Learning Languages

I have always had an interest in languages and linguistics. I am very interested in the etymology of words and how different languages are related to each other. I grew up with three English teachers in my family. My mum and a few of my relatives are bilingual or trilingual. My mum speaks Spanish and my granny and Grandad speak Spanish and French. I speak English but I am learning German.

There were many factors that went into my decision to pick German as the language that I was going to study in school. My school offered two languages at the time French or German. I had studied French before from First to Fourth Class in primary school. I found it a hard language to learn and I struggled with having more than one definite and indefinite article and I found myself at times quite bored. I think I chose German for something different. Due to my love of History, I had an interest in Germany and the thought of learning German appealed to me. I wanted to do something different to the rest of my family and in the end I felt German was the best for me.

Little did I realise just how difficult German would be! I love the language but at times it can be a struggle. By far the hardest part of learning German is becoming familiar with Cases. Cases are only used for pronouns in English and most native speakers are not aware they are using them. In German, cases change the definite article (the) and the indefinite article (a) and also the ending of an adjective when used before a noun. This means as well as different genders, the definite and indefinite article change depending on which part of the sentence the word is in. It was difficult to get my head around it.

There are many positive aspects of German as well. Once I got familiar with how certain letters were pronounced, I found that spelling in German is very easy. Unlike English with all its phonetic inconsistencies, German spelling is very straightforward. There are also plenty of words which either are similar to English (such as Katze which means cat) or are logical to an English speaker (such as Hund which means dog). There are plenty of compound words which are both logical and fun to say. One of my favourite words in German is Sonnenblumenkern which means sunflower seed.

I struggled a lot with German throughout Junior Cert. I personally disagree with how foreign languages are taught in Ireland. There is a massive focus on Comprehension Questions and writing. I think it would be better if we focused on learning to actually speak the language to increase our knowledge of it. I ended up getting a C in Higher Level. After struggling a lot with German in Transition Year, I wondered if I would be able to cope with doing it again for Leaving Cert. In the end, I chose to do German again for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I realised a language might be a requirement for college courses I was interested in. I also felt that it didn’t really matter about how much I would use German in the future, becoming billingual was important to me.

I have always had a respect for people who can speak more than one language. In my opinion, it displays intelligence and worldliness. Of course there are parts of the world where being multilingual is common. For native English speakers, this skill is somewhat of a rarity. With immigration and mulitculturalism on the rise however, a knowledge of languages other than English is likely to become a necessary skill for people of my generation. I love that along with learning another language, you also learn about another culture. As part of my German course, I have learnt about the German school system, I have also learnt about German holidays such as the 3rd of October, where Germans commemorate the reunification of East and West Germany. Learning a language is a great way to become aware of the outside world.

I have definitely found learning German for Leaving Cert difficult. I have enjoyed the challenge though. As a way of improving my skills, I have taken to completing challenges on the langauge learning app, Duolingo everyday. A few weeks ago, I got my 365 day streak. It has definitely improved my knowledge of basic German. I would love to visit Germany one day, I especially want to visit Berlin. When I leave school, I intend to continue with learning the language, be it through Duolingo or maybe even studying it in college. I am determined that one day I will become bilingual.

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