he still has language difficulties with regard to Grammatik (grammar), Wortschatz (vocabulary), and Aussprache (pronunciation). Dennoch (Nevertheless), I and all the other German Muttersprachler (native speakers) around us were always able to understand was er beabsichtigte auszudrücken (what he intended to express).

I am telling you this because I want to ermutigen (encourage) you to speak German whenever you have the Möglichkeit (opportunity), without focusing your attention on grammar too much. Instead, I would advise you to try to ausdrücken (express) your Gedanken (thoughts) with the words that you already know. Linguistic Forschungsergebnisse (research results) show that Sprechen (speaking) is der einzige Weg (the one and only way) to internalize grammar.

Ich kann ein Lied davon singen (I can tell you a thing or two about it). Als ich mein Abitur gemacht habe (when I took my high-school diploma) I was convinced that I had mastered the English language completely. I was able to converse with native speakers of English and sometimes it was even ziemlich ärgerlich für mich (quite annoying for me) when I recognized that my non-English Gesprächspartner (interlocutor) was at a lower Sprachniveau (language level) than I.

At university I came to know that my English was still mittelmäßig (mediocre) and that I had to learn much more about the language. Sozusagen (so to speak), von jetzt auf gleich (at a moment’s notice) I was urged to live in an English-speaking world. All my Vorlesungen (lectures) and Seminare (seminars) were given in English. I had to compose different type of texts in English, e.g. wissenschaftliche Arbeiten (scientific papers), letters, fictional texts, and Kurzgeschichten (short stories). After some years of studying and learning the English language I lapsed into silence because I recognized that my English worsened.  This was quite appalling for me and I wondered why I was not able anymore to say a simple sentence. Because of my scientific work I found out that I reached a very important phase in foreign language learning: Neuordnung (reorganization). My brain reorganized all language information that I gathered for years and this was the reason why I became silent for some time. So, whenever you come to the point where you might think that your German worsens you should always im Gedächtnis behalten (keep in mind) that this is a very natural development. The most important thing is that you never give up because Übung macht den Meister (practice makes perfect).

To be continued …

(die) Begegnung – encounter

(die) zufällige Begegnung – chance meeting

ein Thema anreißen – to touch on a topic

in einem Zug – in one go

(der) Australier – Australian (m)

(die) Australierin – Australian (f)

(die) Grammatik – grammar

(der) Wortschatz – vocabulary

(die) Aussprache – pronunciation

dennoch – nevertheless

etwas beabsichtigen auszudrücken – to intend to express something

(der) Muttersprachler – native speaker (m)

(die) Muttersprachlerin – native speaker (f)

ermutigen – to encourage

(die) Möglichkeit – opportunity

ausdrücken – to express

(der) Gedanke – thought

(das) Forschungsergebnis – research result

(das) Sprechen – speaking

der einzige Weg – the one and only way

Ich kann ein Lied davon singen. – I can tell you a thing or two about it. (lit. I can sing a song of it.)

sein / das Abitur machen – to take one’s high-school diploma

ziemlich ärgerlich für mich – quite annoying for me

(der) Gesprächspartner – interlocutor

(das) Sprachniveau – language level

mittelmäßig – mediocre

sozusagen – so to speak

von jetzt auf gleich – at a moment’s notice (coll.)

(die) Vorlesung – lecture

(das) Seminar – seminar

(die) wissenschaftliche Arbeit – scientific paper

(die) Kurzgeschichte – short story

(die) Neuordnung – reorganization

im Gedächtnis behalten –  to keep in mind

Übung macht den Meister. – Practice makes perfect.

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Craig A Benner:

    I used to teach German and would give more credit to a student who actually USED the language as opposed to someone who may have been grammatically correct, but said or wrote little.

    Although I have been a student of the German language my whole life, I don’t hesitate to speak when the opportunity arises even if I do make mistakes. As I always say to native speakers regarding my ability with the language, “Manche Tage sind besser als andere!” (some days are better than others).

    The bottom line to me is that communication and a connection can be made despite the fact that what is expressed might not be grammatically perfect.

  2. Benjamin Michael Bledsoe:

    Ich weiß schon, daß sie hier Recht haben. When Throughout the first two or three years of my Deutschlernen in high school, I drove my friends and family crazy by speaking German all the time, even when I did not have the Wortschatz for what I wanted to say. So, basically for about 2 years, except when really not possible, I would say everything twice: Once with my limited Deutchkentissen (with a heavy use of Deutschlisch) and then I would translate myself.
    »Übung macht den Meister« stimmt sehr!

  3. Eric:

    Can you explain this a bit more?

    “Because of my scientific work I found out that I reached a very important phase in foreign language learning: Neuordnung (reorganization). My brain reorganized all language information that I gathered for years and this was the reason why I became silent for some time.”

    This has happened to me. What’s the best way to deal with it, just push through mit mehr Übung? Is there a way to minimize the likelihood of the Neuordnung passiern? I’d love to read more about this if you have any links.