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Help! I Am Slowly Losing My German!

german_flag_faceTo become fluent in German is one challenge. But what do you do once you are fluent in German? How do you keep your German language?

A lot of folks from the LinkedIn discussion group gave me great feedback about my previous post about the English words in the German language. I appreciate your input and decided to write a post about it. Actually, doing my research on this post I’ve figured out that there  is not really much difference between the challenges people have who want to become fluent in German and to maintain their fluency in German as a native speaker or language learner.

Now, how do you actually notice that your German is becoming “rusty”?

In my first year here in the US I didn’t speak much German on a daily basis. The first months that didn’t really matter. I was fine when I spoke to my parents and friends in Germany. After about 6 months I noticed that I started to scramble for certain expressions and could not come up with certain words. One I still remember was “Müsli” as my brain could come up with the English word “Cereal”. I tried to explain to my Mom in German what I actually ate that morning. At that point I knew it was time to change something.

I had the privilege over the past 8 years have a position that kept me in touch with the German speaking countries. But I also made a conscious effort to develop a network of German speaking friends and networking groups. I watch German TV on a daily basis, tutor German, read German, etc.  But my greatest supporter for speaking German daily is my son, who is now 10. Speaking German to him from the very beginning has not only made him bilingual, but has helped me to stay fluent and up-to-date in German. Talking about a great deal!

Here is something we all need to remember: In a world where English is around us every single day it becomes very handy to just stay in English. We all want to fit in. It takes a conscious decision to change that – either when you learn German or to keep your German language up and running as a native speaker. In other words, you compete against the main language. This takes Discipline and Effort! It is a DAILY effort to keep your German fresh and it takes DISCIPLINE to do that. One phone call a week to Germany or one German lesson a week doesn’t cut it. When I started this conscious effort about 9 years ago I asked myself what I could gain from it. Here is a list of what I came up with:

  • Maintaining a close relationship with my parents and relatives
  • Maintaining my friendships in Germany
  • Improving my employment potential
  • Keeping my German heritage
  • Raising a bilingual child with a native German capability
  • Helping other people to become fluent
  • Developing multi-cultural and broader relationships

Today’s technology gives us numerous avenues and possibilities to become and stay fluent in German. We have satellite TV, Skype, Online TV, email, online chat rooms, online pen pals and more… It is really up to us to take advantage and just do it. What do you do to stay or become fluent in German? Appreciate your feedback…

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  • Harry Fritz May 5, 2010, 11:59 AM

    One wonderful tool to stay in touch with German language people in the USA is to participate with meetup.com/German groups that may be located in your area or in a nearby city. Most of them meet on a monthly basis, unless they have active speakers who wish to meet more often. In my new home area of Seattle there are at least 4 groups, all of which I participate with (at different times of the month). In addition, I have accepted an assignment as Senior Pastor in a German-American church in Tacoma. Believe it or not, churches with foreign language programs can be a positive influence on maintaining one’s language.

  • enquibeendure May 17, 2010, 5:47 PM

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

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