Balancing Act

I agree with this.

My first analogy was going to be chocolate but then again there’s a bar sitting in front of me, so let’s go with language.

I began learning German years ago; eight, I believe. Possibly even nine. Anyway, I found it very easy at first – you know, the beginner’s stage where you learn greetings, discuss the weather and talk about family. I focused on it, determined to master it. And so I kept up the revising, practicing in class with the hesitation that comes with using your second language.

Then I got to university and did a couple of intermediate language courses – much of it was just revision, to me, and I was grateful for the refresher. This is about the time I began trying to read whole books in the language, and it made me frustrated and sad that after six years I still couldn’t get what the book was saying – or I could if I read the English version as well, in which case it was like snapping together jigsaw pieces.

So with too much practice I made myself disappointed and upset that I didn’t have a better grasp of the language. And I sort of lost a bit of enthusiasm. Rather than delight at mastering a tricky word I looked at words as things to be Conquered, to be Memorized and Locked Away in the safe of my brain.

With this in mind, I agree that too much is about as bad as too little.

If you invert my early language study habits, and take it as doing too little, I imagine you’d lose interest and eventually find it harder to gain fluency, and I think you can apply this too little/too much to virtually anything. Too much revision feels like cramming the words into your head, which I find sad.

Too little is like placing a butterfly on a flower and letting it fly away as it pleases.

5 thoughts on “Balancing Act”

  1. I moved to the German part of a German speaking country, married a german speaking Swiss and so I had to join them. I learnt two years of German in school, but now I speak perfect Swiss German. I make a few mistakes, the advantage being that in Swiss German you can swallow the endings of the words, so they just notice that you have a strange accent and not the grammar. I speak swiss german most of the time. High german – Ok, I can get by, but that is where the mistakes might show. congratulations on your perseverence.


    1. Unfortunately I’ve somewhat lost the language, having become completely out of practice. It’s a goal to re-learn though.

      What exactly is High German? I’ve heard of it but never really understood how it might differ from other forms.


      1. High German is the normal german you learn in the school. As in most languages, people speak dialects. The Bavarians speak bavarian, those from Hamburg speak their dialect and the Berlin people also have their way of saying things. Of course the common denominator is the german you have learnt, otherwise they would not understand each other. Switzerland also has many dialects according to which part you come from. In my area we speak Solothurn german, which is similar to bern german. Swiss German is not understood so well by the Germans, if at all, but generally in the schools and on the television proper german is spoken t ensure that the children grow up speaking a language that is understood.

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