How I have spoken no English with locals for my entire first week

How I have spoken no English with locals for my entire first week

Benny

Die Mauer muß weg!!

Just one week into my latest crazy mission and I am happy to report that I have only been speaking German with Germans since I got here. Apart from with my landlord (who is American) and lunch with a Canadian friend, I have used no English at all outside of the house for the entire week. I have also spent the entire day constantly conversing with friends in German for half of the week.

And yet, let me assure you, that my level of German is still quite miserable and I am very limited in what I can say. I do feel the slight advantage from my school education, but to be totally frank my ability to converse has relied way more on language hacks as I’ll describe them in this post, than an unimpressive C that I got in German 11 years ago.

My first week in Prague to learn Czech was similar, and I will do the same for future immersion. Not having a background in the language is no excuse to not try to jump in as soon as possible. Not speaking English has been the ‘secret’ to my success in rapid language learning, but of course there is more to it than that. Hopefully the transparency in this post of my first week will show people that there is no magic at play here.

[Parts of this post are copied from my language log on the how-to-learn-any-language forum]

Day one: Preparation

I had hoped to have prepared a little in advance this time, by simply reviewing my old notes on German to refresh my memory in the week or two leading up to my flight, but spending time with family took precedence! This meant that my mission really began the day that I was flying out.

I was quite restricted in terms of weight of what I could bring, as I travel with basically my entire ‘house’ on the flight over. (How I managed to bring over 40kg with me on a cheap no-frills flight and not pay surcharges will be the subject of my next video). This meant that I couldn’t take many books with me.

So I did the following to make sure that I had study material with me for the bus to the airport and for any wasted time on the flight, and in general over the next weeks:

  • I found several PDFs online of German grammar rules for the purposes of refreshing my memory. I’ve imported these PDFs to my iPhone for studying.
  • I had taken several books out of my town’s library to study, but never got around to them. However, they came with a bunch of CDs, so I ripped the audio off them and put them on my MP3 player to listen to on the bus/flight.
  • One of the few books I did take with me was a pocket categorised vocabulary book. Any large bookstore has one of these – I’ve been taking advantage of wasted time and studying this on the metro/buses in Berlin – learning vocabulary in relevant categories has been a great help for me, and I always make sure to get a book small enough to put in my pocket. This time I won’t be using a phrasebook since I can indeed construct sentences, but I need the words to go in them, so I’ll be trying various approaches to learning vocabulary that are new to me until I find the bests ones for my purposes.

On my first day all I had to do was get a U-Bahn ticket from the airport and check into the youth hostel. There are very few possible conversations that can come from these situations and a phrasebook usually helps me with them. In this case the vocabulary I had studied on the flight over did the trick.

Day two: How CONTEXT helped me

I started very easy, just with Guten Morgen and Danke over breakfast at the hostel, and then went out to run some important errands that are necessary when moving to a new country.

First thing was to get an apartment. I had spent weeks researching prices and getting in touch with potential landlords (see this post for info on how I usually find them) and had arranged several meetings for my first morning. The first place I saw was perfect and a great price so I took it immediately, as I didn’t want the next guy to take it from me, and I cancelled the other meetings. I knew the second that I walked in that it would be home! I had a very careful look at the place and asked the right questions to make sure there were no unwanted surprises. This was the only thing I did all day in English, since the landlord is American (and a really cool guy!)

Then I went to the Tourist Information for maps and to ask about prices for monthly public transport tickets. This was my first proper German conversation in Berlin.

I was worried that I would have to fall back to English, especially when asking at the Tourist Information where they would of course speak it, but he was quite patient with my umming and struggles to say something. Just before the conversation, I spent several minutes looking up a few words in preparation and wasn’t caught out by his responses since I had listened to 6 CDs worth of audio in the last 24 hours.

