17 December 2014

A German Accomplishment

So I have been living here in Berlin for more than two years now. And recently, something made me realize that I have been here for quite a bit of time already, which is definitely not a bad thing. See, a few months ago, I was conducting experiments in my lab. I was doing an experiment which required German participants, and for the most part, most of my experiments are actually conducted by my research assistants, but this time, I had to conduct some of the sessions myself. And that means that I had to speak in German. Later on, I realized that it was a little accomplishment of sorts, as I didn't realize until then that my German was good enough to actually conduct science in it.

See, German is just my fourth language. I learned two years of it in undergrad, in the Philippines, but I didn't really use it until when I moved here in Berlin in 2012. I visited German-speaking countries such as Austria back in 2005, but my stay back then was so short that I didn't really had the chance to use it and sharpen it up. However, two years ago, I moved here, and actually living here and being immersed to the language actually makes a big difference.

Back in graduate school, I was a research assistant in a Psychology lab. I ran studies with undergraduates, who were required to participate in experiments as part of their Psychology 101 requirement. Whenever a participant comes into the lab, we explain what experiments are going to be conducted, that there are no medical risks involved, the procedure, and the payment. If it is in English (my second language), I can do that without thinking at all, as everything is pretty much automatized in my head. However, in German, it is a little bit different and more difficult.

See, as much as I can get by in German, there are domains in which I still struggle. I don't think I can teach in a university in German, yet. But it seems that I can already conduct experiments in it. As there were several sessions in this latest study I did which I did just by myself, and things actually went fine. That was reassuring. I guess it shows progress.

So there, I tooted my own horn for a bit, but seriously, it feels good to be proficient in another language.


  1. I admire you, because as someone who also speak several languages, I know it doesn't come as easily as some people think. Plus German is hard!!!

    1. Zhu,

      German is hard, and the syntax is not straightforward. I just think that German syntax is like mixing the syntax of English and Japanese, which I both know and speak. English syntax for the main clauses, and Japanese syntax for the subordinate clauses. On a mathematical level, it makes sense!