So here is part 2:
When things started to go wrong
I have to be honest here and say that going into GCSEs was when my love affair with German ended. Sorry Angelika. But I do have some good reasons and I’ve definitely not given up on the idea of rekindling that romance in the future, so it’s definitely worth you sticking with me here.
I went into my first year of GCSE German so excited about continuing where I had left off the previous year. I had a different teacher, I knew that going into it, but I figured how different could he be to my first teacher?
As it turned out, COMPLETELY UNRECOGNISABLE was the answer.
He had what I can only describe as a bizarre teaching style. He mostly just sat at the front with the text book and then read things out and asked questions that were asked in the book. There was no personality to his teaching method, he even laughed and rolled his eyes at some of the less capable students in the class. And, furthermore, there was very little German actually spoken in the class, except when we were going through exercises from the text book.
My experience of learning German at GCSE level couldn’t have been more of a contrast when compared to the previous year. I really tried to get on board and stay motivated to learn, but I was put off by the learning environment and the way we were being taught.
By the start of my second year of GCSE German, I’d completely disengaged with the subject and, if I’m honest, did little more than go through the motions and simply turn up to class. I even stopped doing homework. It’s fair to say that the whole two year experience of GCSE German, combined with being utterly unable to see its applicability to the real world, put me off language learning altogether. It was a choice I made, whether consciously or subconsciously, so I certainly lay all the blame for my disengagement firmly at my own feet.
Coming full circle
Despite essentially giving up on German, I still managed a grade A at GCSE, largely because of my pretty much photographic memory, and teaching myself the syllabus, rather than any sort of natural flair for the language.
It’s almost 12 years since I last spoke German. A lot has obviously changed over those 10 years or more, but, perhaps most importantly, my attitude to language learning has completely transformed.
You see, over the last decade, I’ve travelled. A LOT. I’ve been to about to 30 countries I think, including spending a little over a year in South America. And my understanding of why learning languages is important has improved greatly. I now really understand, and have internalised, that learning the local language is imperative if you want to get the most out of a place and you want to get a feel for the culture in which you’re immersing yourself.
I found my why.
A lesson in serendipity
I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for 4 months and learned Spanish, voluntarily. And that’s definitely not something I ever thought I would say. I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d class myself as far from fluent, but my Spanish is alright and good enough to chat with locals.
But more important than that, my mindset is now very different. I’m always on the lookout for new and more effective ways to improve my language learning. And, ironically, that’s how I actually first stumbled across FlashSticks. I loved the concept of sticking Post-it notes around my room and learning on the go; after all, I’d been handwriting words on Post-it notes while in Argentina anyway.
The story of how an interest in FlashSticks ended up with me becoming the marketing guy over there is one for another time, but, if you believe in serendipity, it closes the loop on a story that began with a passion for learning German.
So, while I may not be able to muster more than a sentence or two of German, it’s a language that will always hold a special place in my heart, as it serves as a constant reminder of the first time I ever felt that flicker of passion for language learning.
Thank you, Gareth! I think I can speak for my readers, too, if I say that was a very interesting read. And from my (slightly biased) view I am pleased to read that German will always hold a special place in your heart …… (I wouldn’t have let you write the posts, if it didn’t 😆 ) Thanks again for taking the time to write this x