In school I wasn’t the best student in foreign languages. Reading and understanding it wasn’t the problem. But the grammar… I grew up with Dutch and in school I got German, French and of course English. After I dropped German class as soon as I could, I struggled through the french and english grammar like a true warrior. It wasn’t until I got international friends and started traveling to the USA more often, I started to get more fluent in English and better with the english grammar. It does help to read books and talk with your friends in other languages.
The past few years I started traveling to Germany a lot, speaking German with my friends there. Even though my grammar is still horrible, I can make myself understandable, which is okay for the moment. I do notice my english skills get worse, when I speak more German. Obviously I can only speak one foreign language at a time 🙂 I do feel ashamed sometimes when all of a sudden I have to speak English and I stumble and say the stupidest things. Actually I should be used to that, because one of the most difficult things in foreign languages, aside from the whole grammar thing, is sayings. How many times do I translate a dutch saying word by word in another language and have people look at me in a funny way? I always try to laugh myself out of it, but it stays difficult.
In Germany you have a whole card collection with german sayings, translated in English. Very funny things. My favorite is ‘You go me animally on the cookie’ (Du gehst mir tierisch auf den Keks) – a saying to express somebody is getting on your nerves.
Not that long ago I was at a concert of my favorite singer, who also happens to be a graduated simultaneous interpreter in 4 languages of the University of Bologna and he started his concert with: “Hello people, how is it?” All of a sudden I felt a whole lot better. It can happen to the best of us 🙂
Foreign languages are cool and if you hear somebody stumble over their words, just let them be. As long as everybody understands each other!