I thought that Germans would immediately change the conversation to English since I had been warned of this, but seeing that I am genuinely trying has kept everyone speaking German with me so far. I always have a smile and show that I’m not struggling but that I’m enjoying speaking in German (even though it’s limited) and that has been working well so far. [Edit: as was pointed out in a comment, a lot of beginner learners tend to look "like they're having bamboo jammed under their fingernails" when they try to speak. Of course people are going to want to save you from that torment because they are nice. If you look like you are having fun, you'll encourage the other person to want to help you!]

I’m sure I’ll meet some people as stubborn to practise a foreign language as me eventually, but I don’t see English being forced on me as much of an issue over the next 3 months to be honest. I may go into more details on the body language and queues I use to ‘charm’ them into sticking to their language with me another time.

Next was much more complicated; buying a SIM card. This isn’t a simple case of asking for one, paying, and leaving, because I wanted to know exactly how much everything costs, especially 3G Internet access (so I can check work e-mails when not at home). I first spent 10 minutes in the Vodafone shop to get a prepaid card, but after going through the whole official process, the clerk realised that I can’t even use full Internet on my iPhone so we cancelled it. We had tried a few things, and I was having difficulty in understanding his instructions, but CONTEXT helped me where not knowing actual vocabulary failed.

For example he was describing some type of list to go through and made it to “…Netzwerk, Mobiles Datennetzwerk” and I recognised these (from the similarity to English) to “Network, Cellular Data Network” and knew from familiarity that to get to these on my iPhone I had to press “Settings, General” first. He would have said those two words but not understanding them didn’t stop me from performing what he was requesting. Even if you just understand 30% of the information, you can still get 100% of the content by learning to efficiently extrapolate.

Next I went to T-mobile store and asked straight away about the iPhone Internet options. It seems none of them have a flat rate (great news: the English “Flat rate” is how they say it in German! I picked this up from the first guy) for pre-paid and charge per kB, which I didn’t like at all.

Finally in the O2 store I saw that a SIM card contract is the best way to go. He assured me that I can cancel it a month before I leave and receive an invoice by mail that I can pay in person, so I don’t actually need a German bank account as I had thought. Once again, lots of words I didn’t understand here, but the context made so many things obvious. At one point I did give up and asked him to say something in English, but he said he didn’t speak any! So he explained around until I understood, so the conversation did stay in German!

I made sure to have a pleasant smile and to apologise for my level of German, with anyone I talked to more than briefly and they all complimented me and gave me great encouragement. I was totally expecting to have to battle to speak German, but this has been far from the case. Cities are generally more of a challenge because more people will speak English, but I prefer them and I act differently to most learners that they may be used to meeting. This successful first day trying had given me great confidence; a good first day is hugely important to keep up the momentum!!

Despite that, it also showed me LOTS that I need to work on, so for my next days I stayed indoors to study:

Day 3&4: study triage

Since some German friends were going to be visiting me, I needed to be ready for them and greatly improve my conversation potential. Some people seem to think that I don’t do any studying or avoid input entirely, but I do not just ‘talk my way to fluency’. I obviously need to learn words or I can’t say what I want.

But learning all the words of a language is too daunting a task and is completely unnecessary for my purposes right now. I have accepted that I will not pass off as a German at any stage over the next weeks, so I’m not worried about speaking perfectly. There are particular things I generally need to say, so I applied a study triage to make sure I had them. In the same way as a hospital has a triage for the sickest patients being seen to first, I have a triage of priorities for what I need to study.

There is quite a lot of grammar that will genuinely NOT help me speak more confidently and more “fluently” (in terms of lacking pauses, not actual level of a language) right now. For example, in German the adjective can have a pretty decent number of endings depending on whether the preceding word was an indefinite article, a definite article or no article and of course on whether the next word is masculine, feminine or neuter and then on top of that whether the case involved is nominative, accusative, dative or genitive. That is a lot of details and calculations to perform for me right now. Of course, I need to know all of these endings if I want to speak German correctly.

