Monday, 5 May 2014

Minischritte

Regarding my situation last time I wrote, Wash put it pretty succinctly:


I really had no idea where I was meant to go from here, what I should be doing, or whether I'd ever even get out of this horrible rut. And while I haven't found answers to every single one of those questions, things seem to be slowly falling into place.

Not gonna lie: I still mentally convert £ into $ and then finally get why visitors say the UK is expensive. I still have Rimouski on my phone's weather app, and I see people instagramming photos of clapboard-housed streets with no snow at all, which I can't get my head around. Above all, not a single one of my dreams since I got back has been set in Europe. When I wake up, I feel an unnerved longing, as if the places I experienced won't let go of me that easily.
On the other hand, I consider how lucky it was that I hadn't booked a spring break jaunt to Toronto (because that turned out to be the week I left my apartment) and that I hadn't bought tickets to Arcade Fire in Ottawa (because that turned out to be the day I flew back to the UK). Yes, these things would have been lovely, but I don't feel too sad about it like I did a month ago. It's taken time but I have faith once again that the future will hold great things, so it doesn't make sense to linger on all that.

Anyway, I think readers are bored of me going on about all that, so let's move on.

I'm finally finding jobs that I can apply for, which gives me a clearer idea of what the near future holds for me. I'll be staying in the UK for the time being, getting experience and making some money. The thing is, I've just spent a whole chunk of time immersing myself in French. I haven't been to Germany in well over a year and I'm out of practice. Admittedly - beware, wild humblebrag approaching - in the scant opportunities I did have to speak with Germans in Canada, they told me I spoke German really naturally and that my accent was sehr neutral.
But it's quite something else when you have to speak a foreign language in a formal setting - like an interview - after stating on your CV that you're fluent.

I applied for a job, and the recruitment agency called me that afternoon. When we spoke German, I kind of freaked out, stumbling over my words, even though I'd been expecting it. I forgot the German for primary school, almost saying "Elementarschule". I apologised that I was in French mode still, and I promised that the more often I would speak German, the easier I'd fall back into it. Luckily, the company itself has offered me an interview next week...!

Some people might be under the impression that you're much more fortunate to get a phone interview than an in-person interview, but those applying for foreign language positions would agree they're wrong. My Quebec interview (over a year ago now!) was in person, and whilst I was definitely still nervous when the interviewers suddenly switched to French, the fact that I could read their body language - and probably vice versa - was a huge advantage.

Basically, it's become very apparent to me that if you've decided to do a degree in languages, you've just signed your life away: you need to regularly and continously keep making sure you know your shit.

Enter Duolingo.

It's a programme where you learn a language step by step using little games, usually in the form of translating or transcribing phrases. I started using it a few months ago, as my friends in Rimouski were raving about it. It was fun, but I was using it once a week if that, because it was too simple and clearly designed for people who were just starting to learn French. I remembered I had the app when I heard I was going to have a German interview. I needed some basic practice to de-rust my German brain. Yes, it was very basic, and frustratingly nitpicky sometimes, but it felt like a useful way to waste some time. And yes, I even learnt some things; it was a surprisingly good memory-refresher.

The best part of Duolingo by far is the weird and wonderful phrases it throws at you.

Sit tight while I write a 5,000-word essay answering that.

I've also been told that Spain needs us, and been asked whether the bear is wearing a dress.

So, Duolingo is available as an actual website, or as an iOS app. The two have their pros and cons. On the website, you can play against your friends. You're also less susceptible to typing errors often made on a fiddly phone keyboard. But the iOS app is really convenient; you can use it to be productive while you're waiting for the bus. You can also play against whoever's online. I also just find the interface cuter on it.

At the moment, only French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian are available for English speakers. I really want to tone up my Russian but it's still being developed (as well as Dutch, Irish, Polish, Turkish, Hungarian and Romanian). A solution to this that I've seen people using is the English for Russian Speakers course, but that would only get you so far.

For all those in the same boat - because I know now that you exist! - HAVE CONFIDENCE.