Interview Series #2 No Pain, No Gain!
In our second interview with Chiu Kit LAM, he explains why and how he learned German, what he found difficult and easy, why learning German is important and what tips he would give German learners.
Actually, most people in Germany speak English quite well and there are more and more English-language courses for students. Then why did you learn German?
And not to forget: My wife is a German too. When you're in love, you do everything for your partner, right? :)
Der Chef doesn’t cook, Chef means boss in German…
Das Gift is not a nice present, Gift means poison, definitely not something that you would like to give to someone…
Das Objektiv is not something on my to-do list, it means lens!
So, be careful, always!
The Germans themselves often say: "Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache." (German language - difficult language.) Would you agree with this statement? And what was the most difficult challenge for you?
There is almost no grammar and structure in Cantonese. A character remains a character. That's why I had difficulty in distinguishing "ich", "mich" and "mir". In Cantonese, there is only one word for it. The grammatical genders and the grammatical cases in German deterred me at the beginning... and the list never ends!
I'd like to tell you a little story about learning German with my wife: I started learning German at the CUHK in 2009. I learned the verb "helfen", which means "help" in English and I made a mistake: "Ich helfe dich" - it was wrong because "helfen" is a dative verb. In fact, you have to say "Ich helfe dir" instead. Of course, I turned to my wife. Unfortunately, I did not get an answer from her. "That sounds weird! I know it's difficult, but it's just German." I got so upset: not even a German can help me to learn German, who else could help me then? When she started to learn Cantonese, she got questions for me, and I said: "I know it's difficult, but it's just Cantonese." This time it is her turn to get upset!
What do you like the most about the German language? Did you have a special sense of achievement or particularly frustrating moments?
But as an engineer, I often use e.g. the word "Zahnrad". Although I had not even seen the word before, I knew immediately what it meant. "Zahn" means "tooth" and "Rad" means "wheel". That is also the way we say "gear" in Chinese. It is just cool when you know things without having learned them in advance.
My self-confidence in my German is always fluctuating up and down. The first success was the presentation for my internship. For students who study engineering, an internship is required, and you have to give a presentation about it afterward. For this presentation, I practiced for hours! Fortunately, the professor was very satisfied and gave me a good grade.
But of course, there are also frustrating moments! It's very annoying when you do not understand the announcement on the platform in train stations and you get onto the wrong train... I've experienced that several times. Once I noticed slowly only after an hour of train journey: Why does it look different here than otherwise? Oh dear, wrong connection!
In order to get home I had to take another 3-hour connection, change the trains twice and I was really frustrated when I got home.
You already have a super good command of the German language, have passed the C2 exam, in other words, you have reached the native language level – teaching others German as well. Is there still anything you want to learn? And what tips would you like to give to our German learners?
And don't be afraid of making mistakes! I always say to my course participants: Be glad that you are making such mistakes now, because you can learn from these them! That means you won't make these mistakes next time when you speak or take an exam. The Germans say, "Ohne Fleiß, kein Preis!" and "Übung macht den Meister", just like in English "No pain, no gain", "Practice makes perfect". That I can confirm!