a love letter

this is a love letter to the language that taught me to be silent

I’ve always loved languages. Speaking, reading, writing, learning. But I’ve always been a shy person, especially when it comes to speaking. Last week I talked about how much speaking German scares me and how I can never seem to find the right words to say. As frustrating as it is, it’s not the whole story.

When I visited my friends in Germany last summer, I struggled with speaking a lot. Although I was frustrated with myself, most of the people I was with spoke enough English to understand me when I couldn’t bring myself to speak German.

Except for Josef.

Josef is the 10-year-old brother of a friend I was staying with and he doesn’t speak any English. Despite this language barrier, we became fast friends. We laughed and had inside jokes, we played silly games, and genuinely enjoyed spending time together. In the three weeks I was there neither of us said much because we realized we didn’t need to.

Our friendship taught me that the words we speak aren’t nearly as important as the moments in between. I learned that no matter what language you speak, laughter and silly faces are universal and that smiles say more than words ever could. I learned another language to connect with people, but I found that the moments I didn’t speak were the ones that really mattered.

so here’s to the silent moments, may they speak louder than we ever could

tongue tied

Perfectionism is a tricky little thing. In Germany last summer I struggled to speak even the simplest of words. Entschuldigung. The first german word I ever learned a lifetime ago and as I stood in the airport I was frozen. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it.

For me, the only thing more difficult than learning a language is bringing myself to speak it. I’m not entirely sure what stops me. Maybe it’s the knowledge that I can never be perfect or the that I struggle with something so many people can do effortlessly. But either way, I’m still frozen while my mouth and my brain battle it out for control. And I know in a few months I’m going to just have to do it because that just how it goes. There’s a tricky little thing called irony. I don’t want to speak because I’m not very good but the only way to become good is by speaking.

There’s a tricky little thing called irony. I don’t want to speak because I’m not very good but the only way to become good is by speaking. I try to prepare and practice and speak as much as I can now so that when I arrive my German is the best it can possibly be. But the thing is that I know I can always be better. I will never be one hundred percent perfect at German just like I am not perfect when I speak English. For me, it’s a struggle of knowing I can be better but accepting that maybe I don’t need to be.

Accepting that mistakes are okay and that every word is a success.