Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Learning Japanese in German with a French friend

Mixing languages is a whole lot of fun. Let me prove to you why! I had an online conversation recently with an ex-student of mine from Japan (hi Junko!) who's just moved to New York to work for the Japanese consulate there (yes, a dream job in a dream city - but she deserves it!). She was trying to decide between signing up for French or yoga classes. My answer - wouldn't it be great if you could find a yoga class run in French?

She laughed (well, in an online kind of way) and I told her about my experiences in Germany. I was keen to keep up the Japanese I'd learnt while I lived in Japan, and at the same time I was needing some places to speak lots of German, since I was speaking nearly only English at work (teaching English!). Since my Japanese level was pretty low, I signed up to a Japanese class that was mostly conducted in German and I had the best of both worlds!


My Japanese teacher was a native speaker, but she'd lived in Germany for quite some time and even spoke the local Schwaebisch dialect well (this may or may not have been a good thing for my German skill!). Revising both my German and my Japanese skills at the same time seemed to work perfectly for me. I also made a lovely French friend there (hi Marie!) who wanted to practice her English sometimes and we had a lot of very mixed up language conversations. And I loved it.

Nowadays, the only regret I have is that while my German has continued to improve - it sure helps being married to a native speaker and using it to raise our son bilingually - my Japanese has dropped off dramatically. It seems to prove the premise of a great blog I follow - Fluent in 3 months - in which Benny has been travelling the world learning new languages in just three months because he is living the language (and, I might add, being extraordinarily brave about plunging in the deep end and not being afraid to make mistakes). Interestingly, I do seem to remember a post on his site saying that you shouldn't try to learn multiple languages at once - but just the same, I had a lot of fun doing it!

Over to you readers - what languages would you most like to learn? And what language mixing experiences do you have?

4 comments:

  1. That´s what the Portuguese call "a Russian salad", that is a speaking in a mix of languages. It must be funny though. I wish I hadn´t almost forgotten how to speak French, as my daughter´s partner is French, and even though he is fluent in English, his family in France don´t speak it! So while they are trying to learn English, I think I need to start learning French again!

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    1. I like that, "Russian salad"!
      I'm sure you'd pick up French again really quickly, Sami - it's always nice to have a good reason (like in-laws) to learn it.

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  2. Only you would think to multitask a learning experience like that Amanda!!! Love it :)
    My Japanese is very very poor now too. I think all the time I put into it and if you don't keep using it, you very quickly lose it... I wish I had kept it up. I also really wanted to learn Spanish so perhaps I need to find a Japanese taught Spanish class or a Spanish taught Japanese class - hmmmm I wonder if Gaby would be up for it...?

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    1. Ha ha yes that's exactly what you need, Rach! And I know what you mean - it's so frustrating to remember all the time you put into a language that you then just forget (although I guess the same goes for nearly everything I learnt in school and uni, if I think about it!)

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