Five languages before thirty
I grew up in Lebanon in the 90s. My mother tongue is Arabic. I started learning French as soon as I entered kindergarten. A few years later came English.
As a child, I didn’t choose Arabic, French and English. I had to learn them, and I did so rather effortlessly. It cultivated in me a love for languages and a desire to learn even more.
As far back as I can remember, I had a love for Japan and its culture. I dreamt of living in Tokyo my whole life. I wanted to learn the language and writing system.
My exposure to German, on the other hand, came during my adolescence. I used to watch the Franco-German ARTE TV channel. The French version of that channel offered a lot of documentaries and shows in German with French subtitles. Hearing German got me so intrigued. I wanted to understand how that language functioned and what made it sound the way it did.
First came failure
I had a dilemma. Should I learn Japanese and pursue my dreams? Or explore German? That’s when I discovered Tokio Hotel. Anything remotely related to Japan got me very hooked at the time. I liked their music and wanted to understand what they’re singing about (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t very interesting).
I looked up their song lyrics with English translations and tried to piece together how the sentences were built. Using a few other online tools, I quickly came to the conclusion that German was way more complicated than I had imagined. With three genders, irregular plurals, verbs that separate and prepositions that didn’t make much sense, German sounded impossible to learn.
I felt discouraged. The problem was not the language, though. I gave up too quickly because I didn’t have the right resources and materials. That’s how my first attempt at learning German failed.
Soon after, I picked up Japanese. I gave it the time and resources it needed. I had books, dictionaries, kanji sheets etc. My passion for Japan led me eventually to get a job and move to Tokyo in 2013. My interest in German was still there. It continued to live on the back burner.
Keep on trying
A couple of years later, my Japanese fairytale started to crack. I was stressed, unhappy and lost. I started to think about leaving Japan. The first destination that came to mind was none other than Germany. For a month or two, I restarted learning German. I bought books, watched YouTube videos and used mobile applications. I was determined to really learn the language this time. My determination started to decrease as my situation in Japan changed, and I decided not to leave after all. That’s how my second attempt at learning German failed. As you can imagine, however, the story didn’t end there.
Fast-forward to 2018. This time I was seriously thinking about the future and whether it made sense to stay in Japan. I felt I needed a different life and better career options.
One day, I received a message from a Berlin-based company looking for software engineers. It got me considering Berlin as a possible destination. Exploring the tech scene in the city and the many startups born there got me even more interested. My decision to leave Japan and relocate to Berlin came when I found the right position. That’s how my third attempt at learning German began (and is still ongoing).
After moving to Berlin, I started studying German more intensively. I took classes, had online courses and learned with a private tutor. I watched YouTube videos, listened to podcasts and read children’s books. In the summer of 2020, I took and passed the Telc B1 test. It was an important milestone for me and a launchpad to dive deeper into German.
The aim of this blog is to talk about how I am learning German and why I think it’s an awesome language. Come with me on this journey and let’s prove Mark Twain wrong. German is definitely not awful!