Being fully immersed in a language that is unknown to one’s mind sounds a lot easier than it is. As I spent a whole summer in Germany, I was terrified by how difficult it was to listen to a foreign language 24/7. The experience was perhaps the most confusing and incredible experience of my life. The trip allowed me to create a new understanding for the language as well as many friendships. In order to understand even the tiniest piece of a sentence my brain had to work like an ant, constantly processing bits and pieces until the job was done. It took only days for confusion to take over my mind, and it took a whole summer to overcome the mass confusion in my brain.
While I lived with my relatives for the summer, I was fortunate enough to have a distant relative with whom I could attend school. Attending school in Germany was a very interesting experience, because I did not know anyone. I was “The American Girl” whom everyone wanted to meet. The first couple of days were the most awkward of all, but I made many friends fast. My favorite class at school was English class. I was like a human textbook, teaching the class about me, America, school in America, music, and much more. It was fascinating to see how much interest the students had in me and in America. Listening to the students speak English was just as difficult for me as it was trying to speak German. I had no idea how difficult it would be to try and understand their incorrect English, which made me wonder how difficult it was for them to understand my German.
When the summer holidays started for the students, it meant one thing: parties and other social events. These gatherings left me lost, more lost than I had been as far as translating went, because my friends would have many conversations and I would have no idea what was going on. Three years of German class at school felt like nothing at all as I was drowning in a sea of confusion from the fast conversation, heavy accents, and vocabulary that was unknown to me. Luckily for me, English is a universal language and I had discovered the universal language of the youth. English hadn’t been helping so much in conversation, but having had realized that there was a universal language of the youth, I could relate and interact with my German friends through sports, music, laughter, and much more.
Seven weeks of immersion in Germany still left me feeling as though I couldn’t understand one bit of the German language. I was beginning to find it hard to believe that I made it the whole summer relying on improper English and the language of the youth. It wasn’t long after my trip until I was back in the German classroom. Being back in German class opened my eyes and showed me how much I had truly learned in Germany. Realizing that I could understand almost anything in German provided me with a greater feeling of accomplishment than I had ever felt before. I look back on the life changing experience and couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my summer. The summer gave me an understanding of a different culture and the knowledge of not only one language, but two: the first being German and the second being the universal language of the youth.
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