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.