#73 – „Ich habe die deutsche Sprache gehasst“ – mit Rachel Young

Speaker 1 ( 00:00 )
Fear, uncertainty, doubt. You’ve probably already gotten to know all of this in connection with language learning. The only question is how you deal with these feelings. Do you allow them to destroy you or do you manage to control them? For today’s episode of German Chatter I met up with Rachel from England. She now lives in Switzerland and she was in German coaching with me for 20 weeks and I think she speaks great German. The problem is, she didn’t see it that way for a long time. We talked about where her doubts came from. What positive and negative experiences she had with the language and how she managed to almost overcome her fears.

Speaker 1 ( 00:54 )
Welcome to German Chatter. I am Flemming, German coach for Natural Flow and German. This podcast is for you if you want to improve your listening comprehension, expand your vocabulary, get to know real everyday German and find out more about Germany. You can find the transcripts to read along at www. naturalfuentgerman.com. By the way, German chatter is also available on YouTube. And now have fun listening.

Speaker 1 ( 01:22 )
Hello dear German learners, hello dear German learners. Nice that you tuned in again and are part of a new episode of Deutsches Geplapper. Today I’m sitting here with Rachel. Hello, Rachel.

Speaker 2 ( 01:36 )
Hello, Flemming, how are you?

Speaker 1 ( 01:38 )
Yes, very good. Nice to see you again, finally! We said goodbye at the end of June. You were in my coaching until the end of June. We spent exactly 20 weeks together. 20 very, very intensive weeks. And overall it was a lot of fun, right?

Speaker 2 ( 02:00 )
Lots of fun. And I learned a lot. for 20 weeks. Yes, it was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed it. Honestly.

Speaker 1 ( 02:10 )
Exactly. You were also, we discovered somehow, you were actually the only one who was in every group meeting over this long period of time. That was also a really strong performance. So you were really always there. In the individual sessions anyway, but also in the group sessions. Yes, not everyone can do it by far and that’s why you definitely went through with it really, really and in the end you rewarded yourself somehow for it. You have just now, you registered for a B2 exam during the coaching and…

Speaker 2 ( 02:45 )
A huge challenge for me.

Speaker 1 ( 02:49 )
Yes, a huge challenge. That brings us straight to the topic of you being very excited before the exam. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. Can you tell me very briefly why was that? Why were you under so much pressure? And yes, how did it end up going?

Speaker 2 ( 03:11 )
Yes, it was difficult for me. I have lived in Switzerland for almost 20 years and during this time I still have not mastered the German language. And that was an achievement for me, a huge challenge. And yes, I had, I struggled for years and I tried to learn German, without success. And at school I learned German and I did pretty well in school. Then I went to university and I learned German in the first year and that was terrible. Horrible experience for me and the teacher was very strict and he explained to us what we need to do and then he waited and waited and waited for the answers. And that doesn’t help at all. That doesn’t do anything. If we did something wrong, he would just say „no, wrong“ and wait for the right answer. And yes, a bad experience for me. And then I moved to Switzerland and I worked in an international school where all the staff had to learn German and I was in a German course again and that was difficult for me too. There were two different levels. A beginner’s course and advanced. And because I had studied German at university, I had to go to the advanced group. And it was too difficult for me. I had maybe A2 level and in the course it was maybe B2, C1 and that was too much. And we had to pay a penalty if we made mistakes and for me that was a disaster. It was only 50 centimes or so, but still. It was humiliating and it was embarrassing for me. And after this course I said „Never again, never again, I won’t learn German anymore.“ And I suddenly realized that it is possible to live in a country without knowing the language. Life won’t be easy, but it is possible. And then, after 18 years, I thought okay, not anymore, not anymore. And then I had a conversation with my partner and he has the same problem in French. He lives in France. And he said „Okay, now or never. You learn German, I’ll learn French.“ And then he said, „Let’s get uncomfortable. It will be uncomfortable, but maybe it has to be that way.“ And then I found your podcast. And I signed up.

Speaker 1 ( 07:00 )
Very good. Very good. And I would like to go into it again straight away because you also said that you can live in a foreign country without knowing the language. And here you have to say that everyone probably defines the word “control” differently now. But you haven’t lived in the country for 18 years without knowing the language. That would probably be your definition again.

