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Exposure July 20, 2008

Posted by Paul Rees in german.
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I regularly scan Twitter using http://search.twitter.com/ for tweets about “learning German”.

I discovered a tweet by Josh, a self described “language geek”, and through that his interesting blog Language Geek. In particular I found his post More Exposure, Less Study relevant to me. I was prompted to write a comment on my feelings about this dilema. For the record, I am posting that comment here.

I am starting to think that exposure really is the key. I’ve been learning German since April 2007 and I have put a lot of time into studying it and listening to it.

However after all that effort I can’t actually say very much in German. I am happy with my level of comprehension relative to the amount of time I have been learning.

My problem is that my head has gotten so caught up in the complex grammar that speaking now seems to be close to impossible. I mean, when trying to speak, by the time my head has processed the grammar, the moment is lost.

I am travelling to Germany in September (for a big exposure) and I am seriously considering taking a break from active and formal studying after that trip. This is not giving up, rather an attempt to clear my head and actually learn how to speak. During this break, I would focus on conversing with my German online and offline friends, and attending German speaking social functions.

Children learn to speak by exposure. As an adult learning by exposure is a much slower process, complicated by a brain that is now wired in English. Time to accept this and re-wire :)