“Scheiße” (shit), “genau” (exactly), and “ach so…” are probably the three things you will hear Germans say most often. Sometimes I feel like I’m in Japan I hear “ach so…” so often.
While picking up these few words was easy enough, clearly my German needs improving. I’ve been watching a bit of German TV, and although I can’t understand most of what’s going on, I’m definitely picking up a few words here and there. “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” is definitely beyond me though – I’m still trying to read the question, and they’ve already answered it and moved on.
While it’s true that a lot of Germans speak passable English, I don’t want to be one of those English-speaking people that just assumes everyone speaks English – you know, if you say it LOUDER and more s-l-o-w-l-y, then of course the foreigners will understand…
Considering I’ve only been here around six weeks, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. However, I have no past and no future in German; I can only speak in the present. While Germans say that they don’t like small talk, they are, in fact, rather chatty. So, in the supermarket, or in a restaurant, you’ll hear me saying things like “I live in Latvia four year and now I live in Berlin six week”. Still, they seem to understand – or at least they pretend that they do – even though my grammar and pronunciation are all over the shop.
So, I’ve been working away on Duolingo by myself, learning such useful expressions as “The dog has a horse” and “We are drinking the water”.
I’ve been flying through levels, earning Lingots left, right and centre. I breezed through basics, food, clothes, animals, phrases, plurals and adjectives, feeling smug that this German lark was so much easier than I’d expected – or maybe, just maybe, I was some kind of language whizz-kid and I’d never realised it before…
My confidence sufficiently boosted, I decided that, in order to really make progress, I would have to start taking proper lessons. So, I contacted a school that does evening classes and asked about the next available beginners’ course. I felt like I just had to add that I’d been studying online as well – just so they knew that I wasn’t their average hopeless beginner.
The nice lady said that as I had previous German experience, I should take a placement test. Ha, no problem – their puny German test would be no match for my awesome language skills. You’d think that by the ripe old age of 36, I’d have more sense. And more humility.
My ego deflated slightly as I was taking the test – I’d say I understood around 10% of it. Still, as it was multiple choice, I figured I had to be right at least some of the time. What would my result be? I was excited to have my genius acknowledged.
You read it correctly – 5/40. Scheiße. And they even said “Congratulations!” – though I’m not sure what for. I got a fit of the giggles when I read it, and reminded myself not to be so damn cocky in future. My German sucks. I now have that in black and white.
But it will get better – this is as much of a certainty as the smell of weed that hits you every time you walk out of the train station at Warschauer Straße. My course starts on the 4th of November and, of course, I’m secretly hoping to be the best in the class.
Let’s hope I learn German faster than I learn life lessons.