Speaker 3 ( 07:29 )
Yes, exactly.

Speaker 1 ( 07:30 )
Exactly. Yes, because I think everyone who has listened here for these few minutes will notice that you definitely know the language. But that’s why I wanted to do this episode with you. Because I also noticed during these 20 weeks of coaching that you have a completely different perception of yourself than others. You may also remember the other coaching participants who always shook their heads a little when you criticized yourself again. And I know that there are many, many German learners and language learners in general who have this self-doubt, who are simply not convinced at all. Who keep asking themselves „What am I doing wrong?“, who don’t dare to say something and all that. And yes, they make themselves a little bit worse than they are. And that just… That brings with it other problems. But that’s why what you just said is very interesting. I would say that you noticed these mindset problems, these self-doubts somewhere when you went to school. Or that was, can you put it this way, was that the decisive reason for you that you associated a lot of negative things with the German language?

Speaker 2 ( 08:59 )
Things were pretty easy for me at school. I had a great teacher and I lived that teacher and I got good grades, always got good grades. But in university, it was something different and the teacher just had no interest in us and different learning methods that I didn’t like. And that was just too difficult. And this humiliation was terrible for me. And maybe that has to do with other things.

Speaker 3 ( 09:43 )
Oh, now. I mixed that up, I think. So this question and answer game, when he said „wrong“, that was in the university, that wasn’t in school.

Speaker 2 ( 09:57 )
That was at university, at school, that was great. My teacher was great. But in university, he waited for the answer. And I’m an English teacher, I know how bad it is for students when they just don’t understand and you wait. And yes, it’s terrible. And these bad experiences stay with us and have a meaning, an effect I meant, an effect on us. And then a second bad experience at the language school in Switzerland, where we had to pay a fine. That was terrible too. And I said „Never again, never again“.

Speaker 1 ( 10:48 )
How was that? How much did you have to pay in total?

Speaker 2 ( 10:50 )
Oh, I forgot. But he said „Yes, at the end of the course we could go into town, go out and have a drink together“. And I said, I don’t want to, I don’t want to do anything with these people.

Speaker 1 ( 11:12 )
Okay. Yes, but that kind of thing is of course formative. So, that’s perhaps the first learning, in German, the first learning effect here in this episode, perhaps for everyone out there. Anyone who has self-doubt should perhaps take a look at themselves: what could that have been for me? This often has a trigger. Of course, this can also have very, very different causes and you have to dig much, much deeper. That doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with the language, but as you say yourself, it was obviously the same for you. There was the first bad experience at university. That shaped you. And then we continued with this language course. And then there are always little things, little everyday stories, that refresh and bring this whole topic back to life. You just told me a nice story during the coaching. Or beautiful is relative. It was about your daughter’s friend. You know what I mean, right? How was the story?

Speaker 2 ( 12:29 )
Yes, after a few weeks of coaching I thought „Yeah, why haven’t I made that much progress?“ And you always tell me „Hey, you’ve made progress, you’ve made progress.“ It’s simple, it comes slowly, it takes time. And after five or six weeks I was a bit desperate and at one of my daughter’s birthday parties I explained something to the children in German. And my daughter’s friend said „Tell your mother that I understand her much better when she speaks English“. And I tried so hard. I learned so much. Every day at half past five I got up to study and I thought „Wow, I’m making progress now“ and then she said that. But then, then afterwards, I pulled myself together and I thought, who am I doing this course for? For myself. Not for other people. Not for other people’s praise. I shouldn’t care at all. And maybe a little recognition would be great from my kids. Yes. And then afterwards I thought I was just doing this for myself. And I did it.

Speaker 1 ( 14:01 )
Exactly. You managed.

Speaker 2 ( 14:02 )
I had a great teacher.

