When You’re Learning a New Language: My Tips

language

This post has been brewing in the back of my mind for quite a while.  This is a subject I am always so excited to talk about.  Chances are, most people have had to study a foreign language sometime in their life.  I myself studied Spanish for about three years in high school and have taken one class in my undergraduate years.  The study of languages has always been interesting to me, but only in the last year has it really taken off.  Not with Spanish though; with German!

I’m sure I’m not the first person to discover this, but learning a language is so much easier when you absolutely love it!  About a year ago I first discovered the world of German musical theatre, and it’s been a wild ride ever since.  All my career goals have seriously changed within the past year and I now know that I will want to go abroad as soon as I can.

If you have been studying another language for a while, I bet you can probably relate to a few of these things.  However, some of these are probably just unique to the German language.  Regardless, I wanted to share what I would tell someone who is just starting off on this journey.

Don’t compare a new language with English too much

This might sound kind of strange at first, so I wanted to start off with one of my favorite quotes that often crosses my mind when I’m studying:

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” -Charlemagne

Because English has borrowed so many things from other languages, it’s easy at first to focus more on the similarities than the differences.  This can get frustrating quickly, so I recommend just letting go of it completely.  Afterall, you’re growing a second soul, so don’t expect it to be exactly like the one you already have!

I think it’s amazing when things can’t exactly translate verbatim between German and English, and they shouldn’t have to.  If one language were enough to describe the world, then we would probably all be speaking it now.

Get friendly with the phonetics

Some languages may use many of the same phonetic sounds that English uses.  I know when I studied Spanish all of the sounds were fairly easy for me to make because English speakers already use them.  In fact, I believe the only challenging sound is the rolled “r” and even that can be said by many English speakers.

German is a little more complicated.  The “uvular r” and other sounds in the back of the throat are used often.  Ignoring such trademark sounds of a language will really inhibit your sound and overall connection to the language.  Although unfamiliar sounds can be hard to get at first, I think anyone can master them with practice.  It will help people understand you when you can finally speak the language.  Think of someone whose mother tongue isn’t English trying to minimize their accent.  The same concept goes for anyone learning a new language.

language

In case you didn’t realize, these images are from Germany in Epcot, not the actual country, but still pretty close for staying within the US!

Accept what you cannot change

This kind of goes with the first tip.  Here’s a quote for my German learners:

“German grammar is like the weather- you can complain about it all you want, but it won’t change anything.”

If you’ve taken any German classes, you probably know that German grammar is hard!  This quote helped me get past that point and just focus on learning the language.  You will actually get it if you don’t freak out about it and give it up!  I’ve actually come to appreciate the small part of German grammar that I actually understand, I even think English should take a few pointers

*Sidenote: If you think other languages are strange, start looking at the English language a little closer and I think you’ll see we’re are just as strange!

Find things you enjoy in that language

This was, of course, the reason I wanted to learn German in the first place; because I kept finding things in German that I loved!  Listening to music, reading books, watching movies and television in your chosen language is essential in my opinion.  Not only does it expose you to that much more of the language, but it keeps you interested and motivated while learning.

If German is your chosen language as well, then I have some recommendations for you as far as music goes.  Chances are there is German music for any genre you prefer, but here is the worship album I often listen to by Outbreakband.  It’s pretty great!

Just from listening to music you can expose yourself to so much more of the language, and probably some things that you wouldn’t be exposed to if you only took a class.  Of course, since I’m the musical theatre type, I have to recommend to you my favorite musical auf Deutsch: Elisabeth.  Not only is this my favorite German-language musical, it happens to be the most successful German musical ever.  I could give you tons of recommendations for German musicals, but that would be an entire post on its own, so leave a comment if you want to know more.

Additional Tips and Resources

I’ve been using Duolingo for about a year now, and I’d say it’s pretty helpful!  The great thing is that it reminds you every day to practice, and pretty soon the threat of breaking your streak will make sure you practice!  Duolingo was recently updated, but before the update, I was 59% fluent in German.  I can understand why they got rid of the fluency percentage (I definitely do not know over half of the language) but it was kind of a fun way to measure your progress.  I’m still open to exploring resources similar to Duolingo, but for now, I think it fits me pretty well.

I know teachers say Google Translate is taboo when learning a language, but I wouldn’t say it’s completely useless, so proceed with caution.  One trick for whenever I use google translate is to swap the languages so you translate it both ways.  Often times a phrase will change when you do this.  I have found wordreference.com to be a pretty reliable online dictionary, simply because it will give you multiple definitions of a word.

And Finally…

In reality, this is only a small part of what I’ve been doing to learn a new language.  I think one of the most important things I have learned is to stay inspired and remember why you started.  I’ve experienced periods of little growth and times when it seems a dozen light bulbs will go off at once, so stick to it when things seem hard!  You are definitely not the first person to learn this language, so don’t throw in the towel.  Best of luck!  Here’s a lovely German proverb to leave you with.

“Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.”

“Starting is easy, persistence is an art.”

Adventure in New York City: Spring Break Trip!

adventure in new york city: spring break trip!

It seems like nearly everyone I know went somewhere incredible for spring break this year, so why should my trip to New York City stick out amongst the other amazing travels that you and I are hearing about?  Because this trip was truly more than the sum of its parts.  This trip changed me, and I totally wasn’t expecting it.  I really got to know the city for the short time I was there, and I know I will be returning as soon as I can!  The culture, the food, the people, and the theatres made my trip so special.  I’m not saying everything was perfect, in fact I hated some of it, but it felt like I was meeting an old friend again.  Does that make any sense?

