By 30, I was done proving my success as a burnt out corporate slave. So I did what a true adult would do- I quit my job to look for a job. Then I enrolled in German language classes.
Finally there was a maze with a blinking light at the end. Taking the decision is the romantic part- the rest is long forgotten paychecks, existential angst, and ever piling lies on LinkedIn. And that’s just a small part of my context.
The best map through this maze is the one you make for yourself. So it helps to know what lurks and where.
PEOPLE MADE OF NERVES.
The biggest challenge as you set out will be the reaction of faceless people.
‘Learning a language at 30? German? Just go get a job!’
This is the hardest part of getting started- dealing with people who desperately want you to be passive and average. When you have no fear of your own, people project on you what they cannot deal with until you can’t ignore the many ways you can actually fail. It’s incredible, how you can frighten people, especially when it doesn’t involve them in the least. This is the true meaning of getting old- when you have to fight twice as hard to do seemingly simple tasks.
The excuses will be many, but there will always just be a few reasons to go ahead, anyway.
So if you’re starting out, slay every fantasy of failure. Slash and burn and sow better seeds, or don’t start at all.
I met a boy in Berlin, recovering from an accident that shattered his entity into unrecognizable debris. A stranger to his own reflection, he reminded me of the arduous task of reading.
“It’s like you read two words and then the third word, without forgetting the preceding ones”, said he. But he did forget them, that’s why he was awestruck.
But he learns, just like you learn things all along life, that once did not belong anywhere near you.
A language legitimizes images, feelings, occurrences, and makes everything a little less fleeting. It is like a clock where two hands go repeatedly over the same numbers so that every mundane thing gets a date and a time. And we all know how to read a clock even though there was a time when we had no idea.
Through words does the insignificant have any meaning at all.
German is an incredibly rich language, with words for what you thought were personal quirks. It also comes with sixteen prescribed ways of writing ‘the’. So, as you learn German, you cannot ignore the rules if you want to say anything coherent.
And yet, learning all the rules by heart won’t get you far. Especially not in German. So stop obsessing over the rules.
Learning a language is an utterly counter-intuitive, illogical and vague process- it involves aggressive eavesdropping in the metros, recognizing that you have a long way to go before you say anything ,,umgangsprachlich” and remembering how words nest themselves in conversation rather than in sentence. That being said, language is all about connecting the dots, just like you did in kindergarten. I am pretty confident you aced it.
DO WHAT MAKES YOU INTERNET BINGE… WITHOUT THE BINGE.
Let’s not leave behind ‘self-love’ on this journey because without it, nothing really matters.
You know like when you are an exam the next day but you need to watch one last video on Youtube because you can somehow ace it, like every time? That is probably not what I mean.
Love yourself enough that you can turn off the Wi-Fi and do your language homework for 15 straight minutes.
Make some excruciating small talk when you don’t want to, in a language that makes you look more awkward than watching adult movie scenes with parents.
Allow yourself to make the same mistakes over and over again, cause that means you have stuck around and not joined the faceless crowd. It’s like being an alarm that doesn’t snooze. Yeah, be annoying!