Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Off topic: How easy is it to get back the basics of a forgotten language?
Thread poster: Sheila Wilson

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sep 2, 2016

I'm beginning to have cold feet about a holiday I've booked. It's a January cruise on a German ship and neither I nor my husband speak German. I would have expected English to have been used on the TUI website and on board, but no. It's 100% German unless we start sinking (thanks to Concordia).

I studied the language intensively at school, but I've never used it since ... and I'm 60 now! To be honest, I never could speak it although I remember writing a three-page essay on the Common Market for the A-level exam. That was the same year as the "Brentry" referendum.

Does anyone have anything to share on reviving the basics of a language? Any advice, short of spending a lot of time and/or money? I got through the booking process by relying very heavily on GT , but that isn't going to help on board. I'm hoping it will magically return when I'm surrounded by Germans speaking German. But that's probably wishful thinking.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sasha Spencer
United States
Local time: 10:35
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
Listening might help Sep 3, 2016

Anything you learn doesn't just disappear. It is still stored in your memory. The question is, will you be able to retrieve it as fast as you would like to. I have some tricks, most of them are "common sense" things, so I apologize in advance, if they sound too simplistic. All of them take time, not a lot of time, but you will need to invest some time. The great thing is, German language is better than yoga for exercising your brain.

You are saying you haven't used the language in years. I'd say the best thing to do is to go back to reading and listening in German. I have a couple of things I resort to when I need to refresh a language.

If you are OK with background noise, listen to podcasts in German when you are doing mindless tasks. I like to choose podcasts about things I'm interested in. This will make sure you actually pay attention to the podcast. For example, I like dog training, so listening to podcasts about dog obedience training will engage my attention no matter the language.

If your goal is to just understand German you can also read news articles or anything that interests you in your native language. If you like reading book reviews, find your favorite books in German and read these book reviews in German.

If you want to speak German, you can pick a podcast and shadow it. This will make sure your muscles are trained to use German sounds. Use the same podcast over and over. Additional advantage is that this way you will also retain vocabulary in context. Another thing you could do is to read texts out loud. This will give you the sounds and the vocabulary and will be less stressful than shadowing. You could also describe thins you are doing in German while you are doing them. This also applies mostly to tasks that don't take much thinking.

If you find that you just don't have any time at all to invest into refreshing your German, it may be still worth going on the cruise. Most Germans I know speak at least some English and want to practice it any time they meet anyone who also speaks English. So chances are there will be many Germans who speak English on your cruise. Maybe the cruiseline office has a phone number you could call to see how many non-German speakers have booked the cruise or how many people on the ship speak English. (You'll be surprised how much information cruise personnel has on language-related subjects.)

In any case, hope you have a fantastic vacation in January!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 18:35
English to Croatian
+ ...
Online language exchange groups. Sep 3, 2016

Find someone to chat with you in German on Skype. These are supposed to be free and based on lesson for lesson model, ie. you can chat with them in English for one hour in return.

I don't believe only listening will do much in such a short period of time since it's passive. A combo of talking, listenig and typing (possible on Skype) could.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Decipherit  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:35
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Memrise Sep 3, 2016

I find it useful for learning the basics before visiting a country.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:35
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Agree with Sasha Sep 3, 2016

Agree with Sasha, particularly about reading. I like reading English books I know translated into the other language (I have several Perry Masons in Spanish translation, for example).
I have also found that Germans are always willing to make an effort to understand bad German and reply to it in English or German. You can ask them to speak slowly and distinctly (Bitte langsam und deutlich sprechen!).
Sometimes if you don’t know the word for something you can describe it. I remember in France, not knowing the French for potato peeler, I asked for “quelque chose pour ôter le peau d’une pomme de terre”. It got me the potato peeler!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:35
German to English
zdf Sep 3, 2016

You could go to the zdf.de Mediathek and watch some of the shows they have - that would expose you to the language again, and at this time of year they have all sorts of specials about vacations that would even have vocabulary suitable to your trip.
http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek#/hauptnavigation/startseite

If you go to the "Dokus und Reportagen" I bet you can find some "Urlaub" (holiday) themed ones.

