Soon after I arrived in Haag, a German dictionary was never far out of reach. On day two in town, Tenia and I were off to the Alps and Wasserburg with a family friend who spoke no English. It was a beautiful day complete with a mountain top brotzeit. After looking at the photos you may understand why I knew colour vocabulary in German by the end of the day.
I have always wanted to learn a second language, but I lacked any external motivations to do so. I grew up in an English speaking household, in a city that had more chances to use Mandarin or Japanese than I would ever have to practice high school required French. With my Oma living a ferry ride away and married to a Canadian, I was barely even exposed to the sound of German.
I have gone through most of my travels, especially in Europe, with my limited language being catered to, and it makes me feel well, let’s say, extremely privileged. Of course I try my best to pick up basics of the local language and practice my french when possible but, in the end, I still feel ridiculous. English is an easy only language to have, too easy sometimes. Because it is so commonly used, and so eagerly practiced in regions it is uncommon, I will have to be very committed if I ever want to become fluent in another language.
My first opportunity for that was in Bavaria. When I learned I would be staying in Haag for some time, I became much more determined to learn the language. I ordered a German grammar book in English which I worked through as best I could over the month and a half. Even then, I too often fell on the crutch of having an English translator home in the evenings. Despite my efforts, I think I picked up more in the many hours preparing meals beside my second Oma and did not get too far beyond present tense conjugations.
With basic German added to my minuscule language list, I have continued my travels with more awareness and effort towards learning the local language. It will be a long time before I manage to learn a second language. For now, I will continue to admire and appreciate all those I meet on the road who can flip between languages seamlessly, and who can teach me a phrase or two along the way.