Learning A New Language Is All About The Culture

I work as a Spanish and English teacher. Therefore, I understand what it takes to learn and become fluent in a new language. I always thought I had the right recipe for success in this regard, but certainly I was wrong once more.

When you learn a language, it is definitely important to be good at learning grammar and rules. But the most important thing is to be able to empathize and understand the culture behind it. Once you go out into the wild, you get to see language in a new light. You understand that people will not speak to you with kindness and patience. They will speak as they do, as if you were already immersed in the vast ocean of slang and uses of the language. And you find yourself all confused and feeling dumb because you were unsuccessful while trying to buy a coffee.

And I have experienced that kind of frustration. I was constantly terrified of answering the phone and hearing a “Hallo?” on the other end. I was so scared when it was time to order at a restaurant, and let’s not talk about filling out forms and documents because that was just a nightmare.

People have told me that it takes up to 7 years to be fluent in a language such as German. I agree. But it is not only about being fluent and able to have a conversation, you must also understand how people live and think, in order to understand the way they speak. I still feel confused when encountering certain cultural concepts or aspects of German life. But every day I learn something new.

And it is not as if the fear has left the room, not at all. I am still scared of not being able to express myself, even after almost three years of living here. But I guess it is normal, and I finally accepted that I am allowed to make mistakes, I am allowed to feel scared and anxious.

It has definitely been a long journey, and I still feel dumb, not as often as I used to, but I do. However, I accepted that I am doing the best I can. These people have been here for a while. I spent all of my life learning about Mexican culture, entirely immersed in an environment only to be thrown—my decision, not complaining—into a complete different one in my adult life. So yes, I learned to be nicer to myself, to give myself time, and stop rushing and comparing.

At least I am not scared of buying groceries, answering the phone or buying coffee anymore. Let’s see how I manage myself in the upcoming years. I will tell you all about it.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts.

Lots of love,



Monica Violante-Drost

A professional with a background as a language teacher and translator, also a traveler enthusiast currently living in Europe. Loves to recreate make-up looks and discover new beauty products. Her passions are learning and reading.

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