At the end of June I will be moving to Munich, Germany. The whole point of this summer will be to experience a different city, learn a new language, get my career on the move, and have a social life. Moving to a completely different country to have a better social life might seem a bit of an oxymoron, but I have chosen my city wisely. Munich is the home of one of my best friends. Throughout university she was the proverbial social butterfly to my dust moth. So with that base, I hope to spend the summer hanging out in beer gardens, experiencing night life in one of the biggest European cities, and learning at least some passable German.
When it comes to my current German abilities, the title says it all: I can’t speak it. Not much, anyway. Can I count to twenty? Yes. Can I say ‘my name is’? Yes. And after a helpful podcast I can also say ‘yes that is my suitcase’, and present my passport to a customs official. None of these things are going to be particularly helpful once I am confronted with real life in Germany, apart from maybe if I learn the word ‘beer’ and add it onto the end of a number. Not only is my German ability at zero, there is another problem: I have never learnt another language apart from French. Although this may not sound like a problem, it really has become one. I can’t say anything in German without it coming out in a French accent. The more clipped, pronounced German language becomes the slightly mumbled, flowing French. The stress falls on the wrong syllables and the more I try to connect it the further south my accent travels.
Embarrassingly, I have actually learnt German before. For about a year at school, I had the opportunity to actually learn another language apart from French and I took it. But for the life of me, I can’t remember any of my German lessons. I remember the classroom. I remember the fact there were only about six of us. The year I learnt German happened to coincide with the year I spent at a school that was loosely modelled on a cross between the Famous Five Adventures and St Trinians. A school where lunch times went on for about four hours and there were only two people taking A Levels. A school that fielded a hockey team with an age range of 7 to 17, because there weren’t enough people in a single year group.
So the presiding memories of my German classes are finding out how many of us could fit into one of the cupboards, and cutting pictures of celebrities out of magazines to go onto a collage. So, how am I going to ensure I learn at least a bit of German before I touchdown in Munich? I’m going to listen to podcasts whilst I’m asleep on the tube, watch the German bits in Inglorious Basterds, and take a keen interest in Michael Fassbender. I’m pretty sure by the time I enter my first conversation with a German native I will be flying.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to good ways to learn German? I’m going to be taking lessons whilst I’m there, but for a pre-touch down attempt, what are the best books/CDs/podcasts/combination that you have seen available? Any tips would be greatly appreciated!