German as a foreign language dictionary. Photo copyright dpa
I recently returned to Germany for the first time since moving and it felt as if I never left. I was speaking German, indulging myself in good food, and surrounded by familiar brands and sights. Even though I haven’t missed speaking German, it felt good to know I could still carry a conversation in a foreign language – especially since my command of Dutch is non-existent. To honor what Mark Twain eloquently described as “the awful German language,” here are my 10 favorite words (in no particular order):
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.
Fernweh is another one of those German words that just doesn’t exist in English. It’s pretty much the same as Wanderlust, a yearning to be away, to travel, see different places, et cetera. Heimweh on the other hand is the yearning to be at home, or simply put, homesickness.