Or as someone else mentioned you can probably look for a "Tandempartner" online - maybe a student headed to the UK for a study abroad program who wants to brush up their English before they go. Then you can arrange for some Skype calls to help each other. Since both people benefit, the arrangement is free.

In my experience, though, most Germans can speak at least a little English. There are exceptions, but I can't imagine that you wouldn't be able to find people on the ship who speak enough English to help you out if you need it.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:35
German to English
ESL Sep 3, 2016

Jack Doughty wrote:
Sometimes if you don’t know the word for something you can describe it. I remember in France, not knowing the French for potato peeler, I asked for “quelque chose pour ôter le peau d’une pomme de terre”. It got me the potato peeler!


This is an exercise I always do with the English classes I teach - I love it! I give them a paper with pictures of all sorts of household items (grater, fly swatter, corkscrew, tacks, knitting needles, etc.) and tell them to pretend they're in an English-speaking country and need these items. They pretend I'm the employee at whatever store and they're trying to make me understand what it is that they need ("I have a bottle of wine and I want to open it!"). I usually pretend to be particularly obtuse and don't let them use their hands since the gestures can make things too easy, but it really is a fantastic exercise and a VERY useful skill to practice.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
Romanian to English
+ ...
Dictionary Sep 3, 2016

I assume you are worried you will not be able to express your requests and needs.

In addition to the valuable tips of our colleagues above, I think it's useful to have a dictionary at hand and prepare for the basic questions you may need to ask (where is the, how much, what time, etc.). Sometimes people will understand what you want from a single word

And since you mentioned sinking, here's a funny 40-second ad about language that never gets old:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOd1jIDCeN8 (German Coast Guard)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:35
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
The "magic" depends on two things Sep 3, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I studied the language intensively at school, but I've never used it since ... and I'm 60 now! To be honest, I never could speak it although I remember writing a three-page essay on the Common Market for the A-level exam. That was the same year as the "Brentry" referendum.

Does anyone have anything to share on reviving the basics of a language? Any advice, short of spending a lot of time and/or money? I got through the booking process by relying very heavily on GT , but that isn't going to help on board. I'm hoping it will magically return when I'm surrounded by Germans speaking German. But that's probably wishful thinking.


Well... I don't know what A level German was like when you were in school, but I'm not particularly impressed with the language skills of A level learners these days, so on that basis I'm going to assume that although you say "intensively" we're not talking about the same intensity that you find in German schools with regard to studying English (as an example). That said, you may have gotten into the process a little more than your classmates since you clearly have a thing for languages which has stayed with you the whole of your life

I think whether or not it comes back "magically" will depend on two main things: how solid your foundation in the language was when you were studying it (e.g. your grasp of the grammar was good, you found it easy to retain vocabulary, you were able to hold casual conversations without too much difficulty) and how sharp your memory is these days. I'm certainly not being ageist here, but at 60, perhaps your recall is not as quick as it once was, and that will determine how magical the German comeback really is.

I would suggest this link for your, Sheila: http://slowgerman.com/category/sg-podcast-episode/
It's the "Slow German" blog with podcasts and also transcripts of the podcasts. The best thing is that the podcasts are only about 5 minutes long and are about different topics, so they're easy to dip in and dip out of. They're also slow enough and clear enough to be helpful for you, but not so slow that it feels condescending or boring.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Wow! I'm a bit overwhelmed by the number of responses Sep 3, 2016

Thanks everyone for the suggestions, encrouragement and some really useful links. I won't answer every post individually as there have been so many, but I just want to say:

@ all of you: I know most Germans speak English but surely a translator who opts to go on a German cruise ought not to rely on that? I think we need to make an effort. I did find when I moved to the Netherlands that my German came back a lot. It helped greatly with comprehension but got in the way of speaking Dutch. But that was 20 years ago and now I find it hard to break the memories of the two languages apart - daft words like negenzehn for 19 and fünftien for 15 spring to mind.