But this week, perfection was not the goal so I have NO NEED to know these endings. I will always just add an -e since that seems to be the one that comes up the most. These tables of different possibilities are NOT going to help me right now. The point is communication and a German will know exactly what I mean if I say große when in fact I technically should have said großes.

So I have skipped such points and focused on grammar that will genuinely make a difference in me understanding something or being able to say something clearly. In a couple of weeks, once I have a good flow of the language then I will be ironing out these finer points so that I am actually speaking it correctly.

This also applies to vocabulary of course – whenever I come to a word that I don’t particularly think will kill me if I don’t know it (e.g. shoelace) then I simply skip it. Once again, I can come back to these later when I have a base vocabulary of words that I genuinely do use myself regularly. Something that is especially useful in a language like German is studying word prefixes and suffixes, as this can give you a vast understanding of many words for very little initial work. I’ll go into more details on this another time.

Also note that even though I’m at home, any radio and TV I listen to is in German, and I’ll be looking to read German newspapers regularly. I have also changed the language of my entire computer interface.

Day 5 on: speaking German all day long

I had invited several German friends to visit me for my first week; they have come from other parts of Germany and are taking advantage of the Easter break – we have been hanging out all day long and speaking just in German the entire time. It didn’t feel like a stressful language test; I was genuinely just hanging out, and checking out the city etc.

So, how do I do it? My level of German is still quite unimpressive. I have been able to respond to comments on this site and even write brief e-mails in German, however sitting in a comfy chair with a tab open on dict.cc and being able to look up grammar rules etc. and taking several minutes just for a few sentences, is quite useful but is not really speaking a language as I would see it. You don’t have such comforts in the pressure of a spontaneous conversation.

What I do is make sure that the other person is very motivated to help me. I use Couchsurfing for this purpose to maintain my already learned languages. I consider my apartment a crucial aspect of “language hacking”. So I will not just be working on my German; I will (as always) be maintaining my other languages by inviting natives to stay with me, although my priority will be for German for the next months. If I was focused 100% just on German, then sharing with Berliner flatmates would have been way more practical, but my home is also where I work and that complicates matters a bit.

This means that free accommodation is one “carrot” I can dangle in the air to convince someone to help me. After that it gets more complicated to motivate someone to listen to you in the early stages, but this week I am only inviting good friends of mine who are familiar with my “missions” and are genuinely happy to be a part of it. They are also curious about learning languages so I’ve been happy to share my best tips with them… in German.

And this is a crucial thing I find scares people from attempting to speak in early stages: you have nothing “interesting” to say. I can assure you that I don’t spend my first weeks talking about the weather in any language. I talk about my language learning mission and give tips for those curious on how I do it, I share travel tips, explain how my location independent job works etc. And then of course, I listen to them talk and try to join in on that, or at least use conversational connectors to keep the conversation going. Everyone loves a good listener! I generally don’t talk about the weather in any language, but I do talk about these other things, so this is precisely where my vocabulary learning is focused on.

All of this can be genuinely interesting for some people (not all obviously). This means that they will “put up with” my constant stumbles, short and snappy sentences and repetition of basic words like “machen” (do/make) when I don’t know the actual word (and will ask it).

I said it before and I’ll say it again, context is the KEY. If I don’t know the word for “translate” for example, but I say that I “make a document in English from French”, I have entirely gotten my point across.

As always, this is not a long term solution. The visits end this week and I’ll have to be more social and make friends here in Berlin, and they won’t know how I think. But this week will have given me the essential confidence and momentum to speak, and I’ll have learned lots of key words that I tend to naturally use in conversations from my friends.

