Epiphanies Happen Even When Speaking German

I have been in Germany since August, and taking German lessons since September. I force myself to go to events that are in German, even though I know that I will not be able to understand everything, and that as the evening wears on, I will slowly come to the realization that I understand nothing of import.

Last Saturday evening, I had a minor epiphany. I went to a barbecue, and sat around and talked for two hours, understood almost everything, and even was able to participate in the conversation. The people I talked to even understood me, and I think a couple of times they laughed at my jokes, rather than my extremely flawed grammar, pronunciation, or word choices. I did not day dream, become confused, or tune out. It felt great.

I remember a similar epiphany in 1981 when I was in the Peace Corps and studying Thai. I am sure that professionals in language learning have a word for when these barriers are crossed, but I am not sure what it is. It certainly does feel good.

One Response to “Epiphanies Happen Even When Speaking German”

  1. HP says:

    Comment:
    I took a trip to Montreal a few years ago, not knowing a lick of French. But because it’s a bilingual city, I got along fairly well, and as long as I was polite, people would generally repeat whatever I needed to hear in English.

    At the end of one week, we went to a big concert in the Place des Arts, and I showed my tickets to the usher, who gave me a long list of instructions in Quebecois French. Without thinking, I turned to my companions and said, “We need to go up these stairs, past the smoking area, turn to the left, go in the entrance on the right, and our seats are midway along the third row on the second balcony.”

    To this day, I’ve no idea what the usher said, but there were our seats, sure enough.

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