@ Sasha: I like the sound of the podcasts, though I had to look up the word so I'm learning a bit of my own language today!. I do think I need to "get my ear in" before trying to say too much.

@ Kelly: I haven't taught EFL for a while but I agree that the describing activity is really useful to get students to make good use of the vocab they have (as Jack did). Our Spanish teacher uses it on hubby and I too.

@ Angela: I remember it being pretty intensive - just German and French, plus a tiny bit of music appreciation and world religions, for two years. But it was just to pass the exam, which was all in a formal register with 95% written content. There wasn't even very much listening involved. Reading, writing, translating in both directions (!), summarising texts and doing lots of vocabulary and grammar exercises is what it was all about. Pupils never spoke to each other in class, even in German, on pain of detention! You could actually fail the oral and still pass overall, so I took advantage of that, pretty much giving up after the "Ich heiss" bit. I do hope things have changed. As to my age, it's hard but I have to accept that it's holding me back with Spanish. You can make progress when you're older, but not at the same speed. Applies to things like running for a bus too. Looks like yours are the podcasts I need to start with.

A supplementary question:
As Annamaria suggested, I will be getting hold of a good dictionary. Has anyone tried using anything more sophisticated? I hear there are devices nowadays that you can point at a menu, for example, and the text will be scanned and translated before your eyes. I wouldn't expect anything better than GT from it but it could help us find out what we're about to eat.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:35
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
There will be as many Brits on-board as there are Germans at Butlin’s... Sep 3, 2016

...but don't let that put you off.

Hi Sheila,
I studied German in school, but when it came to speaking to German guests at our beach bar the German I’d learnt at school was useless and I had to take private courses and benefit from the fact that I could speak German to Germans every day. After 10 years of speaking German during the summer I could have a reasonable conversation in the language. 15 years have passed since I stopped using the language on a regular basis and I can still converse with Germans in German, but tend to get lost when they're talking fast with each other, I'll miss a lot of dialect, slang, jokes, etc. This could give you an idea of what sort of level you might be at.

At the beach bar we worked a lot with Tui and the Bundeswehr (German soldiers on holiday). Almost everyone was very friendly and most Bundeswehr guests spoke fluent American rather than English. Not so in the case of Tui as Tui is a German tourist agency for Germans, so all the Tui announcements and posters/signs were in German, entertainers and guides spoke German to the guests. They could also speak English if necessary, but tended to use German.

I've found many Germans speak quite good English and most are very friendly, especially if you make an effort to speak German and are all having fun at the same table in a noisy Bavarian bier haus. In a pinch use body language, that’s universal

I’d ask Tui about the menus, announcements, guides and percentage of non-German guests on the ship. Imo there will be as many Brits on-board as there are Germans at Butlin’s so you might be a bit of a fish out of water. The Tui guides and managers I knew were all very friendly and helpful, so when you get on board if you let them know that you might be a bit fishy methinks they'll do their utmost to make things work, things like finding friendly English-speaking people to sit at the same table, including English in announcements, taking just a little bit extra care to make sure things work for you, stuff like that.

Germans can be very open, friendly and helpful people, much in the same way Brits are imo. I think you'll have a great time.

Reading German books, watching German films (first with then without subtitles) before you go, will definitely help.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I don't think we can rely on special treatment Sep 3, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:
I’d ask Tui about the menus, announcements, guides and percentage of non-German guests on the ship. Imo there will be as many Brits on-board as there are Germans at Butlin’s so you might be a bit of a fish out of water. The Tui guides and managers I knew were all very friendly and helpful, so when you get on board if you let them know that you might be a bit fishy methinks they'll do their utmost to make things work, things like finding friendly English-speaking people to sit at the same table, including English in announcements, taking just a little bit extra care to make sure things work for you, stuff like that.