I don’t always do this; I generally don’t have this option of good friends staying with me for my first week (I didn’t have any Czech friends on arrival in Prague), and you may have to think of something else that would be interesting for someone to hear from you (how to cook, how to play chess etc.) as well as trying to be a good listener, but it’s important to see what opportunities you have and to take them. :)

——————-

Hopefully this detailed account of my first week will give you ideas of how language hacking can help you to actually speak even when your level of a language is low. Do you think you could try these suggestions? If you have any other ideas of things to do, make sure to mention them in the comments :)

Just one week into my latest crazy mission and I am happy to report that I have only been speaking German with Germans since I got here. Apart from with my landlord (who is American) and lunch with a Canadian friend, I have used no English at all outside of the house for the entire […]

MORE


  • http://mcngok.com/ MC Ngok

    This is a great post, Benny. I especially agree with the “keeping a smile to let them know you're not struggling” part. I see a lot of people speaking a language they don't really know and looking like they're having bamboo jammed under their fingernails, and then wondering why people don't want to speak with them. What kind person would want to put someone else through such obvious torment! :)

    I'm following this mission extra close. I too am a high school/uni German class refugee, and my failure to ever really pick the language up haunted me until I dove in Mandarin. Now I'm pretty sure I could do German (I've learned a lot about learning over the last several years), and hope to give it a shot at some point in the future.

    Viel Erfolg!

  • http://collegeblogger.de/ Birgit

    linguee is way better than dict.cc. It gives you the context to a word.
    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the comment! :) I'll have to quote you on that some time!! “bamboo jammed under their fingernails” :D

    It's so true – people have told me that it's hard here in Berlin and that they won't help you, but I'd argue that it's perhaps because they are actually really nice and don't want to see you struggle. You're very right that people generally don't want others to go through that, and people's misunderstanding of this is a huge reason that they don't open themselves up to positive reinforcement.

    Glad you are enjoying the mission!! :)

  • wccrawford

    Wow. This is one of the best language posts I've ever read. It was interesting, I had fun reading it, and I learned things. What more can I ask for?! :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com Benny the Irish polyglot

    Wow, thanks a million :D Share it with your friends on facebook or whatever, that's all I ask for :P
    Cheers! :)

  • chrismandarinstudent

    Thanks for this Benny, technically I can be classified as one of your detractors, and someone who favors a more input based approach, now you seem to be describing your process in much more detail it is much easier to see how it works.

    I have a number of strategies for conversation too many for a comment like this, I will write a blog post shortly, mine maybe more Chinese culture focused though. Apart from your helpful suggestions you don't seem to have one of my favorites in there, but I bet you use it.

    Ask something you already know, a useful device to suck language from someone, especially when you are struggling in comprehension, you simply ask them something you already know, then whilst they explain the things you already know you can relax on part of the comprehension (you know part of the answer) but focus on picking up comprehension of the bits around it. Then of course you can respond intelligently on the answer (because you already knew it).

    The simplest version would be to hang around somewhere busy and keep asking people for the time (not much of a conversation but something at least). You can pick up different points from the various answers you get better because you don't actually have to listen to what the time is (you already know) just the padding around them telling you the time. In a busy place you could do this for as long as is useful.

    Groundhog day style you can perfect one narrow area of conversation, now just wait for the golden moment when someone asks you the time and bingo you can reply just like a native rather than some dood who pulled a phrase out of phrase book.

    Good luck and I hope you keep up the detail as you go along.

  • http://www.fluenteveryyear.com/ Randy

    “I said it before and I’ll say it again, context is the KEY. If I don’t know the word for “translate” for example, but I say that I “make a document in English from French”, I have entirely gotten my point across.”

    This is the subject of a post I'm writing for next week. It seems you and I use a lot of the same tricks! :)

  • http://www.fluenteveryyear.com/ Randy

    That's a really great idea!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com Benny the Irish polyglot

    Hi Chris, yes I remember you. In just one of Steve's posts you managed to leave comments saying “ridiculous life hacky nonesense”, “cheap trick”, “Benny only has to fool some of the people most of the time”, “eventually he will self-destruct “, “reading Benny's articles and can't find much of substance or method”, “what he did with Thai was an insult”.

