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how difficult it will be to live there without speaking the language

Sorry, this is a bit off topic. Can anyone tell me how difficult it will be to live there without speaking the language at all? Do the majority of people living in Bitburg speak English? Will they be offended if my elder mother and I do not speak German? I would love to hear opinions. We are of course Americans of German decent. So we will look like Germans, but we believe we will be unable to learn the language.

This inquiry should probably be shifted elsewhere but I will go ahead and answer it.

Germans learn English in school but many tend to forget much of it unless they travel a lot or go to University. Some older Germans might not have learned much of any, especially if they grew up in eastern Germany where many learned Russian instead. In some smaller European countries like The Netherlands or in Scandinavian, they know few others will speak their language and often are exposed to much more TV, movies and other media in English. Thus, they put more importance on fluently speaking English. In Germany, things get dubbed or translated.

Most Germans are happy to try to communicate with someone on a one-off basis. Thus if you ask directions or advice in a shop or on the street - most are likely to help. But if one lives longer in the country, it is expected that one learns the language. If you have regular contact to people then they are going to expect to see some effort. Some might not care, seeing it as an opportunity to practice their English. For others, it will get old if one stays years without learning. For a foreigner who is obviously very old then they will have more understanding.

The problem is not survival; one can get through with English. But one is always needing to ask for translations and missing out a lot of what is going on. Plus one will have more difficulty making real friends and integrating. It’s like having a handicap, maybe worse than being deaf because at least they can read signs and write things down and be certain of what is understood. And not learning the language can give the message that either you can’t be bothered or don’t intend to stay around long. Either way might make people wonder why they would make the effort to actually become friends with you. And the biggest complaint I hear from immigrants to Germany is their lack of social contacts. Just learning the language won’t guarantee you’ll find friends but not learning it will definitely cut down the likelihood.

Hi Kierstin,

Please note that i have created a new thread with your post on the Germany forum for more visibility and interaction with the members. :)

Thanks,

Priscilla

Kierstin: I have asked the moderators to separate your post (and our replies to it) into a new thread, as it was off-topic.

I happen to know Bitburg. It is a rather provincial small ttown with few foreigners and few entertainment offerings even for locals. The people there have few chances to practise their (limited high school) English and are not likely to be very good at it.
That there was a USA air base nearby until the 90ies does not help, because the military people kept to themselves and rarely left the base.
As Tom said above, it is certainly possible to survive (with some limitations and hardship), but your social life will be severely limited. There's lots of greenery and nature nearby, in case that is enough for you.

I personally think if you are unwilling or unable to learn the language, you should not move to Germany (or anywhere else non-English-speaking, for that matter).

Thank you for your opinion.

Thank you for your detailed response it was very helpful and I completely agree.

kierstin :

Sorry, this is a bit off topic. Can anyone tell me how difficult it will be to live there without speaking the language at all? Do the majority of people living in Bitburg speak English? Will they be offended if my elder mother and I do not speak German? I would love to hear opinions. We are of course Americans of German decent. So we will look like Germans, but we believe we will be unable to learn the language.

I think unless you have access to the military bases (Spangdahlem AB is very close) or at least ties to the military community in the area, yes you'll find it difficult to integrate as others already mentioned.  Beppi's comment however about military members in the area keeping to themselves and not leaving base, I'd categorize as inaccurate, even back in the 90's.  Many military members live off-base.

If you believe you're unable to learn the language, you won't learn it.  As the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way.  If you move there and don't learn the language, you're not going to get as much out of the experience as you might hope.

romaniac :
kierstin :

Sorry, this is a bit off topic. Can anyone tell me how difficult it will be to live there without speaking the language at all? Do the majority of people living in Bitburg speak English? Will they be offended if my elder mother and I do not speak German? I would love to hear opinions. We are of course Americans of German decent. So we will look like Germans, but we believe we will be unable to learn the language.

I think unless you have access to the military bases (Spangdahlem AB is very close) or at least ties to the military community in the area, yes you'll find it difficult to integrate as others already mentioned.  Beppi's comment however about military members in the area keeping to themselves and not leaving base, I'd categorize as inaccurate, even back in the 90's.  Many military members live off-base.

If you believe you're unable to learn the language, you won't learn it.  As the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way.  If you move there and don't learn the language, you're not going to get as much out of the experience as you might hope.

Beppi's assessment of such members keeping/mingling mostly with themselves, was certainly accurate in Bonn and also Wiesbaden. There were , of course, exceptions to that rule - but they are an extremely small minority.

People's willingness to learn and assimilate  from foreign culture and customs falls away, once large groups are forming/maintained.

It's the groupthink phenomena that then have  higher priority than an individual's behaviour.  And it holds true in any culture.

The recent  Okinawa murder and rape of a girl in Japan , and the consequences thereof, bares witness to that.

Kierstin-I would suggest you spend most of your time learning the language, and limit your time in such a way that at least more than 50% is spent with people that are fully integrated in the country. Keeping with people of your own background should be a fallback net and not a daily fix.

Unless you plan your stay to be temporary anyway : - in which case you can put the tourist spectacles on , be layed back and be fascinated by comparing the differences between "us & them",  before packing up, disillusioned and filled to the brim with confirmation biases.

Thank you for the uplifting reply. The thing with the language is I would very much like to learn German as my brother already is fluent. For some reason I myself have extreme difficulty learning languages as well as math. I took three semesters in college and still can barely form the most basic of sentences. Beppi's implication that I was unwilling to learn the language hurt my feelings. People who learn things easily have no empathy for those who do not. I have not given up hope entirely yet. I may just use my brother's home in Bitburg as a base for visiting other countries.
Thank you again for your response. I was planning on leaving the sight today, but now maybe not.😊

Hi Kierstin,
I'm happy to hear that you are willing to give it a go :)

We can only share our own learnings (and those people we met, who were also in the same boat).

Whatever you learn beforehand in a college in a foreign country cannot make up for sitting in the country, with the people, buying a bread, order a coffee or the frustration (and subsequent drive) of not being able to express yourself at the spur of the moment whilst living it the the foreign country.

We humans are much more adaptable than we belief ourselves - if we are not left to many options.

The ability to learn the language generally happen in 4 stages (suprisingly similiar to newborns)
Stage 1 : Hearing - Catching specific word and reconstruct the context.
Stage 2:  Hearing - Learning to follow full simple sentences to complex innuendos (6 months,3 years respectively)
Stage 3: Speaking - Learning to speak the language. (+> later actively conversing in talk >> presenting)


It does look strange that fluent hearing and speaking is not automatically the same, but I've seen it confirmed  many times with myself and friends.

Irrespective of the syntax, speak,speak speak - even I you can hear yourself sound like an absolute pumpkin. *All* Germans I met have large tolerance for new people making mistakes in German. Tip- we connect face to a specific language. If you don't speak to a particular person in German (however broken and mixed it might be), it will be nearby impossible to swap afterwards.

If our minds doesn't pretend to have a backdoor (ie :"I can always go back if this doesn't work"), you will be able to converse in simple German in 9 months.

How sweet. Thank you for that😊

kierstin :

Beppi's implication that I was unwilling to learn the language hurt my feelings. People who learn things easily have no empathy for those who do not.

I did write "unwilling or unable", indicating that it must be one of the two. Sorry if this hurt your feeling!
But in fact, if you're still unable to converse in German after some time in the country, many will think you're not putting in enough effort. That's why I have attended classes in all countries I lived, even if the language was difficult and I knew it's only for a year (this was the case for me in Taiwan and Thailand). I am also not good with languages (and have by now forgotten all my Chinese and Thai), but it is important to show goodwill.

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