I want to say from my own experience as someone who has successfully learnt German as an L2 as an adult that, in the beginning, when I was starting to learn German, I found the word order hard. Not hard to understand ... I learnt the rules for it and could tell what was right, but when speaking, my brain would come up with the German words I should say and then make me "hold on" to them until I could finally drop them in the right place. As I spoke more and more German and listened to it passively and read in German, over time, my brain just adjusted to that. I'll say a subject and an auxiliary verb and whereas I used to come up with the next verb immediately and feel as if I was holding it in my memory until I was finally allowed to drop it at the end, now I simply don't go looking for that word until it's the right time, so I'm never really conscious anymore of holding onto a word while also looking for the words for everything else that must go before it. It just happens now.
This does lead to a different kind of mistake though because sometimes I get to the end of the sentence and realise that the verb I really want to use would have required something different at the beginning of the sentence. Sometimes I should have used hat
but I used ist
(this is my natural tendency when talking about positions, and I think my brain pretty consistently wants to use sein
with verbs like stehen, sitzen, hängen, liegen
, which is done in southern German dialects, maybe on analogy with gewesen sein
... but also with warten
sometimes, which, as far as I know, is not a thing anywhere ... but maybe that's on analogy with geblieben sein
). The most common one is I get to the end of the sentence and realise the verb I want requires a sich
and ... although I can simply drop it directly in front of the verb, it's more natural near the beginning of the clause and makes it pretty obvious that I hadn't anticipated how I was going to end the sentence when I started. What I find tough is having verbs at the end that control earlier bits of the sentence when the verb that I end up using goes with something I didn't anticipate, like an auxiliary, a reflexive, a case role, a prepositional relation etc.
To unpack that a bit, if you know enough German to understand this, here's an example of a thing I do a lot. Brackets show the bits of structure that I think in my head but don't say ... the thoughts are not "words" that I have, just instant thoughts - I'm not "thinking in English" to myself while speaking in English.
- Es sind ja viele Sachen passiert, die ich mit Sicherheit auch nach zehn Jahren [shit, it's sich erinnern for "remember"]... mich ... [shit, it's sich an etwas erinnern] ... an die ich mich mit Sicherheit auch nach zehn Jahren werde erinnern können.
... but sometimes I just crack the shits with the sentence and code Switch "remember" into there because it's a nice simple transitive verb that I expect to have because of my L1:
- Es sind ja viele Sachen passiert, die ich mit Sicherheit auch nach zehn Jahren [*sigh* fuck it!] werde remembern können. ...
Intended meaning: There are a lot of things that have happened that I will definitely be able to remember even after ten years.
When I'm interpreting from DGS into German it's a whole other kettle of fish though because it's not even my thoughts and I'm focussing on a bunch of stuff at the same time, so sometimes I get to the end of the sentence and don't even remember how I began it and if I've said all of the information I need to.
And all of that said, I struggle a lot with Turkish which I suppose is more like Japanese with its head-final strictness. I can't handle long chains of relative clauses before getting to the thing that's being described. My brain just won't do it in the right order because I haven't practiced it enough. German does have the ability to drop anything before beginning other clauses, so it doesn't need to be as long till you get to verbs and things is it can be, so even though the word order is kind of more complicated in how verbs go in all kinds of places rather than just rigidly at the end, it feels a lot more convenient to me because you can chop things up without actually ending the sentence. A Turkish friend of mine said situations like that in Turkish just tend to be chopped up into smaller sentences rather than having long convoluted sentences going down several different levels into subordination, but I really don't know enough to be comfortable with it.