Acquiring and Furthering Foreign Language Skills: German Edition

My Friday mornings begin at 6:30 a.m. to meet with my language tutor online, where we work on improving my legal German. Two years ago, however, I could barely construct elementary sentences in German. I credit where my language skills are today to my time studying abroad at Freie Universität Berlin (FU).

When I started studying at FU, I was barely at intermediate German (B2) but by the end of the year I reached advanced German (C1). While at FU we had twelve hours of German classes a week and opportunities to continue developing our German language skills outside of the classroom setting. Living with a host family, for example, was a major catalyst towards learning German because my host family and I spoke exclusively in German at home. In addition to my host family, I also made many friends in the city with whom I could speak German. I felt I was spoiled rotten with the sheer amount of opportunities I had to learn German while living in Berlin.

Precisely because I had so many opportunities in Berlin, returning to the States was a challenging adjustment as I sought similar opportunities to continue improving my German. What I realized is that there is no substitute for living abroad, there simply is not. However, because the world is increasingly digitalized and globalized it is entirely possible to further language skills even while not living in the target country where the language is spoken.

Currently, I maintain contact with friends from Berlin, meet with language tutors online, watch TV in German through online streaming services, listen to German podcasts, attend German meetups to practice speaking, and have befriended a few German friends here in D.C. I think the trick is to love the language one is learning and with that, it becomes natural to involve it as a part of daily life.

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