Imagine you’re born in Europe, some place like Germany let’s say, and you’re now all grown up and you catch the disease of wanting to travel somewhere. To some obscure little country tucked away somewhere far in the world that you saw a documentary about ages ago. Let’s say Bhutan (I dare you to tell me where it is—without checking Google).
So you get a map, assemble your back-breaking backpack, and fly down to that lovely little Himalayan country, Bhutan. You’re all hubbly and bubbly and shaky with excited butterflies dancing all over your insides.
This is a preview of Strange German Phrases, Explained.
Sometimes I’m more at ease speaking German than English, as if you can hide behind it or something. It not being my first language allows for misunderstandings, and not necessarily just linguistic ones. Furthermore, I’ve learnt to be assertive, in German. I said that was one of the typical German characteristics I’d love to pick up on during my year abroad but I really didn’t think it could happen. Somehow though, it has.
This is a preview of Learning German: Finding Freedom in a Foreign Language.
And I am back to not understanding a single word of what is going on around me. I feel like I have rewound back to 2010, when I landed in Münster with three words of German – danke, bitte and polizei – and existed in perpetual terror the bus driver was going to want to say something to me over the speaker and I wouldn’t understand it (which happened, often. I still have the irrational feeling bus drivers will call me out in front of the whole bus based on a few consecutive Münster experiences.)
This is a preview of Learning German: Bavarian Dialects.
Most of the time here, I can crack out my German in shops and cafes and restaurants with aplomb, or in social settings, engage in a monolingual conversation that makes me feel both smug (look at me go) and embarrassed (did I just murder a case?) at the same time, a sensation peculiar to learning and speaking a foreign language … or is that just me? But there are other occasions were something else happens and it’s usually in a bar and usually with bright young things who grew up with American pop culture squawking loudly in one ear and an English teacher in the other, from around the age of six. On these occasions, the conversation becomes bilingual, but in reverse. Allow me to elaborate.
This is a preview of Living in Germany: The Language Battle.
German is such a brilliantly mis-represented language. How a language with words like Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän could be considered long-winded or aggressive is just beyond me.. sie ist doch so ‘ne schöne Sprache.
“Lernen” and “lachen” go well together. Photo copyright dpa/photo alliance
One of the best parts of teaching English in Germany for me really has to be the funny mistakes my students make. I have laughed so hard I’ve had tears streaming down my face on numerous occasions. And don’t worry, I laugh WITH my students, not AT them (I was teaching some students today just how important this distinction is). Most of the time. I always remind them that I make just as many mistakes in German (like when I told my German teacher that I cook my TV instead of “watch” it) and that with language learning the best thing to do is keep it fun. I polled some of my other teacher friends and here are some of the greatest hits of English mistakes we came up with. Enjoy!
This is a preview of Teaching English in Germany: Funny Mistakes.