Speaker 1 ( 14:05 )
Yes, well, you did it. You did, with you, halfway through, you kind of noticed, okay, something has happened now. I think you had so much pressure building up that at some point there had to be a point where you either exploded or changed something about your mindset. And you chose the second way. You then really actively decided for yourself, okay, it can’t go on like this. Why am I actually doing this? Why am I stressing myself out so much? Of course, this referred to the progress you made in coaching, as well as the exam you then had to take. You’ve put a little more pressure on yourself. Maybe that was unnecessary, but maybe it was just right. Maybe it was just right because so much came up at once that you realized, I have to relax now, otherwise I’ll get ready. You do this for yourself. You actually said it perfectly, there’s nothing to add. You made it for yourself. You don’t have to impress anyone. You already know the language. This means you can live very well in Switzerland. And then, as I said, a small change was noticeable in you. And that lasted until the exam, that you were significantly more relaxed, even if not totally relaxed, but significantly more relaxed than before, right?

Speaker 2 ( 15:27 )
More relaxed, yes. At the beginning I always thought that the more work I did, the more I learned, the better my German would get, of course. And that’s true, but only in the long term. In the short term, what was important was confidence. And I suddenly noticed that the more work I do, the more I learn, the better my confidence becomes. And the more self-confidence I got. And that’s true. And that’s important. Learning a language requires more self-confidence and courage.

Speaker 1 ( 16:09 )
Exactly. Naturally. Courage is a very, very crucial thing. This is always leaving your comfort zone. We’ve talked about this so many times. It’s always kind of an uncomfortable situation. But the more you expose yourself to this situation, the better it gets, the easier it becomes in the long run. And yes, you said it, it’s a long-term process and you shouldn’t expect, okay, I’ll give everything today for the next five or six weeks and then everything will have improved. No, unfortunately that’s not the case. It’s a lifelong process, partly.

Speaker 2 ( 16:43 )
And I always have good days and bad days. And after a few weeks of vacation, for example, I come back and I haven’t spoken a word of German for two weeks and then I have difficulties. But it comes back quickly and everyone has good days and bad days. Also native speakers in my profession. This is completely normal and important to remember.

Speaker 1 ( 17:09 )
Yes, exactly. And expectations also grow when you do something every day, invest hours, every day. Then the internal expectations grow and perhaps the external ones too. Maybe your partners or friends will notice this too. Okay, she sits here studying her German every day, something has to happen now. But they have no idea about learning languages. Only you know that and you still think okay, now I’ll do three hours of German here every day, get up early, I have to be better now. And it is this expectation that simply wears you down. It’s more about taking a realistic look at the situation and seeing how long it really takes until you continue to make progress at a high level. You have to say that too. You’re already up, you’ve already been up here. And then going even further is completely different than when you start learning a language. Of course, after six months you will be able to do a lot more than you could six months ago. But you just have to see this relationship. And to break it down again with the exam, you then took the exam. Afterwards you came back to our group session and you were completely exhausted, you were totally desperate.

Speaker 2 ( 18:30 )
Totally desperate. I thought that I had failed, that everything had gone wrong and a few days later I wanted to register for a new exam because I thought that things had gone so badly. But that wasn’t the case. My little voice said to me „Wait Rachel, wait for the result“. And yes, I passed it.

Speaker 1 ( 7:00 p.m. )
And how! So not just like that, but…?

Speaker 2 ( 19:03 )

Speaker 1 ( 19:05 )
87%, 87 damn percent. And we all, everyone said yes. The other participants also said “Rachel, we don’t believe you when you said you failed this”. And it was like that, so you can see that this is the best example of how the mind can really play a big trick on you, that the mind can really really mess you up. Then you start with the mind games and then it gets worse and worse, worse and worse. If the focus is on that, then you’re actually just destroying yourself.

Speaker 2 ( 19:44 )
And this little girl helped me.

Speaker 1 ( 19:47 )
This little girl. Yes, of course that’s something you can learn again. Of course, this now also applies to all listeners. When you receive feedback, always pay attention to who the feedback comes from. And in this case it was a child. On the one hand, it doesn’t know your path, and of course it doesn’t know anything about the topic of language learning. On the other hand, of course, there is always the question of sensitivity, of empathy. In such a case it is something completely different. Of course an adult wouldn’t tell you that.

Speaker 2 ( 20:28 )
Yes, exactly.

