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Welcome to Week 25 !
If you missed the activities these last few weeks, go to the Weekly Activity Page and click on the activities you missed. (Remember: if you aren’t yet signed up, then do so at the link at the top of this page!)
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This is the final week of Language Challenge 180. Can you believe it?
As I write this, I am sitting in my mother-in-law’s house in northern Germany. It is lovely to be here. After three years of not having seen my husband’s side of the family, we are reveling in the joy that comes from being together again.
And what a wonderful way to end this language adventure!
Being here isn’t always perfect. There is a transition period that always seems to need to be hurdled. The thrill and excitement of the first few days is wearing off and we are now getting into more of a slow, mellow rhythm. It can actually be a little difficult to let ourselves fall into this new rhythm. It feels so very slow and random. No one is sure where the path is leading but we keep walking anyway.
The hardest part is the urge to want to make every, single, minute count while here.
With 28 days left and counting, it feels like our time is ticking by too rapidly. We continually question whether we are using every minute as fully as possible. Sitting back and reading a book feels like squandering precious time. Shouldn’t we be filling our days with more “productive” things – things that we can only do in Germany?
We try our best to answer this question with a deeper understanding of what it means to just be present while here. Fully present.
Sitting together and drinking a cup of coffee with my mother-in-law is why I am here. It doesn’t matter what she and I talk about. We may not even talk while sipping away. That is just fine. There is no goal that needs to be met so that we can move onto the next task.
So we stay focused on the here and now. Being fully present is the only goal. It is the only one that brings ultimate satisfaction.
Books, Books, Books
I will admit that I am really looking forward to hitting the book stores these next few weeks (as well as the fantastic, and inexpensive, ice cream shops!).
As always, my husband and I want to make sure that we return to the States with reading and writing materials in German for the kids (homeschooling in both languages!) and enough novels for us adults to last us until we get back here again. (We haven’t yet made it completely into the digital age where our iPad becomes an enjoyable replacement for our paperbacks.)
But the choices are endless. I could return home with an entire German bookshop if it wouldn’t cost us more than our lifetime savings! Who can choose between so many choices?
Making the Language Count
What I can’t deny is that being here in Germany has a most positive effect on my and my children’s language skills. We are surrounded by German on a daily basis – and from more than just one source! Plus, while visiting with family and friends these last few days, everyone seems to actually understand what we are saying. Sure, my German may not be anywhere near perfect but it is clearly good enough to hold long conversations at parties while munching grilled chicken and nursing a cold Jever.
And that counts for a lot!
The encouragement that comes from being understood in a foreign language should never be minimized. It is what makes all of the hard work worth it! And I am not just talking about myself. I am talking about my children as well: They too are holding conversations with family on a daily basis. They chat with their cousins about soccer and iPads and Wii games. They banter and joke with their aunts, uncles and grandmother. To my children, the German language is simply part of who they are, yet they won’t even realize how much their language will improve while here. It will rush ahead with leaps and bounds in the most painless of experiences.
Make Language Count
The most important thing we can do with our hard-earned language skills is to use them. As with skills and muscles of any sort, if we don’t continue to exercise them, they will get weak and flabby.
After having done so much these last 25 weeks, we have to make sure that our languages don’t fall into disuse. It is very easy for this to happen!
Unfortunately, no one can tell us how to keep our language alive. It is something that we have hopefully thought about these past 25 weeks. We have hopefully figured out what we like most about language learning and how to go about it best for ourselves. Some people like reading a much as possible in the language while others enjoy watching films and videos. Many like talking in the language while others like writing letters and emails in the language. Ideally, we will do some of each of these since each of them helps with our language learning in unique ways.
But even if we only do one of them, we are doing more than most people! Reading a chapter in a foreign language book each evening can do wonders for keeping our language alive. If you don’t like looking up vocabulary words, then don’t. Just read as much as you can and enjoy that!
Languages Are Life
The key is to think of our languages as simply part of our lives. You brush your teeth at least once a day. You make sure to eat and drink and breathe fresh air each day. You might read the paper or watch the news or play board games with your children each day. Just add in languages as part of your daily routine.
They don’t have to be special or to be given an elevated status. The truth is, the more you make them as normal and average as possible – something as mundane as drinking water – the better chance that you will sick with them.
In the meantime (until your languages become part of your everyday life) go ahead and enjoy the fireworks of what you have accomplished these past 25 weeks! What you did was nothing short of fantastic and worthy of an entire fireworks display. You did something that many people in this world will never do: Learn a language for yourself and/or pass on a language to your children.
Never stop reminding yourself of what you accomplished these past 25 weeks. In fact, for those of you who made it all the way to here, you are in the minority. Of the over 1,000 people who signed up for Language Challenge 180, only a few were able to stick with it. Only a few were able to actually focus on language week in and week out for 180 days.
For that you should be extremely proud.
And just as you were able to stick with it for these 25 weeks without putting up a bunch of excuses, so too will you be able to continue with this same dedication from here on out. You have what it takes to give yourself/your children the gift of lifetime language(s). One day at a time it will be done.
Thank you for your participation and may your language journey never end!