How to master the German language and tame your inner demons. The road to fluency is a rocky one.


The German language is widely considered to be one of the most difficult languages in Europe, if not in the world. So when people decide to learn it, they usually have a good reason- be it that they need to pick up the language for work, because their partner is from a German-speaking country or that they must demonstrate a certain level of competence in a foreign language for their course of study. Yet, however convincing their reason might look on paper, they almost inevitably face considerable 'ups and downs' in their motivation and attitude towards the language. Why? Because learning German is very frustrating at times. So much so that students almost always come to the point where they are willing to admit defeat.

In situations like these, you cannot help but empathise with your students. They attend their lessons, diligently do their homework, spend a considerable amount of time revising German rules and words, and yet- they don't see progress and their motivation hits rock bottom.

It is precisely at this point where the power dynamics between German teacher and German student might seem at their most unequal, that the teacher needs to sketch out the 'bigger picture' and point to the challenges that the student has already overcome. In situations like these, I often compare learning German to climbing the Mount Everest. Of course, I have not climbed this mountain of mountains myself. Nor do I have any intention to do so. Still, the analogy is worth drawing as students often face the aforementioned crisis in their studies of the language at the point when they are half way there; at intermediate level, that is, or should I say, when they have passed the 4.5K mark. At that point, the challenges of the first half of their journey seem so insignificant compared to the road ahead of them that it fails to motivate enough them to carry on. Yet, it's actually too late to give up, since it's usually just a question of time before the students consolidate their grammar and regain a sense of pragmatism that is necessary to accept all the intricacies of German words (grammatical irregularities, how context-specific the meaning of German words can be, and so son).

And from the perspective of the German tutor? Well, you need to remind yourself of the incredible feeling when the power balance between student and teacher is restored and you can ultimately have a conversation and written exchange on an equal footing. The money that you might earn in return for your language services can never overshadow that incredible feeling. So, the moral of the story is: both student and teacher will get there in the end, if they put in the work.

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