    So you'll forgive me for not being ecstatic to see you here after those harsh words, but I'm hoping you've changed your tune and will be less aggressive towards me. I've always been transparent with my steps, but going into the kind of detail I do in this post is not something I can do all the time because I do genuinely have other “life hacky nonesense” to share with people that is important and part of my language hacking idea, and that is not going to change.

    Anyway, your comment here is very insightful and it shows that you do have a similar mindset for language hacking and I do indeed go through conversations which I know how will play out, and ask questions I know the answers to in the early stages for the sake of getting into the flow of conversing and breaking the ice with someone. After that it's easier to get into new territory, à la Groundhog day, indeed. I'll have to mention that in a later post, thanks for reminding me ;)

    So please don't be so harsh about me in future, I have feelings you know ;)

    Glad to see you commenting here – please return with future suggestions and skip the “life hacky nonsense” as an essential part of this site that you happen not to like.

    Cheers

  • chrismandarinstudent

    Yup that was me :) I have a problem with some aspects of marketing to put it mildly but will put that aside, whilst I am here. I am also fully aware that everything is open on the Internet, I am no-where near as high-profile as yourself but there are little corners out there where even my name gets trashed…

    I will leave the Thai thing for another time and place I may be critical and over the top occasionally when I get a bee in my bonnet (you lose it a bit yourself on occasion even deleted stuff gets recorded somewhere often ;)), but no trash talk on your actual blogs just constructive criticism or support.

    The detail really does make a huge difference and probably goes a long way towards changing minds in some cases.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks a million Chris – I totally understand the issues you have with my Thai mission, that one got on a lot of people's nerves, but I am still happy with it overall myself. As you said, let's put that behind us.

    If I wasn't enthusiastic to “market” this website and share it as widely as possible then I'd barely get a few dozen hits and you never would have read this post, just keep that in mind remembering that I do want many people to come here. Of course this means I'm opening myself up to more channels of criticism, which I don't mind as long as it's based on facts not opinions, and especially if it's constructive.

    Appreciate your conduct, and looking forward to your comments.

  • Maame

    Es überrascht mich nicht, dass die Berliner mit Ihnen Deutsch statt Englisch gesprochen haben. Die Mehrheit der Deutschen, vor allem im Dienstleistungssektor, spricht kein Englisch und erwartet, dass alle Touristen Deutsch können. Es ist also weniger Ihr Verdienst als deren Schwachpunkt. ;-)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com Benny the Irish polyglot

    Looking forward to that post ;) I am very confident that a lot of my language hacks were indeed used by other humans before me many times. Great minds think alike!!

  • chrismandarinstudent

    Hi again, you provoked me to think about my own conversation experiences, I think conversation is a very complex skill but most people should be able to get better at it quickly. I see a lot of people mess up promising conversations all by themselves the follow being a prime example (extracted from something I am writing).

    There are lies, white lies and language lies, unless you are fluent it is easy to break the flow by not fudging the truth, somebody asks you what pets you have at home, you could say cat, dog etc. but some people just have to fess up to having a blue tongued skink. I see it happen, a promising conversation falls foul at the first hurdle because you don't know how to say blue tongued skink in Chinese, now English rears its ugly head, Maybe you can get back on track but then your Chinese conversation partner remembers the hanzi for blue tongued skink and helpfully and painstakingly shows you how to write it, this the 46 thousandth most used Chinese character that no-one else knows and you don't care about. The skink of course is a metaphor, maybe you accidentally describe your younger sister as your older sister two sentences later you realise your mistake don't stumble around trying to correct the mistake if it is going to ruin the flow, it doesn't matter, Maybe you are going to meet your mum's elder brother's, male step nephew later (the Chinese are bound to have a word for that) for the sake of conversation just say you are going to meet a friend. Don't you be the one to make the conversation too complicated for you to follow unless you have a pressing need for that complication.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks again Chris, complicating conversations should be avoided in the early stages, but despite this it's not too hard to get around things. If I didn't know hot to say “blue tongued skink” I'd see if somehow I could explain what it is or even mime it. Not knowing the word for dog would never stop me from barking ;)

    A good example is someone I saw in German who didn't know how to say “glasses” so they mimed them with their fingers and said “eye windows”. Obviously you wouldn't bring up a discussion about glasses if you didn't need to, but sometimes we can work our way around it. Also, as I said above, context can help a lot in understanding when someone else says it.

