I saw this sticker (in the picture above) at an International Office of a German university. The one who can read has an advantage it says. I would say : ‘Wer sprechen kann, ist klar im Vorteil’.
Sadly, it is easy to get discouraged about learning German outside of the classroom when your teacher is not around. Office workers, shop assistants and waiters very often have no time to listen to you carefully. Some years ago I was in Vienna. I spoke German to everyone there, I wanted to practice as much as I could. Everybody was polite and helpful and I felt great. I was not so enthusiastic at the end of my trip, though. I ordered a cup of coffee at a cafe at the airport. The cashier asked me an additional question I could not understand. I was trying to ask him to repeat his question in German, but then I heard his colleague shouting at him: ‘Speak English!’. Very often, I take things like that personally. I lose the desire to speak another language for I do not feel comfortable. On the other hand, without practice I cannot improve. I guess this situation fits the definition of Catch-22.
Probably, getting a degree in Translation Studies taught me to help people and encourage them to study languages. I love to teach my native language and when I see that a person is motivated and interested in learning, I am willing to help. In the past, when chatting to people for the language exchange purposes I made sure we spoke the equal amount of time in both languages. I kind of trained myself to be patient with people who speak a new language slowly or do mistakes. I wish everyone has this patience and not only when it comes to speaking the language. I think the world would be a better place if people were more patient towards each other. Sometimes, an impatient request like: ‘Please spell your name in English, not in German’ can discourage you from studying harder. What is the point of studying if people cannot get what you are saying anyway?!
Some of the people I met at the language school have German partners. Somehow, many of those German native speakers prefer to speak another language to their significant others. Moreover, they tend to say things like: ‘German is too difficult to study; German grammar is awful; I cannot explain you the rules, they are too complicated for a native speaker; your German is not as good as his/hers; we better speak English/French/Spanish etc. at home’. Unfortunately, most of us are selfish. I have a female friend who is looking for a language tandem partner to practice her Chinese. She always ends up speaking her native language with a tandem partner. She is too shy to let the other person know he/she has been getting a lot without giving anything back. It is important to speak up. Others cannot read your mind, you shall let the person know if something bothers you. As a couple, especially, people shall help each other. Often, talking to your foreign partner or writing a note in your native language can make his/her day.
Everyone has different pace and aim when it comes to studying the languages. The important factor for everybody is to stay encouraged no matter what. German is easy as long as you put an effort into learning it.