Babel in my head

I’ve been trying to recover my lost German, spending a while each day (that was the theory, the practise is I forget sometimes) using some CDs and a book to get some of my language ability back. I took an O level in German, way back in 1982, when an O level was worth rather more in many ways than the current exam. Of course, 1982 is a long time ago and while I have used it a little since then, I have let it slip away and I thought it was mostly lost, but for a few words and phrases.

It’s so much harder to learn a language once you are an adult and I’m over forty now, so harder still. I used to be able to pick up language very easily; I’d only need to hear a word or phrase once or twice and I would remember it. I was getting to a point recently where I felt near despair because the words were just not sticking at all.

Then last night, after I went to bed, my mind started to chew over things, while I was trying to get to sleep and then it went into overdrive and began spouting German all night. You know how if you are sleeping very lightly you can sometimes have a lot of dialogue going on, almost beyond your consciousness. Well, mine last night was in German. Halting and rather broken German but German nonetheless. I sometimes dream in French but until last night, never in German (except for waking up with the phrase for fizzy water) 

I think that’s probably progress. It feels like it’s starting to “catch” again. I’m off in just over ten days so I may be able to complete the course before I go and feel I can at least manage without looking too often like yet another stupid English tourist who can’t or won’t speak the langauge.

11 thoughts on “Babel in my head

  1. Talking about languages, I find that it is mainly the ability to express myself that I tend to lose when I don’t use a language extensively. It is a serious loss, I must admit. To a large degree, however, I seem to have preserved the ability to understand.
    As for dreaming in a foreign language, I’ve been amazed at how much easier it can be in the dream, how naturally it comes, the words just flowing in a smooth sequence. I read somewhere that this is because our brains store much more information and knowledge than we can actually retrieve from them. Isn’t it a pity?


    • It is a huge pity!
      I use a technique sometimes, called Lucid dreaming, where one becomes aware while dreaming that one is dreaming. I try to use these small windows of lucid dreaming to achieve things, like questions to answers I need. trouble is, the lucidity vanishes very quickly and you lose it often before you’ve got very far. I often just use that window to fly!
      I wonder if they will ever find ways of helping us use what’s in our brains better!


  2. My listening comprehension in French is pretty bad (unless the other person is speaking slowly and has very good pronunciation–or I’m listening to a French song). My listening comprehension in Mandarin is more or less as good as it is in English. But, I sometimes talk aloud to myself in French when I’m frustrated more than I would in Mandarin.

    Save for a few utterances of “you crazy person.” I’d even go for the random Japanese and Korean I know.

    I dream in English.

    Viv, have you been watching German films as a part of your re-immersion? or listening to Tokio Hotel maybe? ^O^


    • Pugs, I can’t stream films on my ancient pc and our internet connection here is so slow(despite being broadband) I often have trouble with youTube clips and the like.
      But a good idea!


  3. Studying language as an adult is a struggle but a good one. The Babel awakens all the wiring and in time the lessons of the past are recovered from storage.

    How thrilling, though, to be reliving thought and speech in other tongues. We are then truly citizens of the world in a position to celebrate the nuance.


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