    But your simplification is definitely a great suggestion, a “friend” or “someone” is way better than being needlessly specific, and these more common words certainly help me keep a conversation flowing rather than going into too much detail.

  • chrismandarinstudent

    You are right sometimes complication is actually an advantage, it's actually very hard to make firm suggestions about many aspects of conversation because almost everything I can think of has some kind of exception where sometimes it is best to do the opposite.

  • Josephine

    It's an interesting post! I really enjoy it!!

    About that part of listening to news or reading newspaper, I had tried that when I learned German some one or two years ago. The improvement I got from listening to news was slight and unimpressive. Probably because the words were too difficult for a beginner. I could catch up a few words, but the progression was super slow, and I don't think it is an effective way to learn a new language (at least for me). As for reading newspaper, I spent most of the time checking the dictionary for meaning. At the end, I got a bunch of new, big words. I don't think that would be helpful for a learner in my level, so I gave up reading German magazine at the end. Maybe I should have chosen some simpler materials to start with.

    Learning German has me think that English is really a very easy language. At least, there is no gender in English nouns. I am now revamping German. With my past failure, I hope this time the journey would be easier.

  • Kissqueen

    I have to say I am watching this mission more closely than your previous ones. I don't speak Portuguese, or Czech…so when you end your missions saying you reached such and such level of fluency I have to take your word for it. However, being fluent in German I will be able to see exactly what a good job you've done!

    I think you should make a “before” video showing off your German accent as it is now, and then an “after” video to show your progression!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks again for your comment Kissqueen!! Glad this mission interests you more ;) Every language I pick will always be more interesting to some and not so much to others!

    The only problem is, if I made a video now it would be mostly stumbling, umming and making a huge number of mistakes, rather than speaking a language. I'd rather not make such a video public. I think you can imagine what someone with high school level of a language sounds, although I'm just speaking the little I've got confidently :)

    I will make a video (or several most likely) at the end though, and may try to have an audio interview too so people can hear my conversing skills rather than just talking skills as I show in most videos. Hopefully this will prove that I've made huge progress in these 3 months!!

  • chrismandarinstudent

    Hi Josephine, I listened to a lot of material for Chinese, my take on it is that as a beginner you should listen to all types of content to get a feel for the sound of the language, don't worry about understanding, as you get a little better the news maybe too complicated, so try some chat shows, trashy TV etc. Even then it is some effort to pick up new words but you can can listen out for words you do know and get used to hearing them at full speed. A key advantage though is that the way words are used goes way beyond the definition in a vocab list, If you are learning English for example the word “speak” may seem simple when you read the definition but when you listen you can start to work out how the simple words you hear fit together “speak up” “speak out” “speak out of the side of your mouth”, “speak plainly” maybe in your language you say the equivalent of speak stronger but English uses speak louder etc. etc.

    You can resolve a lot of this learning even when only half-listening to content whilst doing something else, your brain will alert you to the interesting bits. the key is that you have to avoid focusing on the things you don't know, it takes a little guts and practice to do this, just pay attention to the things you almost know. It is quite shocking how much you can learn without actively learning it.

    Of course the same listening can equally be applied to when listening to someone in a conversation and this only scratches the surface.

