“travel thoughts”

Sprechst du Deutsch? February 10, 2008

Filed under: Munich — abigoliah @ 4:38 pm

In my language class we speak German. We speak nothing but, and if we try to speak English we are scolded. Because of this there are blocks of class where I don’t know what the eF is going on. If I allow my mind to wonder for a minute I miss a crucial part of the discussion. This is the only time the teacher calls on me to answer a question and that’s when I find out I have been on the wrong exercise the whole time.
She may ask me which Café is closer to Karlsplatz, and I will answer with a confident, “Yes! I live in a single room on the fifth floor of my dorm.”
English is a Germanic language, so many words sound similar; class is Klasse, alone is alien, bread is Brot, and so on and so forth. But for some reason I still can’t say them right. My American accent causes me to stand out and not in a good way. To listen to me speak German is like listening to a hillbilly recite Shakespeare, the words are there but all beauty and felicity of expression is completely disregarded. My classmates try to help me but when you have Italian, Swede, and an 18-year-old boy from Jordan trying to get you to say “bisschen” correctly, it can be overwhelming. Bisschen, it means little, why can’t the pronunciation be of little importance?
My Italian classmate Marco has makes sure I know how bad my accent is. He tells me I need to stop running my words together and to think of the language like a march. Marco then goes on to tell me that English and German are similar and Italian is not so I really have no excuse at all. His tone is playful but I believe the subtext is “YOU AND THE REST OF AMERICA ARE ONLY HERE TO SCREW UP OTHER PEOPLES LANGUAGES AND COUNTRIES, AND I HATE YOUR PRESIDENT!” I think Marco hates Americans.
Perhaps he’s correct but it’s hard to take pronunciation advice from a man who calls you Hhhhhaaabby. That’s what a fair amount of my European classmates call me, Hhhhhaaabby. They can’t say a two-syllable name but they can speak German circles around me. Most also speak English too, and I’m jealous of them.
My jealously manifests and I wind up thinking things that I only thought overly patriotic ignorant Americans thought. Anna from Russia might be talking about where she’s been in Germany, and I find myself glaring at her thinking, “ Oh yeh, well you maybe able to say ‘Ich habe noch Berlin gereist, und es war sehr Spaβ’ without the teacher freaking out on you but I have life, liberty, and the right to bear arms Blondie!”
These thoughts of jealousy embarrass me. Now that I am out of my home country, I have become what I’d always scoffed at; an over patriotic dumb American who is only here to screw up another county’s language. Full of shame and humiliation the teacher calls upon me to give my thoughts about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I tell her what I had for breakfast.


5 Responses to “Sprechst du Deutsch?”

  1. Erin Says:

    “Felicity of expression”. Very nice. I have always thought writers after Jane Austen wrongly neglected the word “felicity”. Let’s bring it back.

    I just talked to Lindsey last night and her experiences in Spain are similar. She says that people literally laugh at her when she tries to speak Spanish. It’s crazy. Are you having a good time other than that, though? Is it beautiful and glorious and sunshine and gum drops? Even if not, I’m sure it will be better sooner than you realize. We miss you!

  2. Hitler Cantlay Says:

    The last line slayed me, Buffy-style.

    here’s a fun memory of Munich:
    “‘und Aaaadolf!’ … oh, um… I mean… what a funny line from a funny show!”

  3. keithhuang Says:

    hey abs – keep pouring your guts into it. remember: nothing that comes easy is ever worth having. though, by the sound of things, you’re right where you should be; and everything will come together sooner than you think (just don’t start hanging around americans and aussies and speaking english all the time).

  4. Moona Ray Says:

    Laughed my ass off at work this morning reading the end of your blog. I think that we should all take up such a way of talking–even if it is in English. The next time I get a request for a product proposal or report, I will reply, “Yes, I quite heartily agree that we should bring back the quill feather pen”. Not only is it important to keep people on their toes, but I will quickly become known as the lovable and affable office eccentric instead of their token person of the Book. Abby, thank you for the inspiration!

    Rock on kiddo–I am so proud (and disgustingly jealous) of you.

  5. malinka18 Says:

    Hilarious!! Your tales bring back fond memories of my 2 months at the Goethe Institut in Gottingen (Northern Germany). Unfortunately I completed my 2 months with basic german language skills (too much ado about everything German)and sadly still monolingual. Not to mention that the locals all spoke English and that made my guilt of I-should-be-speaking-German-while-in-Germany rise exponentially. So my plan B with regards to learning this language lead me to try this online course which was much cheaper than my Goethe Institut stint and actually pretty good…go figure!! My goal is to go back this summer at least with a basic conversational level. Enjoy your stay! Viel Gluck und Auf Wiedersehen!

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