October 17, 2015

German Swag 101: Sounding it Out

It's such a different dynamic to have my team culture in English again. There's a little bit of German here and there, but our interactions are primarily in free-flowing English.
This, coupled with the fact that I don't have a team to coach this year, has impacted my motivation to learn German. But not in the way you'd expect - I'm actually way more motivated to learn because I don't feel like I'm drowning in ignorance constantly.

Literally had no idea what was going on most of the time.
Learning French was hard. Coaching in French was harder. I had really wanted to learn it since I was very young, but I needed some serious breaks from French in order to actually digest the language. I couldn't understand what people were saying to me because it all slurred together in a mixture of "juhz" and "kess-kuhz" and it was an extremely frustrating time.

German, while I'm clearly on the early side of learning, is so much clearer in my ears. Even pronounciations are easier. I can pick out words I've seen or heard when Germans are talking to each other. I don't know if it's my American ear welcoming another Germanic language, but it's nice to feel like I could get the hang of this sooner rather than later.

Another contributing factor is probably the fact that we've already done the whole "learn a language where they speak it" thing. The initial terror (yes, it's real, and it lasted for two years) of trying to communicate has passed. I don't understand half of what's happening around me in German, but I can relax and smile it by now, instead of panicking in a cold sweat.
I have always loved learning. Even when I hated school (the people there), I loved class. Learning French from Monique will always be one of my favorite things I ever did in France. German class is no exception. It's a totally different environment of a group with a diverse range of levels, but it is still so much fun.

We German-Learners went to the Vilsbiburg Sunday market together!

I missed a few sessions while I was sick with a fever a couple of weeks back, and I felt so behind in class! I definitely have that fear of missing out when it comes to learning. I know this makes me a super nerd, but it's also made me smart enough to have this life in Europe, and I can be thoroughly satisfied with being a super nerd for that!

Anyway, German class gives me those sort of brain growing pains that come when you're trying to understand something, but it's still just a little bit out of reach. It's good to feel this way because, eventually, when a concept is understood, it creates confidence and success.

There is light at the end of the language tunnel!
At this stage of the game (nearly two months in), my German can be summed up in the following paragraphs.

It's a complete guessing game as far as whether a noun is masculine (der), feminine (die), or neutral (das). At least the plurals seem to all have the same definite article of "die," but then sometimes I get that confused with the feminine when the noun itself doesn't give me any clues (i.e. der Reporter, die Reporterin, die Reporter).

There is something evil called the accusative form. When something is accusative, the definite article changes and adds more letters. I don't know why, when, or how this happens. I just know that when it does, I accuse German of trying to trick me. It's not nice.

Taking "zu" and making it "zur" (zu + der) and "zum" (I think it's zu + dem?) is okay to understand because French has similar combinations that make way less sense (à + les = aux).

The whole split verb thing: WOW. There are several verbs of all kinds that require proper conjugation of the second half and the first half just sticks onto the end of the sentence. Yes. You need an example. If I want to say, "I bring a book with me," I use the verb "mitbringen." First, I must conjugate the second half of the verb "bringen" to first person, then throw "mit" at the very end of the sentence. In German: Ich bringe ein Buch mit.

There are tons of these verbs. Yayyyyyyy.

The general pronunciations in German are okay; I have found the best advice I have received was from Katrina at Thrifty Gypsy Travels on how to pronounce the second vowel when two vowels are paired (ie = "e" and ei = "i"). I have some trouble distinguishing between when an "s" stays true and when it sounds like "sh" instead. Mastering the "z" and remembering to say the "h" (unlike in French!) are working my brain constantly, too.

On a more fun note, our class is getting wrapped up in the drama of the characters in the dialogues we read. One Frau is always asking another Frau what her husband is doing, Dino wants to become a musician but his girlfriend and parents want him to become a teacher, and Monika totally likes Dino but is stuck in the Friend Zone. It's like our own German soap opera script, and it keeps us coming back for more!

I like this German autumn view.

I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to find the same kind of community I had while tutoring English at the university in Paris. I kept thinking I had to be the tutor in order to find the same level of fun and learning. Turns out, being a student in these German lessons is just as awesome!

The rest of the German Swag 101 journey thus far...
Week 1
Counting Blessings