in which I actually speak German

This month, I’m taking a German class, with three and a half hours of German a day. I’m in the intermediate class, and slowly learning to formulate sentences correctly, and even, once in a blue moon, to use the right case while speaking. This is all part of my 2013 goal of going the distance and forcing myself to integrate somewhat into German life.

Which is all to say that I was very proud of myself this morning when, on the way to the subway, a woman asked me if the escalator had stopped working. Now, my usual course of action is to understand what someone says to me but not know what to say back. So I’ll smile a lot, stutter a few words, and gesture and make signs that further confuse whoever I’m talking to. But lo and behold, today I suddenly had the words to tell her that I had just seen someone go up the escalator so no, it probably wasn’t broken.

It probably seems like a really small thing if you’ve never lived abroad and have always been able to participate in the plethora of small exchanges that take place every day, whether it’s with a neighbor, at the grocery store, or the three thousand other places that have the ability to throw me into a linguistic panic because someone just deviated from the standard script and I now have no idea what I’m supposed to say or do. (And…breathe. As you can tell, I am still a little traumatized from our move to the Netherlands where I spent years feeling stupid, isolated, and so very not Dutch. Good times.)

Moral of this story? No way am I moving somewhere ever again where they don’t use a language I already speak. Let’s just hope my dream guy got the message, and doesn’t turn out to be French or something. That just might kill me.


4 thoughts on “in which I actually speak German

  1. heidikins says:

    I’ve never had this experience, but I would LOVE to move somewhere that forced me to learn a new language. Perhaps I’m romanticizing it a lot, but a huge percentage (half? at least.) of the kids I went to high school with spent 2 years in foreign countries speaking foreign languages, and they all turned out just fine and came home fluent. I’m sure I am skipping over a lot of the frustration and difficulty of such a task. 😉


    • Saskia says:

      I think it’s a lot more fun in retrospect–it does give a huge kick to move forward and be able to hold conversations, although it hurts getting there. It might also be more fun in a study abroad context, or the context I think you’re talking about of missions and the like, where it’s also a “time of your life” thing.

      But I bet the reason I’m struggling so much with this is because it reminds me so much of moving to the Netherlands and the ten+ years it took me to find my place there. I…tend to have a lot of baggage.

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 6:44 PM,

  2. David N. Jansen says:

    It reminds me of shopping in Moscow, just using the few Russian words I knew (and watching what the Russians said) I managed to get a package of milk, half a bread, and some books.—Hey, culture shock is just normal. You will experience a culture shock even if you move within your country.

  3. Jo says:

    Good for you. Gary always says the same thing. He will never move to another country again where they speak a language he doesn’t already know.

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