German Update

I am studying German … again. I swear to you, this is karma.


After almost two decades of vilifying the German language (I always fancied myself more as a French petite girl, living in Paris. Oh, and always wearing a barrette) I have come full circle and am once again trying to conjugate the verb “haben”. In fact, I had such a strong conviction that somewhere in my brain there must still be a trace of 4 years highschool German pains, that I decided to sign up for German A2. That was a good decision. It turns out that I am not far behind the others in the group since in the preceding 3 months of German lessons (once a week) they only managed to get through past perfect tense. Just the regular verbs – nothing as fancy as exceptions. This kind of teaching – where there is a whole lot of talking (Mein Name ist Natalcho) and not a whole lot of grammar feels so silly to me.


In order to learn a language you need to build a vocabulary of around 2,000 words and you have to know your grammar. You have to know it better than the native speakers. When I was studying English in highschool, we paused for a full year to basically just learn the language. Daily dictations, grammar exercises, hundreds of new words per week. Yes, it is true that I graduated with all of the SAT fancy schmancy words at my fingertips and yet could not hold a conversation for more than 3 minutes. Speaking a language is quite different from knowing a language it turned out. I knew English inside out, to its very bones, when I graduated. Speaking took a bit of time but I had the foundations already. The learning method in my German class seems to be exactly the opposite. Why oh why would they teach you “Ich bin, du bist…” and we shall learn how to say “We are” in lesson 12. No no no – there is no logic to the language this way.


Naturally, the fact that I now need to rely on 2 hours per week to learn German by 2056 is a bit frustrating as well. Not that I had time to write my homework last week or to learn the new words…oh well, it still feels good to complain of the system. If only we had to learn more I would learn more. See how perfect the logic is? As long as the whole class, the teacher and life itself are not taking German seriously enough and are only leaving me with 2 hours per week to dedicate to this skill – well, I guess I’ll treat it with the same disdain. Except, I’d really like to learn German.


Firstly, as my mom put it so gently to me the other day “You are not getting any younger and you only speak 2 languages – you have to learn a new one asap”. Mom, I will have you know that in my short life (because I am still super young ahem) I’ve learned 2 languages fluently and I’ve managed to study German and French for 4 years each without actually learning to speak either (which you must agree is quite the achievement). I’ve also studied Russian for a year plus some Spanish. Languages are my thing…except, I never take the time or put in the effort to actually learn one fluently. I understand my mom’s disappointment though – she is comparing me to my 4 year old niece who speaks German, Bulgarian, English and is taking private lessons to keep up with her French. Seriously – I am not even exaggerating!


A second reason why I would like to learn German is so I can integrate better. I will never feel as a local here without being able to chat to random people as life goes by. In the supermarket, in Starbucks, on the street. I’d like to be able to do a bit more than smile and nod. It’s strange really why being able to chit chat with the barista while waiting for my coffee is probably more important than being able to fill in my tax return (knowing German will probably help with that, right?) These random small interactions are what connect us to the world around us and we feel a part of society. I dare you, try to mime the next time you go to leave your dry cleaning and you will see how isolating that feels. Much more isolating than not understanding a word on your tax return.


And So Monday night is German night and let me just tell you how difficult it is to drag one’s behind to a 2 hour German class after work. If you were ever in such a predicament and needed extra motivation, may I suggest the tried and tested method of bribing yourself with a Toffee Nut Starbucks Latte?


“Gruetzi, grande soya latte bitte, zu mitnehmen.”


I am hoping I will soon be able to expand my repertoire:)


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