Anyway, I was an undergrad from 2001 to 2005, so it was already a long time ago, but I am so glad that my brain retained much of it, that I do not find interacting with people outside the house daunting. Most days, especially during the weekends, when I would go out, I would only use German outside, and it would allow me to order my tea in a café, and find directions when I am lost, and so forth. I take the attitude that the more I interact with people, the more I would be less apprehensive about using this foreign language.
The other day, I was in a café in Kreuzberg. I ordered Jasmin Tea as well as a slice of cake all in German. About an hour later, one of the other café patrons asked me if I had a cigarette, in German. Later on, I asked the café staff what time they close, in German. I am slowly getting the hang of this place. The only time I feel stupid is when I get confronted with technical words and jargon, most of these are in the form of utility bills, bureaucratic paperwork, and other things like that. Anyway, it’ll come eventually.
I learned from the past, when I was learning Japanese, that making mistakes is actually a good thing, because that is negative reinforcement. Imagine learning a language without making mistakes. Then one doesn’t have these instances that will be deeply etched in one’s memory, guiding future use of the language. I remember being in a department store in Japan, and I wanted to ask the staff whether I could try a sweater on before purchasing it. I mistakenly ask her to try it on for me instead. From the look of her face, I knew that I made a mistake, but from then on, I knew how to properly conjugate the relevant suffixes so as to not ask the same stupid wrong question.
Most of the time, I am fine talking to other people. Whenever I get a stumbling block, I have this line and I tell them that my German is not that good. They usually simplify what they want to say after that, and things would be fine. I then would remember what they said, and look it up the dictionary when I get home.
I am also slowly discovering Berlinerisch. This is the particular German dialect that is spoken in and around the city. It’s not standard, but I figured it would be nifty if I learn a dialect of German that is not standard, alongside with the standard, of course. You see, my Japanese isn’t standard either. I have learned the standard during the first 6 months of my stay in Japan, when we were enrolled in a Japanese language school. However, we were living in Western Japan, and that has a particular dialect that is quite different from the standard form. In fact, when native Japanese speakers hear me speak Japanese, they find it funny that a non-Japanese can actually speak that dialect. It would be interesting to attempt the same when it comes to German.
Oh well, this is what, my fourth language? Spanish comes as a distant fifth, as I only know the important words and phrases that are especially useful for travelers. However, it still proved useful to me recently, as I had the chance to translate for a Spanish tourist trying to talk to a monolingual German guard, as the Spanish tourist was asking where to find the audioguides for the Reichstag and the German guard responded, but the tourist didn’t get it.