Goal 5: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone #30GoalsEdu

Part of my German homework : )
Part of my German homework : )

As an educator and as many also uphold, learning is key to our careers and development in the field. I have been learning various things during my teaching career so far: new skills, tools to use, methods and so on, but until I moved to Switzerland four years ago, I had never tried to learn another language. I never had to, because English and Greek was enough for me before. This was a completely wrong perception I had, as learning languages are not only about the place you live, or just asking for something in another language. I have come to understand it is much more than that.

When I first came here, I started learning German but then I had to stop, with the excuse (it was true back then) that I was getting more and more work and I had no time. Then, Zug is a very international city, so even when I start to speak German with people, they immediately pick up on my English accent and most of them immediately switch to English. Even when I insist they switch back to German, they keep speaking in English – that is how polite they are!

Last year, in the college that I teach twice a week, we had to attend two obligatory courses on pedagogy and methodology…in German. The night before the first course I hardly slept. Why am I doing this? I thought. I will never manage to do it. I will disappoint my director (special thanks to Philipp Hediger, who has believed in me and supported me since day one – we are very lucky to have him, as he has supported our professional development to a great extent) and myself. I can’t speak or write in German and never will.

I did attend both courses, and I should say, that neither was a walk in the park – we had homework, which my classmates could do in half an hour – I needed seven or eight hours for the same amount. The course lasted eight hours each time, the other was for three hours at a time – for me, it was not only learning about methodology and pedagogy, I was literally being immersed into the language. I learned a great deal in those three months! I could not believe it. I pressured myself, pushed myself to the limits, had great classmates who would explain to me (in German) when I didn’t understand something and great teachers (another huge thank you to Max Woodtli, my instructor).

This year I have decided, along with my sister, to start proper German lessons. Even though we speak quite well now and understand more than we think sometimes, we have started everything from the beginning and we are immensely enjoying it! Our teacher is supporting us every step of the way and is so passionate, we truly expect every lesson to come and learn from her. I have decided to step out of my comfort zone in English and tackle German. And you know what? I am also going to restart my Turkish lessons! I feel like my eyes are open and I can see my new home in a different light – I can talk to people, I can write and I can pick up German books in the bookstore and read! Above all, I feel that I can understand my students – how they feel, how they approach learning languages, the challenges they face in English and how they can overcome them.


19 thoughts on “Goal 5: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone #30GoalsEdu

  1. I can totally relate to your post Vicky. If you want to truly integrate and have a deeper understanding of the culture here than you do need to learn the language. Of course the challenge in Switzerland is that we need to learn German and Swiss-German, or one of the other languages depending on where you live. I have found that as a language teacher, going through this process myself, that it has been a benefit for my own students. I understand what they are going through, which pedagogical approaches are most likely to help them achieve learning outcomes, as well as being able to pass on lots of tips and tricks to aid them in the process of language acquisition. Good luck and have fun with the experience. Patricia πŸ™‚

    1. Dear Patricia,

      Thank you so much for your comment and adding some terrific points! I agree about the culture issue – the language helps us understand much more about the country and the people. I picked up on Swiss German much more easily (I really do not know why) and now I am building on my Hochdeutsch : )

      Thanks so much again, Vicky

  2. Dear Vicky,
    You have explained in a very good way how the language learners feel when they have to overcome the difficulties. I belive that you will also buy Turkish books to read:). I appreciate your effort.
    Sibel SaygΔ±n from Turkey

    1. My dear Sibel,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I hope that one day I will be speaking and reading in Turkish! Thank you for your positive reinforcement. I really appreciate it!

      Best wishes,

  3. Great post and personal perspective on leaving comfort zones, Vicky! I need to do the same for my Spanish but I feel good by stepping out of my comfort zone by starting a blog I wanted for so long! Again, it was nice to see your post on this as we the teachers of languages should be particularly aware of the process of learning a language. As we learn a new language, we better understand our students. So this process of learning a new language contributes our teaching as well. Last but not least, you know where to find me if you need any help with TΓΌrkΓ§e πŸ™‚
    – Osman

    1. Dear Osman,

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a lovely comment! I am so happy to hear you want to learn Spanish and thrilled that you want to start your own blog. It will be super, as you have so much to share, not only from your teaching, but your PhD studies and presentations! I hope you go for it!

      Best wishes,

      1. Dear Vicky, my blog is up and running! I have posted my 6th entry last night πŸ™‚ it is idiolectica.wordpress.com , hope to have you as a guest sometime! πŸ˜‰ – Osman

  4. Yay! I am so sorry I hadn’t realised it – never too late! Going to read it now : ) I would love to write a guest post! Let me know what topic you would like. Thank you ever so much!

  5. Hi dear Vicky!
    So good to be on your blog. =)

    The most important thing is, however trite it may sound, that motivation. Even more practically, necessity, I’d say. I’ve taken up and then given up German, French, Italian and Spanish…There’s always a moment when i start feeling discouraged. And then I’m a quitter, that kind of a role mode =)
    Your example is strong and empowering. And I hope the moment when I’ll open my eyes is just around the corner! Thanks for the beautiful video.

    Big hugs!

  6. Hi Ann!

    Thanks so much for your comment. Actually, I understand the issue behind motivation – I started German lessons in 2009 when I arrived here, but after work started multiplying, I started to get busier and less motivated, so I stopped. The only German input I got was from my environment (some people do not speak English) and my very good friend Sandra, with whom I try to meet up every week for coffee – she spekas to me only in German. Then I started the two courses I mentioned, but…I needed more and more to learn. I went into bookhops and felt devastated that I could not read anything.

    So my sister and I decided to start again! It is always better when there is company : ) We motivate and help each other. And we have the most amazing teacher, who moves according to our needs and is simply one of the best teachers I have seen in action!

    Good luck with anything at all you decide to start, be it a language, a new skill…go for it!

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