  • jody1980

    Ciao Benny! Grazie per il tuo blog, questo e' molto interessante per me perche' spero andare a Berlino tra due mesi, per 13 settimane. Vado con ECTARC (sai? – a parte a Leornardo) – tutto gratis, fortunatamente. Vorrei imparare il tedesco e mi piace il tuo stilo! Purtroppo, non ho studiato il tedesco mai, ma provo e studio duro! Ogni giorno lavoro con i tedeschi e provo non parlare mai in inglese.

    In bocco al lupo! :-)))

  • http://www.fluenteveryyear.com/ Randy
  • http://www.MyBeautifulAdventures.com/ GlobalButterfly

    So so so impressed!!! Even though I speak basic German, I'm not sure that I would have had the courage and patience to jump into speaking it non-stop like you. Very inspiring! I can't wait to see pics of your flat.

  • http://read-y.com Boris

    Benny,
    Great for you! I took some courses in German here in Canada, but I gave up when the expectations from the Goethe Institute were higher than I could accomplish with my real practice of the Language. Definitely your method will work. Congratulations for your discipline and enthusiasm!
    Boris

  • Nat

    Hello there! I just “stumbled upon” your website, and I am loving it so far. I myself love languages and I admire what you do! Soooo brave :) I shall look around a bit more and do some more reading. I think I'll mention you to my English students, as most of what you say is exactly what I tell them when they say: “I can understand you, but I'll be lost when I go to London or New York.” But they don't believe me!

    Nat (from Barcelona, by the way :D )

  • http://www.aswetravel.com Sofia – As We Travel

    I kind of involuntary spoke no english with locals the first few weeks when I moved to a tiny village in Switzerland. Boy, what a challenge, they spoke no english what so ever and I can't speak either German nor Romansch.. I can reate to what you said about trying to buy a sim-card… thank god for body language!

  • noswall

    Da kiekste, wa?

    Hi Benny,

    I got fluent in three months before it was cool. ;)

    I spent a couple of years in Germany as a soldier, and settled down permanently in 1993. I had to learn German with almost no prior study of the language, and quick. It took me about three months until I was fluent, but I still feel that I am learning the language today, seventeen years later.

    I can't wait to see how you do on the Goethe-Zertifikat. I can't imagine that I would have been up to it after just three months!

    Viel Glück!
    Jody

  • Stabi

    Ich glaube nicht, dass das stimmt. Meiner Meinung nach können viele hier in Berlin Englisch. Vielleicht können sie es nicht allzu flüssig und es kommt mit Sicherheit auch darauf an, welchen Beruf sie nun gerade haben, aber wenigstens etwas kann fast jeder.

  • Alberich

    Hey there Benny!

    Ich bin vor einigen Tagen auf Deine Seite gestoßen und lese sie mit großem Vergnügen!
    Ich habe die meiste Zeit meines Lebens im Ausland gelebt. Zumeist in Ländern, in denen kein Deutsch oder Englisch gesprochen wird. Die Sprachen lernte ich also zunächst aus reiner Notwendigkeit. Später wurde es soetwas wie ein Hobby. An Dein Niveu von Systematik komme ich allerdings nicht annähernd heran :-) Dennoch habe ich mit Freuden einige Deiner Ansätze in meiner Art zu Lernen wiedererkannt. Beispielsweise das “hinein Stürzen” in Unterhaltungen, egal ob man die notwendigen Vokabeln kennt, oder die anfängliche Konzentration auf die wichtigen Verben.
    Inzwischen bin ich bei Russisch angelangt, wo ich Deine geschilderten Erfahrungen gut nutzen kann.

