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“You really don’t care at all, do you?”
One of my Sprachkurs peers asked me this before class. She and I were talking with one another girl. The other girl (who hails from Spain) said that she gets so nervous in German class, and that it’s good that someone like me (I?) is there to talk. And the other one asked me the above.
I thought about this. And she was right. I’ll just speak in class. A student in my last Sprachkurs told me the same thing. “You’ll just go,” he said. Here, they tell me that I speak so quickly and freely in German. And I point out that I make a lot of mistakes and they shrug.
This is not to say that I speak good German. I would not say that, because I do not. On the contrary (doch!), I speak pretty poor German. But I’m not afraid to do so, and I know now—finally—that that’s the only way to hope to speak better German.
To be fair, the stakes (aside: I almost typed “steaks” and it made me chuckle to myself) are pretty low here. I’ve graduated from college, and my grade in this Sprachkurs could really not matter less. And, as I just wrote, German was never my baby. I’m taking it and trying to get better at it because I’m here and it would be silly not to do so, but I don’t feel the same pressure that I felt in St. Petersburg, wherein every day I reminded myself that I was a Russian literature major who constantly made mistakes in Russian.
But, in a way, I wish that I could have learned Russian (or even French, back when I took French)(that was before I even started this blog, you guys! Mon Dieu!) like this. Without caring about making mistakes or speaking without any trace of an accent (this, Reader, is nigh on impossible in any foreign language, and should, in my opinion, be forgotten as a goal by the student). It’s like going on a date with a guy about whom I don’t care all that much versus one on whom I’ve been harboring a deep and dramatic crush. Like, yeah, I’m probably happier to be out on the second one, but the first one will probably go more smoothly, because what do I care what he thinks about which salad dressing I pick or whether or not I order a drink or dessert, you know? And so I can say and act and do whatever I’d like, and do so freely, and have the self-confidence that I should have had on the crazy in love date. I can have the courage that comes from not caring. (I don’t have any idea what I’m talking about in terms of the actual romantic value of these two hypothetical evenings, but I think that, as a metaphor (or simile?) this works pretty well.)
“No,” I answered. “I really don’t.” And then I said that right now I make a lot of mistakes, and I sound foolish a lot of the time. But one day I won’t sound so foolish. And it will be because, when I did, I wasn’t afraid of sounding so.