Monday, May 11, 2009

Berlin Diary Entry Number Two: Karma Chameleon

Of all the nicknames I had as a child, Berlin is really bringing one to mind: chameleon.

The other day a friend was in town and I met up with him and gave him a tour of a few neighborhoods I'd visited. We also went to lunch where -- despite any formal German training -- I was able to order my meal in German. As we were padding through Kreuzberg, my friend exclaimed, "It's like you live here!" and in fact he couldn't believe this was my first visit and that I'd only been here about a week. I don't know what it is when words, languages, directions, geographies come to you fast and easy. Is it absorption? Adaptability? Confidence? I'm not certain. What I do know is that I am done being modest about this talent.

While I may not speak Slovenian perfectly (and honestly, who does?), I think I can confidently navigate through situations I find myself in in Slovenian (and Slovenia), and this is only after about a year and a half and only one week of formal education in the (very difficult) language. So, yes, I admit I have a knack for these things. That said, today, I start my first day of German language instruction. It will be a month-long course and I am setting my sights high. I have a strength and a willingness, and there is no reason why I can't be an ace number-one casual German conversationalist by the end of this month. No more denials of what I'm good at, now I'm shooting for the stars*!

*Sidenote: Star Trek movie was AWESOME. A+++


Foxxy said...

I've heard that German is one of the more difficult languages to learn. I'm sure you'll be a perfect or nearly perfect German speaker by the end of your stay. I'm toying with the idea of learning German as well. I don't have your gift of language so I'm sure I'll struggle. Good Luck

'Drea said...

As you already surmised, some people just have a knack for languages.

Yesterday, I pulled out an India Arie cd which I hadn't listened to in ages and I was really digging "Strength, Courage and Wisdom." So, yeah, go ahead and do your thing.

alcessa said...

Actually, English can be more difficult than German.
If you like clear language systems, you just need to learn them and then you can "operate" within this knowledge, using the system to generate correct utterances, words and endings and all. On the side, you can learn some useful phrases and that's it.

German and English have both been standardized to a high degree but one still needs to memorise a lot in English (collocations an set phrases, levels of formality....) - too much for my liking.

And Slovene still possesses so many archaic forms of language development that anyone mastering it to a certain degree is a real ACE.

Camille Acey said...

@alcessa - teaching English has helped me to realize that half of the time it make almost no sense. yesterday, i asked the teacher why do we say der saft - die safte BUT der geldautomat - die geldautoMATEN. then i realized the amount of nonsensical things are in english and instantly felt bad that i asked. and i won't even get into the "bass-ackwardness" of Slovenian....

i am looking forward to the "simplicity" of German. danke schoen!

alcessa said...

Yeah, well: there is of course some method in this madness :-)

You know (of course you do), there is the plural pattern "Umlaut over a/u/o plus -e" at the end of the word (Säfte) and it can be found in many German nouns.
The ending -en (Automaten) is another very common pattern for making plural nouns. You do get the feeling for them eventually.
I have done Old English a few years ago and it was even more difficult - plus the fact that noone speaks it :-)

As to modern English, you do have really simple forms there(like plural -s almost everywhere) but you need much more time to learn mirriads of other things. Lists of verbs plus prepositions, loads of them. Lists of verbs and nouns that love each other so much we should definitely use them. Lists of irregular verbs.
All learnt by heart by yours truly and slowly starting to disintegrate after all this time.

Not to mention the articles in English (British, American etc.) newspapers and course books, telling me native speakers feel quite stressed out by foreigners loving to use clichés in every sentence to prove their level of fluency and past diligence.

BTW, if you ever feel like writing comments in German - I actively support this on my blog, regardless of the fluency and the language of my posts (this is not an invitation to add many many comments to my blog :-) , I actually do this because I love languages and suppose everyone else does, too.

Ales said...

Ah so, viel glück! ;)