(As an aside, I remember feeling like a fish out of water myself at Pontin's when I was 10 and staying as the guest of a friend's family. Not my scene at all.) I'm sure the TUI staff will be very welcoming and helpful etc., but with well over 500 cabins (staterooms, if you prefer) and very close to 1,000 passengers if it's full, I don't think anyone is going to go to too much bother for two people who don't speak the lingo but have decided to join the cruise anyway. That's why we need to find a way to get by a bit in German.

Thanks for the insight, Jo. I'm sure we'll be fine on a one-to-one basis with individuals. We live in a fabulously cosmopolitan environment, with over 90 nationalities recorded as residents in the north of Fuerteventura, plus tourists from just about everywhere, so we're well used to making the most of everything including sign language. But I am a bit more worried about things like announcements, getting something out of the entertainment programme (we'll give comedy shows a miss!), and the menus in the restaurants. We'll probably give all the TUI shore excursions a miss for the same reason. Maybe join Spanish ones and scramble our brains a bit more.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Decipherit  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:35
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Read some reviews Sep 3, 2016

I don't know if this is the ship you're going on but if it is, the reviews state that safety announcements are also made in English (I believe they have to be according to international maritime law) and menus are also available in English: http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/getreviews.cfm?action=ship&ShipID=554



[Edited at 2016-09-03 19:20 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 18:35
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
An alternative... Sep 3, 2016

http://computerhoy.com/listas/apps/mejores-traductores-idiomas-viajes-48038

Although I know it will go against the grain!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 22:05
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Depends on when you were exposed to the language Sep 4, 2016

I have been exposed to several languages at different stages of my life. If my experience is anything to go by, then the ones you are exposed to in early childhood are the ones that are easiest to recall. By exposure I don't mean studying it for a years at schools as a third or fourth language, but actually living and interacting in an area where the language is spoken. In my case, I was exposed in this manner to Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, English and Sanskrit in early childhood. Of these, I formally studied Malayalam (for a few years), Hindi, English (throughout life) and Sanskrit (for a few years) at school. I continued my dalliance with Hindi and English throughout my life and I consider myself bilingual in them. As for the others, I can speak Tamil, but not read or write. I can read and speak Malayalam (but not a very grammatical version) but not write in it.

As for Sanskrit, I never progressed further than picking a lot of Sanskrit vocabulary. But this also came in handy with my Hindi as Hindi (and all Indian languages) draws heavily from Sanskrit for terminology.

Another language which I was exposed to in later life (late twenties) for almost two decades is Gujarati. I can't speak or write Gujarati, but can read it well enough to nearly 90% comprehension. In fact it is one of second languages from which I sometimes translate into Hindi or English.

My point is, if you have studied German only at school (as I have Sanskrit) you won't be able to recall it to any substantial level, as the base won't be there to recall. Also you have just about six months available to you, and crash learning programmes never work with languages. Language acquisition is a prolonged process happening gradually over several years and even decades.

But why would you need German to travel to Germany? These days all websites are available in any language you choose through Google Translate. The translation may not be grammatically accurate or elegant, but you will mostly get the tourist info you require. Also Germans generally are able to follow English, even if speaking it may not be their preference. Most universities in Germany, offer higher education in English, as they cater to a lot of international students.

Therefore, I won't worry too much about not knowing German while travelling to Germany. Of course, if your intention is to get an authentic folk feel of German culture, you would miss out a lot without knowledge of German, but that can't be helped, as you are not a German native-speaker.

One option would be to look up a local contact who knows English and who could be with you while travelling and who could interpret local culture to you.

[Edited at 2016-09-04 03:30 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How easy is it to get back the basics of a forgotten language?

Advanced search






memoQ translator pro
Kilgray's memoQ is the world's fastest developing integrated localization & translation environment rendering you more productive and efficient.

With our advanced file filters, unlimited language and advanced file support, memoQ translator pro has been designed for translators and reviewers who work on their own, with other translators or in team-based translation projects.

More info »
Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search