Oh where to begin?  This was a trip that I took with the Theatre Department here at MSU Mankato, so most of my closest friends from school were with me.  We had been looking forward to this trip for months.  When I was first dropped off in the city, me and my classmates just wandered around like lost puppies for a while, looking for cheap food.  I was kind of overwhelmed.  I had been to New York before in high school, but never let off the leash to explore on my own.  It was kind of a deer-in-the-headlights feeling for the first couple of hours.

Throughout the next several days I got to experience this amazing city.  Some of the most memorable locations I went to were Central Park, The Met, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Coney Island (even though the park was closed, the beach was wonderful!) and many other places.

adventure in new york city: spring break trip! central park

Did you know there is a castle in the middle of Central Park? And what an excellent view it has!

adventure in new york city: spring break trip! the met

I played Aphrodite in a show at my school. I couldn’t really see the resemblance in this statue of her at The Met.

adventure in new york city: spring break trip! coney island

Even though the amusement park at Coney Island was closed, the pier provided an excellent view!

Well, obviously this is all great, but the real highlight for any Theatre Major going to New York City are the shows!  I saw four Broadway shows while I was in the city, and each of them were phenomenal.  Not to mention, they all taught me something about myself, or about theatre, or about life in general.

Show #1: Chicago

The Ambassador theatre was actually a lot smaller than I thought a typical “Broadway” theatre would be.  The whole atmosphere of the show was pretty intimate, mostly because of the interpretive nature of the show.  Not only was the orchestra on stage, the orchestra was the scenery!  I had never seen any version of Chicago before and I loved it!

Show #2: Something Rotten!

You guys, this is a show that everybody should see!  I’m not kidding.  In the middle of watching this show I was wishing that my family was able to see it, and there is something to be said for wanting to experience something amazing with those you love.  Something Rotten! incorporates everything that is significant about musicals, and by that I mean that there is a lot of tap dancing!  The energy that goes into these big dance numbers is unreal, not to mention, it’s a hilarious show!

adventure in new york city: spring break trip! something rotten

 

After the amazing performance of Something Rotten! a group of us decided to wait at the stage door to meet the actors.  I thought I would hate doing this, I guess that’s just my personality, but I loved it!  But the most exciting moment at the stage door was the interaction me and my classmates had with André Ward; an ensemble member with quite the impressive Broadway resume.  He took one look at the group of us and said “You guys are actors, aren’t you?”  We were all shocked!  “Oh I can tell an actor from a mile away!” he said.  I was completely dumbfounded that this seasoned Broadway actor was able to pick out the collegiate actors from the rest of the crowd.  This was an especially encouraging moment for me, and I began to have a better understanding of how special the theatre community was.  I also felt like this was Mr. Ward’s way of accepting us as fellow artists.

Show #3: The Phantom of the Opera

The day I went to see Phantom I woke up with the excitement consuming my brain!  If you know anything about me, you know that this is my favorite musical of all time, and I was about to see it live for the first time!  The anticipation consumed my thoughts throughout the entire day, and I’m pretty sure my friends were both amused and annoyed.

adventure in new york city: spring break trip! the phantom of the opera

Omigosh, I fangirled so hard.

However this was the only show I saw that I didn’t have really good seats for.  Actually, I kind of hated my seat.  I was in the way back of the orchestra.  It’s not that I was too far back, it was that the balcony was blocking my view of the top half of the proscenium, and I would have loved to have a full view of the majestic scenery, including the chandelier.  Bummer.  Not to mention, the people around me were talking during the performance!  Not only did I witness this myself, but my friends who were dispersed throughout the theatre all had to suffer through audience members talking during the show.  Please, please be respectful to the actors and other audience members whenever you go see a show!

Despite the sub-par experience at the theatre, the show itself was beautiful!  The Phantom, Christine, and especially Raoul (the Phantom Trinity) were unbelievable.  And I made a vow to myself that I will someday play Christine on that stage.  I promise that to you too!  You heard it here first folks!

Show #4: School of Rock

After my Hamilton tragedy, I felt the need to make it up to myself.  Luckily, one of my favorite actresses -Sierra Boggess- was performing in a show right down the street from our hotel!  Sierra Boggess has been a huge influence on my technique as a performer, but mostly she has been influential in shaping my character.  If you don’t know who she is, go check her out!  Her commitment to honesty and positivity is just as impressive as her theatrical successes.  So I decided to see the show she was in.

But School of Rock though!!!  This show blew my mind!  I have never been more pumped up during a show before, and it was so touching too!  I would recommend this show to anyone, and I daresay it was the highlight of my trip.  I also had a fantastic seat.  When Sierra came out for her first scene, I was about 20 feet away from her.  It was such a thrill!  But really though, all the actors were incredible, right down to the kids jamming out on their instruments.  Holy cow!

adventure in new york city: spring break trip! school of rock

My classmates and I were all touched by this show.  The message is incredible, and the theatrics are breathtaking!  Like I said, I highly recommend this show!

Oh yeah, I met Sierra Boggess.  I didn’t get to give her my 20 minute I-appreciate-you-and-you’re-amazing-and-can-we-be-best-friends speech, but hey, I guess that’s how it goes!

adventure in new york city: spring break trip! sierra boggess

QUEEN

This trip just affirmed what I am working towards while I am here at college.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud to be pursuing a degree for now, but I am sure I am moving to this city after I graduate!  I felt so welcomed by the very atmosphere of the city, and I must say it has been an adjustment coming back to school.  However, I now feel more refreshed, encouraged, and confident about myself because of this trip!  Farewell until next time NYC!