    Ich finde es herrlich, dass Du Dir für Dein Projekt Berlin ausgesucht hast! Nach einigen Jahren im Ausland zog ich nach Berlin. Alle hatten mich gewarnt, dass die Berliner recht ruppig seien, was mich ein wenig ängstigte, denn ich konnte nicht wirklich Deutsch. Ich bin zwar Deutscher und zu Hause wurde immer Deutsch gesprochen. But to be honest, conversations weren’t very colloquial with my parents, and whatever slang they applied was a bit out-of-date. Aber ich empfand die Berliner trotz aller Warnungen als ungeheuer geduldig mit “Sprachschülern”, auch mit mir, obwohl ich keinen Akzent habe, nur nicht “normal” sprechen konnte. So waren meine Freunde auch sehr hilfsbereit, wann immer ich im normalen Leben mit Gesprächen komplett überfordert war :-)

    Keep up the spirit and all the best wishes!

  • http://www.linguatools.de Petra

    Wenn du Kontext-Wörterbücher für Deutsch & Tschechisch brauchst – wir bieten sie an.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Grazie a te Jody!
    Conosco il programma Leonardo – che fortuna!!
    Berlino è fantastico :)
    Crepi!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Nat!! Hope your English students enjoy my blog :)

  • http://MockingbirdAcres.com JoAnna

    I'm going to austria in a month! I took French, Spanish and German in college, but German was my weakest – only 2 years. I've been cramming my notes, and a lot's coming back to me. Can you post links to the PDFs and other sources you are referring to? Would you be willing to share the MP3s …since they came from the library, i might be able to justify 'fair use' since my library has NOTHING like that. :0(

  • Anonymous
  • http://planetgermany.wordpress.com/ Cathy

    Fabulous method for learning a language! When I moved to Germany I spent far too long hanging around English speakers – I’d have made much quicker progress if I’d made myself speak German from the start!

  • montmorency

    Sehr interessant Benny. That’s a good tip about looking as though you are enjoying it when speaking with natives. I’ve probably suffered from the “bamboo kebab” effect in the past, especially with receptionists in large international hotels, whose English is probably at least as good as mine.
    Tschüss.
    Monty.

  • Robert Jewell

    I still don’t see how you have made native speakers, speak to you in their native toungue — what if you just do not know what to say? You keep saying, context, context, context. I’m sorry, but sometimes: one just does not know how to say something. And practically speaking, you only have 10-15 seconds — AT MOST — to come remotely close to what you want to say before a speaker looks at you and says to his/herself “screw this person…I’d rather either not talk to him or speak to him in English — not my native language.”

    Sorry, I just don’t see how you do it.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Very luckily, in the real world, people aren’t as ass-holey as this caricature you’ve come up with. I certainly hope you aren’t as mean to someone who would struggle to speak English to you! If so, then gladly you would be an exception.

      People are patient. Trust me, I’ve been a beginner learner of a language MANY times ;)

      • Robert Jewell

        This person — whom you call a caricature — does exist. The person is someone you have made friends with in English. This person can be your significant other.

        This person sees your commitment to his/her native language as a threat to your current relationship with this person.

        This person may or may not be trying to get free English lessons, but enjoys the sophisticated relationship he/she has with you in English. When you decide to learn this person’s native tongue. Everything breaks down, potentially, the relationship itself.

        I’m a strong willed person and usually if this is a friend, I have no problem avoiding him/her because I am committed to learning the language, which requires — and I agree 100% with you — SPEAKING it. I learned this in Cairo, Egypt.

        Still, if this person is your significant other, then I am afraid it’s not so easy, Benny. Stuff really hits the fan. Your commitment to the other language can literally destroy a relationship.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          And this is why, when I travel, I have a speak from day one approach. In Cairo I had a strict Arabic-only relationship with everyone, and didn’t run into any “threat” because of this.

          If you have a significant other who doesn’t support your passion in life, and who doesn’t care to help you learn the language of the place you are both in, then that is very unfortunate. I would hope for more understanding and patience from a significant other, ESPECIALLY if you are living in their country.

          • Robert Jewell

            I see that you hit the ground in the right way, and I am incorrect to start on the wrong foot — there in lies the difference.

            Thank you for all of this advice, Benny! I really enjoy your site. Your posts are golden.