Speaker 1 ( 20:29 )
But this child then only sees the comparison. Okay, English native language, German two mistakes in ten sentences or something like that. And then it’s…

Speaker 2 ( 20:41 )
I always ask myself, why is it so much easier to believe bad things about ourselves? When someone insults us, we believe it and we are hurt. But when you give a compliment. Gives? Gives a compliment?

Speaker 1 ( 21:01 )
Giving or giving someone a compliment, yes.

Speaker 2 ( 21:03 )
Yes, and then we say „no, no, no, that’s not true, that’s not true.“ So many people have said, „Hey, Rachel, your German is okay, your German is good,“ but I don’t believe that. But this little girl, when she says „Hey, your German is bad“, I believe it. But why? How come?

Speaker 1 ( 21:22 )
Yes, that’s how our brains are programmed. We are evolutionarily wired to filter out this bad information because it may have been threatening to us in some way thousands of years ago. Bad information comes and we think, „Oh, now I have to fear for my life.“ Of course, this is no longer the case these days, but our brains still work this way. And you think to yourself, „Okay, criticism, I have to protect myself.“ Your brain goes crazy in this case and thinks „yes, there could be something to it, I have to pay close attention now. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I really speak really bad German.“

Speaker 2 ( 22:06 )
That’s right!

Speaker 1 ( 22:07 )
But I know it’s difficult to examine this filter and try to do it objectively. It’s actually not possible to be objective if you’re the person you’re looking at. But still trying to take a little outside perspective and really see what the situation is and what I think the situation is like, to put these two sides next to each other. That also helps you not to beat yourself up so much, not to drive yourself so crazy when speaking.

Speaker 2 ( 22:43 )
And I ask the question, „Who am I doing this for?“ Exactly, I do this for myself.

Speaker 1 ( 22:49 )
Exactly. And you’re already thinking about taking the C1 exam again, you told me earlier.

Speaker 2 ( 22:59 )
Yes, I’m waiting. I’m still learning, but for the exam, that takes at least a year or so, that takes time.

Speaker 1 ( 23:12 )
Yes, that’s exactly your point. You don’t have it, you basically don’t need it. Nothing in particular about your life situation would change if you passed or failed this exam. That was already the case before. It would just be for you, a little bit for your ego or for your self-worth, self-confidence or what?

Speaker 2 ( 23:35 )
Of course, of course. I didn’t need the B2 exam. I only needed B1 to get naturalized. But as a challenge I thought no, I’ll try B2. I wanted to be at B2 level. But maybe it’s better for you to register for the exam at the level where you are and not where you want to go.

Speaker 1 ( 24:07 )
Yes, exactly. Um, how are things looking for you today? Or yes, I say that in everyday life. So you also get feedback from other people who aren’t little girls, i.e. those who you might be in contact with. Do you have any positive or negative experiences? How do you deal with it and how would you describe it?

Speaker 2 ( 24:34 )
Yes, good question. I got very good feedback and after our coaching I asked my friends „Please correct me.“ And I know that it is difficult to correct every mistake because I make a lot of mistakes. But that’s okay. But a few weeks ago, I was out with coworkers and I said something wrong and my girlfriend corrected me. Totally okay, yes, thank you. But a guy said, „Hey, that’s bad, that’s embarrassing. Don’t say that to Rachel. Hey, she’s trying, she’s studying,“ and my friend said, „No, no, no.“ And he was a teacher, which was weird. But my friend said, „No, she asked, she asked me if I could do it.“ And I found that pretty funny. For him it was like that, what she did for me was embarrassing. He thought it was embarrassing.

Speaker 1 ( 25:44 )
You didn’t think it was embarrassing, did you?

Speaker 2 ( 25:46 )
No, nothing. Nothing at all.

Speaker 1 ( 25:50 )
And that’s it…

Speaker 2 ( 25:54 )
I think that was a small mistake. I said, “That’s a great shame.” And my friend said, “No, that’s a shame.”

Speaker 1 ( 25:58 )
Oh, “that’s a shame.” Not “a big one.”

Speaker 2 ( 26:03 )
What a shame. OK. Yes, forget it.

