It’s been three years since we’d moved to Braunschweig, Germany. Slowly but surely we are doing some well-needed house projects. One thing that needs work is the landscape in our front garden. It is not very big, only a meter or so in dimension, but it has an ugly pine tree that blocks the window and a dead-looking rhododendron desperately in want of fertilizing. I’m no gardener, having only purple thumbs; therefore I needed to consult someone about how to make this area look pretty. I lack the imagination to even come up with a plan because I don’t know the names of many flowers and plants. I marched through many a garden shop trying to get an idea but I always came out feeling overwhelmed. It’s like being a ratty scarecrow walking through a fancy clothing store with no idea of what fashion looks like.
The worst part is that since I don’t know what the names are in English, I certainly have no idea of what the names are in German. I didn’t want to talk to gardening consultant in my local shop for fear of looking stupid. I was afraid I’d mumble a few words and then get lost in a complex conversation.
This is so much part of the stress of living in a country where you are not fully functional in the language.
My German writing skills are still hovering around the third grade level. In fact, I cannot write a decent sentence to save my live without a slew of mistakes. I converse just fine in German, although I do chop the language into bits and pieces putting the verbs in the wrong places. Most Germans have sympathy for anyone trying to learn this tongue twister of a language. They know the grammar is grueling, therefore they are forgiving. I cope well in everyday life but anything that requires specialized vocabulary is stressful and I avoid it.
It is these simple things that when I was living in an English-speaking country I took for granted. Even without having any botanical knowledge, I could express what I think I would want in English. This becomes a stressful task in German. That is why I decided to have a gardening consultation over Skype with a professional gardener in England.
I met Jo Dyer when I took an on-line marketing course for coaches and other small businesses. Her website is called “Really Useful Gardens” and she creates gardens that make your soul sing.
My garden makes me cringe so when I got serious about learning how to re-do my little plot, I sent Jo an email. She immediately understood my dilemma and suggested we do a Skype call. In the meanwhile, I sent over snapshots of my garden and its dimensions as well as photos of gardens in my neighborhood that I liked so she could have a visual of what I was talking about.
I felt so relieved that I could discuss this and make a plan in English. She walked me step by step through the process so I could learn to garden on my own.
We had a Skype consultation about what I would ideally want my garden to be. I was able to look up on the Internet the flowers and plants she recommended as we were Skyping. Next she made a drawing of the garden plan we discussed, including photos of various plants and flowers with all the information of how to plant and maintains them. She even covered removal of the tree and how to make the soil rich again.
Now not only do I have a vision for my front yard but the know-how to maintain it. The money was well spent. I saved hours of looking up plant and flower names in English and then having them translated into German. The stress of just thinking about how I was going to manage flowed away like water from a barren hill.
The Internet, social media and Skype are a godsend to me.
Being able to look up information and do business over the Internet makes living in a country where I am sometimes functionally illiterate tolerable. I admit to using Google translate more than I should. My German writing skills would be much better if I tried to practice writing sentences in German. But when time is of the essence and I have to get a note off to a teacher, I don’t have the patience to consult grammar books or dictionaries.
The drawback can be that my dependence on translating software programs is stopping me from learning valuable language skills that could bring me closer to my community. It’s part of the modern life dilemma being dependent on the Internet. For as long as I have the computer as a tool, I will use it. Without it, this blog is not possible.
Over To You
How has Skype changed your life? Does the Internet play a role in how you do business? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.