Taking Your Language Practice Where You Can Find It

Most people would agree that the key to learning a language is practice. Practicing in stores and restaurants, with friends at lunch, with roommates, and with your teacher, or with other students learning with TOTALe—these are all great and involve different levels of worry about how the other person will respond to your German, with its perhaps-not-perfect accent.

Yesterday afternoon I found a way to practice with very little of the above anxiety. I took some work, grabbed a half-chicken and fries from Hühnerhaus, and sat out on the steps in Görlitzer Park. There were a few people tossing a football (I debated going over and showing them how to throw a spiral), two guys playing jazz guitar, and a bunch of people just enjoying a beer or coffee and the sunshine.

A few seconds after I opened my bag of food, I had a visitor. He sat there completely still and focused, but very polite. (German dogs are remarkably well behaved. Most don’t have leashes but know how to follow the traffic signals, and I’ve only heard one dog bark the entire time I’ve been here.) This dog seemed to be entirely unaccompanied. I used the opportunity to practice my German: Es ist mein Essen. (No response.) Wo is dein Mensch? (No response.) Was ist dein Name? (No response.) Sitz! (He sits down.) dog fries

Some of my Pommes frites were a bit over-soaked in ketchup, so I eventually relented and threw one to the unnamed dog. He ate it quickly and went right back to staring at me. Nein, das ist alles! (More staring.) War es lecker? (Some drool.) By the end of the hour, he’d eaten about fifteen french fries. And, as soon as all the food was gone, a young woman whistled from across the park, and the dog ran off to go home.

Learn more about Will Perkins’s adventures in language learning.

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  • Jamie

    I live near Dallas and have been studying and practicing Cantonese and Mandarin for years since I learned from Native speakers in college. To keep my skills going, I go to the Dallas suburbs to the Chinese and Vietnamese sections of town for some good cheap fresh seafood and some conversation. Also, the prices in the market come down about a dollar a pound once you start talking in Cantonese. They love to see that you put the effort forward to learn. Especially the older men and women.

  • LD

    People appreciate it when you make an effort to learn their language. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, that’s how you learn. Get over your shyness and practice! Bonne journée!

  • Mike S

    Be careful speaking to any unknown dog in German as that is the normal language spoken by dog trainers to teach dogs in attack mode so you may accidently tell him to attack and then not no how to call the dog off which would be bad. I did not tech my dog to be a guard dog but I seen many taught in that mode including our almost retired Begals quarter (Carson) back’s two dogs. Those dogs do not give up biteing until the correct command is given.

    • Rosetta Stone

      Interesting perspective, Mike. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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