Linda does Deutsch

One of the things I like about living in Germany, is that when people are throwing stuff out, they give you a chance to get your mitts on it first. This is definitely not stealing.

I'm a big fan
I’m a big ‘fan’

And so, one day last week, my flatmate and I were gleefully rummaging through other people’s junk, when I struck gold. Yes, it’s my ‘new’, incredibly colourful German notebook. Thank you, neighbour.

At least I'll never lose it.
At least I’ll never lose it.

Putting it carefully into my backpack, mature student-stylee, I made my way to the school for my first official lesson. I bounded into the office, paid the balance for my course, bought the book, and babbled away at the bemused receptionist.

Brunhilde: You’re very excited, aren’t you? 

Me: YES! I’ve been waiting for this day for weeks! 

Brunhilde: OK… 

I found the right classroom and tried to calm the attack of nerves that had suddenly overtaken me. Who was I kidding? German is insanely difficult to learn, and because of my advancing years, it would be even more so. This was going to be a disaster…

SOS was right
SOS was right

While we waited for the teacher, I chatted to a French girl and sized up the competition other students. I told myself I was probably smarter than them – if in doubt, be incredibly arrogant to overcompensate.

The teacher came in, and I actually knew her. Considering I only know around 10 people in Berlin, this was kind of a miracle. She also works at one of the schools I work at, and we’d been at an induction together the week before. Small world.

We got down to business – my name is…, I’m from…, I live in…, I’m an (English teacher). The class was all done through German, but to my amazement, I could actually understand everything. It seemed like the hours on Duolingo and with my ‘Learn German’ book had paid off after all. The class consisted of the French girl, an American girl, an Italian guy, an English guy, an annoyingly mouthy Croatian and his weirdly silent brother. I figured his silence was the result of years of trying to get a word in, and failing.

After around 15 minutes, the Italian raised his hand.

Luigi: I’m sorry, but is this the beginners’ class? I haven’t understood one word you’ve said, or written on the board. 

Britney: Me neither. 

Meinhilde assured them (in German) that it was indeed the beginners’ class and that the receptionist must have lied to them on the phone when she’d told them that the first classes would be taught through English.

Aside from feeling rather smug that my German was definitely not the worst in the class, I also felt really sorry for him. In addition, it gave me an insight into how my beginners must feel. Poor buggers. I’ll definitely be more patient and less assuming in future.

I spent the rest of the class translating everything for hapless Luigi, who happened to be sitting next to me. I wasn’t sure that he would come back, but on Thursday night, I was happy to see him show up again. He still didn’t know anything but at least he’s trying. We all have to start somewhere, right?

We had to do our first writing exercise in the second lesson, and when we were finished Meinhilde invited answers. I listened to three or four wrong answers each time before piping up with the correct one. It seems like I’m going to be that student. Luckily, I didn’t go there to make friends.

On my way out, excited by my perceived awesomeness, I threw my knickers in the air in triumph.

Not really, but watch this space.
Not really, but watch this space.

And now I have to go and do my homework so I can be annoyingly smug again tomorrow.

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118 thoughts on “Linda does Deutsch”

    1. I don’t think you’d ever be that kid 😉 You’d learn German before you went to the lesson 😉 I used to have a cleaner and I cleaned before she came to the apartment so she wouldn’t think I was a total pig – you’d be the same 😉

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  1. Groan! I sympathize with that poor student who can’t figure out a word. That’s me. So frustrating. I can read and write Italian well enough, but it’s so difficult to understand when they’re speaking. I probably sound like a 5 year old. Maybe if I move to Italy that would help. 🙂

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  2. Hmm, that’s fairly normal in Canada. Over the years I’ve scored DVDs, books, artwork, even a couch!

    Not sure why you’re learning about insurance agents…think you’d have more enjoyment learning the ins and outs of weins and bretzeln!

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  3. Haha! Reminds me of Canada style curbside recycling… can often find ‘treasures’ in others ‘junk’ for free! 🙂

    As for your smugness… well sounds mighty deserved… I’m awfully amused by the ‘beginner’ class.

    Sounds like my urdu class at McGill University which was taught in urdu, farsi, arabic and a dash of french. Oh and assumed everyone already knew how to read arabic! Thank goodness I’d taught myself that from a book over the summer before the class started or would have been completely lost!!

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  4. That’s the best way to learn a language, in my estimation, amd that is to live where everyone speaks it. Scary for those who don’t speak, but you are doing an awesome job BerLinda. You’ll do well knickerless. ha!

