At UNUmondo we often refer to free German Lessons. And they're not classes offered by any school. They're actually lessons your environment provides you with, every single day. We've already talked about using the world around you to increase your vocabulary, but we'd like to build even more on that. We're encouraging you to open your eyes and look for such lessons because not only will you expand your vocabulary, but you'll also understand your environment better, the local people around you and transform frustration into excitement.
You are in the enviable position of being immersed in the language that you are trying to learn and being surrounded by native-speakers. Are you taking advantage of that? If yes, congratulations. If not, why is that? Please take a moment to reflect on what is holding back from using your environment as a learning opportunity and how you can address that. Also, how disconnected does it make you feel when you don't pay attention to what is spoken or written in German or Swiss German around you?
One of the UNUmondo Golden Formula elements is noticing. This refers to paying attention to all the language you are exposed to, whether it's written or spoken, formal or informal, known or new. All you have to do is to be attentive to your environment, with the intention to not necessarily understand the language, but observe something about it. Maybe you'll just recognize a word that you recently learned, and this will help as a repetition exercise and an encouraging tap on your shoulder. Or you'll notice that the phrase structure is different than you expected it to be, and now you have something to ask your coach during your next session. You can also start with something as simple as reading the ingredients and instructions on different products and use the Italian or French version to help you connect the dots and understand the words. However little it may seem, it's already great and puts you into a curiosity mode that will greatly boost your learning. This is what helps to integrate the language you're learning into your daily life and keep it always alive in your brain, instead of remembering about it only during your UNUmondo sessions or other German classes.
However, we don't like to associate learning German or Swiss German with brain alone. Learning a language is so much more than a mere intellectual exercise that will enable you to add one more skill to your resume. A language is a fundamental human instrument to connect with other people, to understand your environment, this new society and culture better, and ultimately to discover something new about yourself, or re-invent yourself altogether. This is what the UNUmondo sessions are focused on: learning the language you need in your life, while making your first connection with a local and discovering your city or a cultural aspect together with your coach. They bring not only linguistic knowledge and lots of speaking practice, but also joy, connection with and interest towards this place you now call home. The same should be true for your free German lessons and this is where transforming frustration into excitement happens. I was out for a cupcake the other day when I noticed the following quote on their outside menu:
"Aus den Träumen des Frühlings wird im Herbst Marmelade gemacht"
It was a short, poetic sentence that made me think of spring, blooms and hopes, and also reflect on this autumn and what I achieved so far. It also made me realize that my German is much better than it was this spring. I left the place with a great cupcake, feeling more connected to the shop and the city in general, as well as feeling proud of myself and excited to continue my journey. I think these are the small surprises that you will discover as soon as you decide to notice more in the world around you.
So how can you start taking advantage of all these free German lessons? Let's take a simple example. Do you research what gym offers classes in English before attending a class (or any other service) ? Or do you tell your trainer that you don't speak German and ask them to hold the class in English? While it's fully your right to do that, take a moment to reflect on how does that make you feel and how / if it helps you. Do you feel embarrassed with having to ask this, or frustrated with having to live in a place whose local language you don't speak? Does that make you attend less classes? Now imagine this experiment: instead of thinking that you need to take that class in English, maybe you research a bit of German vocabulary related to that topic beforehand, or you just dive into the unknown, and don't tell your trainer you don't speak German. Pretend you do, try your best to follow the instructions, to observe what everyone is doing and what the trainer says, and see what happens. I'm sure you'll do just fine, you'll have fun and be proud of yourself in the end.
If you change your attitude and take these opportunities to practice more German, what before was a frustrating reminder of your limitations will become an exhilarating chance to overcome them.