Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The choice I made that changed my life

"The choices we make, not the chances we take, determine our destiny"

When I was fifteen years old my life took a very unexpected turn, probably changing the future course of events. I had never thought about studying German before and I had always wanted to study French, I had even started to study French at high school so it actually made sense that I continued something I had begun. I had also applied for French but I wasn't granted a place at the language school, so there I was facing a dilemma. Should I wait for another year and see if I had some more luck second time around or should I give German a try? Well, after little thinking I went to buy the first books of German I ever owned and in September 2000 I started a delightful adventure which didn't look promising at all back then.

I still remember my first German lesson as if it was yesterday. I was sitting in a very crowded room - seriously, there were nearly fifty people in my course that first year - and we were asked to say any random German word we knew. Kartoffel. Michael Schumacher. Kindergarten. WAIT! Why do all these people know that much? What am I doing here? Wasn't I supposed to be in a beginners course? GET.ME.OUT.OF.HERE!!! Ah, the first year wasn't exactly easy. Neither was the second nor the third. I found it extremely difficult to memorize all those alien-looking words, together with their gender. I didn't seem able to put more than three words together correctly and that whole declension system felt like a foreign language in its own. With all this fun going on and skipping lessons more often than not, my first three years learning German were gone in the blink of an eye.

After these three discouraging years I took a much needed break and eventually went back to school, still doubting whether this was the right thing to do, given my poor beginnings. One day my teacher asked me why I was studying German and without giving it much thought I blurted out that I wanted to spend a year studying in Germany. I suddenly realized that I really wanted to spend a year abroad and I wanted it so badly. From that moment on I worked harder than ever, I tried not to miss any lesson and I even began doing my homework! And at some point I found myself speaking German so fluently I didn't even believe it was me who was talking.

I never spent a year in Germany; I went to Belgium instead (you can read more about it here), but learning German surely changed my life. For the first time in my life I strived to be my best at something and learnt that I could achieve almost anything I wished for. I realised that learning a foreign language is a real mind-opener. I became more curious about countries and cultures which weren't under my radar before and more eager to learn other foreign languages I never thought of, like Dutch or Icelandic. And learning German somehow gave direction to my life, as it helped me to find a way to make my dreams of living abroad come true. I used to believe in fate and our destiny being written in the stars but I'm pretty sure that choosing to learn German has definitely changed my life for good. Perhaps, after all it is the choices we make what determines our destiny, just like the quote above says. What do you think? Do you belive in destiny? Ever had a life-changing moment?

And now an even greater challenge, learning Russian!


  1. Todo lo que hacemos marca nuestro futuro. Creo que fue una opción muy acertada estudiar idiomas y en concreto elegir el alemán. Yo siempre les digo a mis alumnos que los idiomas son el futuro, que estudien inglés, francés,alemán, ruso, árabe, chino...lo que quieran pero idiomas. Bss, Irene:)

    1. jejeje muy bien dicho, Pilar! Yo siempre he pensado que los idiomas eran la parte más útil de todo lo que se aprende en el colegio y de momento puedo decir que me han llevado lejos :)

  2. Pues yo soy de las que creo que "nada sucede por casualidad"... Todo marca nuestras vidas, y unos hechos nos conducen a otros... pero todo pasa por algo...
    Los idiomas nos abren al mundo, a otras culturas, a otras formas de pensar, son una puerta abierta, y lo mejor nos hacen abrir nuestras mentes. Estudiar alemán fue una decisión que cambió tu vida, como posiblemente la hubiera cambiado estudiar francés, pero "las casualidades" de la vida quisieron que fuese alemán el idioma seleccionado...

    Tener la mente abierta y dejarse llevar, esa es la clave!



  3. What an awesome story Irene! I'm so glad you stuck with your German lessons and can speak it fluently. I admire you because you know how to speak several languages. I think that is so good. When you know other languages it DOES open you up to a lot of possibilities. You have more options! I do believe in destiny. It's important for each of us to STRIVE for what we want. A pathway has to be laid to get to your dreams :)

    1. Wow, those are wise words, Kim! I also believe in destiny but I realize more and more that we have to work our way to it.
      I feel really lucky for being somehow gifted for languages, which doesn't mean I didn't have to study quite a lot to get there but I've always found the way enjoyable and that's why I keep on learning new foreign languages :)

  4. Thanks so much for linking up! I loved reading your story. You are so brave for studying German - I've heard it's one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers because of all the differences in syntax. And I bet Belgium was awesome! I had lots of friends who studied abroad in Brussels and never wanted to leave. Hope to see you again next week! :) There's no suggested topic: just share any travel story or tip(s) you want.

  5. that is a nice story, and learning a new languange is always hard so that's awesome! congrats!

  6. I really enjoyed reading about how much you appreciate having learned German, making all the hard work worth while. I too believe we choose our own destiny :D sparkle2day.com

  7. It's amazing how one decision ultimately opened a lot of doors to many great things.

    1. Yes, I think this decision totally changed my life and I'm certain I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't learnt German!

  8. I REALLY loved this! You've got a great story there. And I truly wish I knew as many languages as you do. How do you retain all of them?

    As for the quote, I tend to believe that our choices are half chance. And I do still believe in fate, although I'm not one to just sit by and wait for the inevitable. :o)


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