Archives For German language

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It was fun while it lasted, and considering my health a month of classes each weekday may have been the best I could hope for before hitting a proverbial wall. The first two weeks of my integration course I was enthusiastic and well in familiar territory, having done some pre-course studying to help myself not feel as lost going in. This advantage evaporated in the face of the direct method of language instruction as I was getting a lot of information thrown at me that I didn’t understand. Success here is determined by two things; the ability to piece together what is being said, and the ability to recall it from one class to the next, which is where I got beat. Having chronic vertigo makes things difficult for me to recall, especially under pressure (and not knowing if it’s me or my condition that’s the problem with twenty other people ready to answer within .5 seconds of me being called on is, I think, an acceptable definition of “pressure”).

I did really enjoy the class and got to meet some interesting people, even though I could only communicate with about a half-dozen of them, but at least no-one knew enough English or simply knew better than to think it was funny to ask me about Rob Ford. One afternoon we made a field trip to the Reichstag, or “democracy’s own heated goldfish bowl;” and I made a vaguely obscene gesture at a senior citizen from Syria, but it was in the interests of teaching him the German word for “ice cream.”

To the outsider German may appear as an ugly mess of overly complex rules, and indeed it is until you find someone who can break down the grammatical systems to something manageable to auslander brains. For example, German nouns have genders of male, female and neuter for no reason that will ever be adequately explained to me; and an attendant definite, indefinite and plural article. According to one magical tome on my bookshelf there actually an easy way to determine a noun’s gender based on the final syllable of said noun, plus a reasonably manageable list of exceptions to these rules. This is far easier to digest than than “just memorise all the nouns. All of them.”

At a recent lunch with the in-laws, who are downright tickled that I’m finally being forced to learn German, I mentioned the rules for determining noun genders and watched the consideration begin with long lists of nouns discussed among those who knew of such things while I spent the time studying the aged framed photograph of the Nofratete on the wall. I imagine this wasn’t unlike my initial months in Germany where I had to relearn and actually start speaking my native English instead of grunting it. By the end of the day I had the homework assignment of providing my in-laws with a way to watch the NFB’s animated short of Roch Carrier’s “The Sweater,” which they have no hope of understanding without a translation but at least the animation was done entirely by hand and the colours are nice.