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  5. GOOD FOR YOU! Although I can think of more exciting ways to lose one’s knickers. 😉

    I was “that student” in high school French. I took so much crapfrom the “mean girls”, that I used to fake a stutter and tried to stifle my enthusiasm. THANK GOD FOR FEMINISM! Now smart women are not only accepted, but they’re sexy. 🙂

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  6. I think I’m also “that student”. I often have to bit my lip to stop from jumping in with answers. I don’t know much German but for some reason I’ve always thought it was a bit similar to Irish in sentence structure. Not sure if that helps – how’s your Irish? Best of luck, anyway – you’ll be awesome!

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  7. Errrrrrr……..people have referred to me as “queen talk a lot” and one of my sisters is super quiet. I suspect I would be like the annoying Croatian in the class. 🙂

    Poor Luigi……I guess German goes against ALL Italian instincts when it comes to language. They sing when they speak…and Germans (as hubby puts it)…they bark. Ha, ha, ha…which I DO NOT agree with. He is just jealous because they sound strong and sure of themselves. Well….good luck to you….as I mentioned in the past, you probably already know more German than I do Italian. BRAVISSIMA!

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  8. “In addition, it gave me an insight into how my beginners must feel. Poor buggers. I’ll definitely be more patient and less assuming in future.” The near future or the distant future? Just kidding 😉 I’m glad you are doing well. And perhaps that is because you want to learn German so much that you were already studying it before taking the class. I suspect that may not be true for the other students. Although you did not go there to make friends, if I were one of those students, I’d start hanging out with you 🙂

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    1. I’m on my way to becoming the ‘go to girl’ I think 😉 There’s a long way to go though 😉
      I imagine German pales in comparison to the difficulty level of Chinese as well!

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    1. Agreed 🙂 Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin wall – throw your knickers in the air; do well in a German class – throw your knickers in the air; Friday? Throw your knickers in the air 🙂

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  9. Let me kill some fun and say that there has been found no significant difference between the age and the aptitude for learning foreign languages (no references, I’m a bit too lazy to dig into my psycholinguistics books now). The differences that are indeed observed are generally due to the fact that adults have more stuff going on in their lives, plus there are some other social issues (like older people thinking that learning is not for older people, or not wanting to look incapable or ignorant), plus there are occasional degenerative conditions.

    So you can’t honestly play the decrepit old lady card, not unless Alzheimer’s kicks in. 🙂

    Also, I wouldn’t say German is that terrible. I may have said this before, but for me the hardest thing with German is its vocabulary – English is no help (85% Germanic roots lost, and it shows). And it’s not intrinsically difficult, it’s just new – all the notorious long German words don’t look that impressive when you’ve got a solid footing on the more basic vocabulary.

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    1. Let’s hope you’re right! 🙂 I’ll keep you updated on my progress anyway – I’m sure it won’t all be smooth sailing, but I have the motivation and I’m not stupid so… 😉

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      1. Sure, your language-related posts are some of the most interesting. 🙂

        The main thing is to still do stuff on your own (Luigi sounds like the kind of person who expects the classes and the teacher to do all the magic). Actually, in your life situation, there are no excuses not to. 🙂

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    2. I will hold my hand up and blame the occasional degenerative condition for my inability to learn Italian, failure to teach the stupid cat not to take a dump in the house and for all the times I said “Don’t worry I have a plan”

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  10. Remember the “Friends” episode where Monica attends a literature class? That must be you in German class 😉
    I LOVE your blog btw.
    Greetings from a German ex-Berlin inhabitant now stuck in Spain

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      1. Yes you are right, shouldn’t judge, a new language is tricky for everyone it takes a while to get used to even the sound of a new language. I go on a curve ball when someone throws an Italian dialect at me, now that’s a challenge.

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        1. I can imagine! The two girls I live with are Bavarian but their German sounds normal to me – one of them tries to teach me Bavarian slang every now and then; the other one gives out to her and tells her to teach me ‘normal’ German 🙂 (Sorry, Simone) 🙂

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    1. Thank you! Me too! It’s amazing how much you pick up just by being surrounded by the language – I wasn’t even aware of it myself! But now, I need the structure and rules of the language to really progress I think!
      Thanks for commenting 🙂 Linda.

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      1. It’s so true! I find that since I’ve been in Spain, my Spanish has gotten so much better than my other American friends, simply because I’m living with Spaniards and they’re living with each other. It’s lose it or lose it, but intensified in the learning process I think.

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        1. Yes, definitely! The girls have been a great help to me. And I carry around a little notebook with me, writing down stuff that catches my eye on public transport to google when I get home – I’m such a nerd 🙂 But I was able to guess that Versicherungsvertreter was insurance agent in class because of it 😉 Every little helps!

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    1. Ha ha! I found a site with loads of German names so you’ll be seeing more along those lines 😉 The teacher’s name is actually really dull and normal so that just wouldn’t do at all 🙂

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