October 16, 2011

A dose of my own medicine.

I got some good advice today.

It was from a stranger and it kind of hurt my feelings, but I think it was good advice. The young American girl with the killer German pronunciation said to me, in English: Don't introduce anything that you are about to do as bad. Just let it speak for itself.

This stranger and I met because we were both attending Oktoberfest as non-German majors. We were waiting for the professor to come back, and we had been speaking German. My German comes and goes. And it was particularly halting today during our conversation. The words felt funny in my mouth, and so I apologized for my unintelligble speech. That's when she switched the conversation to English, and  gave the advice. As my ego crumbled, I realized that I always tell other people exactly what she just told me, but I am so often guilty of selling myself short before I even have a chance.

She is wise for a seventeen-year-old who spent a year in Berlin learning to speak some of the best German I've ever heard an American speak. Later she confided that she wished she could just call herself "German" because, having spent a formative year in Deutschland, she felt somehow "German". My advice to her was just go for it. Tell people that you are German and see what happens. This was not advice in a serious sense, but in a party trick sense. She liked it. I think this is an identity crisis that every devoted language learner/study abroader encounters at some point, and role-playing when you meet new people is a lot of fun. I've definitely pretended to be a Scandinavian foregin exchange student before--which works a lot better if real Scandinavation excahgne students aren't around to call my bluff...

I'm tempted to write about the mess of theories that explain what I experienced today as a language learner, but I am not up for self-punishment at the moment.

To conclude, I would like to thank the universe for introducing me to a wise stranger who gave me a much-needed dose of my own medicine.