There were certain things I expected to learn in my German language class: prepositions, the genders of various nouns (DAS bier, DER Wein), how to navigate a city using German, etc.
I did not expect to learn the value of waiting.
As I have learned in my grammar training, the verb most often comes at the end of a German sentence. (Ich kann nicht deutsch sprechen…) What does that mean? Well, as someone who struggles to learn the language – it means buckle up because this stuff is hard.
But what else does it mean?
It means that one must pay attention, listen and allow the speaker to complete his or her sentence before one can react. It’s been extremely enlightening to observe my class full of diverse students and witness how uncomfortable and unnatural this seems to some of us. (My American self and my Israeli study partner have certainly been struggling.)
The composition and structure of a sentence has such a simple but powerful impact:
One must hear what a person is saying before barraging them with questions or interrupting. The process has shown me time and time again how strong my instincts are to impatiently rush a discussion or a fellow speaker.
The same idea happens on the streets, as my tendency is to dart across any roads if there is no visible traffic, regardless of the streetlight displaying red or green. Not so in Germany. People (all people – young, old, bikers, workers, students) wait for the clear sign that it’s now safe to walk. The notion of breaking the order is not acceptable, and people respect the importance of waiting for all parties involved.
So I have learned. Whether I am speaking or listening, walking or driving…there’s a value in waiting…and as I tell my 4 year old son, “Everything is not a race!”