It’s taken a long while for me to gain some traction with speaking and understanding German. I took a short, introductory course our first summer here, and for a few months now, I’ve been taking private German tutoring, once a week. It’s helping me a lot — I haven’t learned a lot of new stuff yet, but even just having a reason and a motivation to practice, as well as a reliable and safe place to ask my random (and sometimes strange) questions, gives me a lot of confidence in what I do know.
My tutor is patient, funny and very kind, and, as a bonus, we often chat a lot about quirks of Austrian culture. It helps me a lot to understand that some communications are challenging because of cultural differences more than because of flaws in my German speaking abilities.
Another thing that I’m learning is where my strengths and weaknesses are: reading comprehension — great; understanding spoken German — not bad; writing — not awful; sentence construction — pretty poor (and I can only speak in present tense); verb conjugation — abysmal (except for “to be” which I do pretty well unless I’m using the informal ‘you” form, the ‘we’ form or the third person plural form . . . which is half of the possibilities, so I’ll stick with “abysmal”). Apparently, my particular skill sets (and missing pieces thereof) aren’t typical — I keep surprising her with what I’m good at and what I’m not. (For example, given a set of conjugated verbs, I can come up with the correct subject instantaneously, but it takes me FOREVER to conjugate verbs when given the subject — go figure.)
But that’s ok — I’m making progress. Living in another language is exhausting. I have to use it all the time, even though I’m bad at it. I have to use it at B’s school. I have to use it in the shops. I have to use it on the street. I have to use it when the plumber comes to my house. My few, glorious, non-German interactions (outside of my family) are wonderful and precious to me, and I am so appreciative of the friends and strangers who find pity and patience to spare for an exhausted (and so often confused) expat. It’s so nice to just have a simple (i.e., English) conversation sometimes. And I am so, so grateful for the opportunity to truly express myself, which is not yet possible for me in German.