For a few days now, I’ve woken up nervous. First-week-of-school type nervous, really. Before I’ve finished my coffee and gotten to the S-Bahn stop to go to my intensive language class, I think I feel like I’m required to put on a long performance all day.
A performance of speaking German correctly to people, and a performance of using the correct voice intonation. A mini-performance could strike at any time—in the Mensa (dining hall), at the bank, or on the street when someone asks me directions (has happened several times). Which probably explains why I get so stressed about my intensive German class every day so far.
This intensive German class is three hours of language instruction, from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM. There’s a half-hour break built in, but since the exchange students in the class are from many countries, it is often easier for us to speak German with each other than English or a different language.
I’m starting to relish the time I get to spend with the other American exchange students; speaking American English gives me a few minutes of respite. My mind has gotten much faster at switching between thinking in English and thinking in German, which I’ve heard is a sign of increasing fluency. But also maybe a sign that I’m still homesick and want to be able to switch back to my mother tongue, given the opportunity.
Whatever the case is, this will pass. Hopefully once this course is over, my German will be fluent or almost fluent. The nervousness I get from doing my best to speak the language properly seems to disappear when my mind has been in German-mode for a while, even though I still make plenty of mistakes. The German language doesn’t yet feel natural to me, but I’m getting more comfortable. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express my feelings as well in German as I can in English, but if I can understand my classes, understand other people here, and make the gist of what I want to say understood, I think I can get through this.