Speaker 1 ( 26:07 )
Just as I corrected you now. But that’s true, you said yourself that you didn’t find it embarrassing. And we talked about this often in coaching. I say that again and again to all participants. Get feedback from outside. You can’t learn better. You can’t develop better. But exactly those two people you just described, the friend and the teacher. Exactly these two types exist. Some say „I don’t want to control you because I’m afraid of hurting your feelings.“ And the others say „Yes, but I’ll give you my support and that’s how you can improve.“ And I know which one, or we know which option is better.

Speaker 2 ( 26:54 )

Speaker 1 ( 26:56 )
Because it is simply helpful in everyday life, in direct interaction, to correct these mistakes or to have them corrected by someone, so that you make this progress, so that you can develop further. These situations are much, much easier to remember than anything else you can do. These corrections in direct interaction, which are somehow linked to emotions. This is exactly what ensures that we make progress. That’s why I keep saying people, get yours. Your feedback from work colleagues and friends, actively tell them that they can do that. Not just when asked, but that they are allowed to do it that way. „Hey, here you are in the office all day. If I’m chatting and talking here, just tell me what’s wrong. I don’t have to correct every declination here, but if I choose the wrong wording or something, then say it to me and that really helps me.“ Yes, but interesting. So you still experience such actions or situations in everyday life. What about your doubts, nervousness and fears when speaking these days? Has that changed in the last few weeks and months?

Speaker 2 ( 28:19 )
Difficult to say because in the last few weeks I haven’t had that many opportunities to talk. But I would say it has improved. The situation has improved and I have more confidence. And yes, if I make mistakes, it’s okay. It’s completely okay. And now I can honestly say that I don’t care what other people think about my German or my German. And yes, it would be great if I could speak German perfectly. And if people could say „Hey, wow, hey, what did you do? Where did you learn?“ But yeah, it’s okay. It’s coming, it’s coming slowly.

Speaker 1 ( 29:18 )
Yes. Exactly. That too. So the linguistic development on the one hand. But of course the mindset on the other. This isn’t something you can completely change in two weeks or change for the better. But here too, every little progress counts and this is also a process from which you can grow. And here too, what counts is simply being patient. But I think you definitely took that with you from coaching, or have now understood it. Even if it’s not always so easy in everyday life, the implementation. And sometimes, like you said, sometimes you just have bad days. Then you take all the criticism much more to heart. Then everything is much worse than it would be on any other day. But in the end you are still on the right path. That’s what I definitely see in you.

Speaker 2 ( 30:19 )
It takes time and I’m still on the journey. But now I love the German language. I can honestly say that, I can honestly say that. And 18 years ago I said „Never again. I’ll never go to a language course again.“ But now it has changed. Because of you and your coaching. And no, it was really fun, it was really fun. And I learned so much.

Speaker 1 ( 30:56 )

Speaker 2 ( 30:56 )
Thank you!

Speaker 1 ( 30:58 )
Thank you, Rachel. It was definitely a lovely 20 weeks. It was also a very, very educational, interesting podcast episode with you. And now at the end to say that you love the German language is the biggest compliment you could give me. So thank you very much. Thank you, Rachel. I hope and think we’ll definitely stay in touch and let you know.

Speaker 2 ( 31:23 )
Of course. Thank you, Flemming.

Speaker 1 ( 31:24 )
Thanks, Rachel. And yes, people to you, as you’ve now heard and hopefully understood, don’t beat yourself up. Stay patient, don’t be too nervous. I think you also learned a lot from the experiences that Rachel just described here. I’m sure there are some of you here who have or have had similar problems in the past. So feel free to question your entire mindset yourself if you also have problems daring to speak and interact with others. When you criticize yourself, it’s always something you have to take a close look at. Is everything I’m telling myself here actually true or is it nonsense? And in the end, as Rachel put it well, you are doing it primarily for yourself and you should always remember that. Exactly. So stay relaxed. And if you would like to discuss the topic a little more, just write a comment on YouTube. I can always answer that well. Otherwise, help the German Geplapper podcast if you leave a rating, give a positive rating, five stars, a like on YouTube, write comments, recommend, all of this helps me to move forward. Well guys, I think you’ve had enough on your ears now. I wish you a nice week, stay healthy, stay relaxed and we’ll see you again next week at Deutsches Geplapper. Ciao.

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