Two weeks. That’s how long I have been in Germany and how long it took before I woke from a dream where I — and everyone around me — spoke German. Interestingly, I had only been here a few days when I dreamed I was speaking French. It’s not the first time I’ve dreamed in French, but what makes it especially intriguing for me is that I don’t (consciously) speak French.
I arrived in Germany on the morning of 18 September for a six-week working get-away. Being a freelancer, I can do that. It’s hard to deny that geographical freedom has to be the best benny of my work. Whether I’m writing for online media or scripting training videos, I can do it anywhere.
There are many reasons why I believe a working get-away is beneficial. But all of those benefits are multiplied when your get-away is outside of your own country. Studies demonstrate that spending time abroad can stimulate new ideas and increase flexible thinking.
Benefits of Mixing Things Up
The idea of changing the status quo is to flex your brain and create new neural pathways. It’s about forcing you out of auto-pilot so that you become more conscious of yourself and the environment around you. A change of scenery can make you more alert, creative, and productive even by going to a new coffee shop on the other side of town.
Increasing neural pathways are important to me since, as a creative, I benefit from the complexity and overlap of so many experiences. I pull on this expanded awareness and understanding to make connections that might be less obvious to others. For example, 3 October is Tag Der Deutschen Einheit, celebrating 29 years of German unification. That might not mean much to anyone outside of Germany, but since I lived in Germany from 1985 – 1989, I understand what a divided Germany felt like. And, I was here when the border opened, and people from all over the world began chipping away at the wall. That bicultural experience expands my awareness, enabling me to connect with the German holiday (and culture) in ways that other Americans might not.
When visiting foreign-speaking countries for extended periods, there is added processing the brain is forced into to comprehend basics, like asking where the bathroom is or how to find the train station. After living here for four years, I had developed a solid level of fluency, but having not used the language, except during short visits, for so long convinced my brain to archive those language skills.
Commitment Pays Off
Committing myself for a six week immersion, and convincing my hostess that I prefer to speak German over English (unless I’m confused–which happens daily) forces my brain to work extra hard. For the last two weeks, it’s been throwing archived files left and right looking for those language memories.
And that is why I have been waiting for the first German dream. I take that as a good sign.
Acquiring a language skill is challenging. And German, with all of its various endings, often leaves me exhausted by the time I go to bed at night. But I’m making speedy progress, and that’s what it’s all about.
Who knows, maybe I’ll take on French next.