In which there is an incentive to learn German


Firstly, happy Hallowe’en! I have recently got more into this, which explains why I spent Saturday night looking like this:

It took ages to wash off.


One of my new year’s resolutions for the last three years has been that I want to learn German. I was slightly unlucky at school in that I only ever learned French: I changed schools at 13 after two years of French classes only to find that my new classmates had already spent a year on another language, either Spanish or German. By this stage it was too late for me to catch up so I spent the pre GCSE year doing private study in the library during those classes. I did end up doing Spanish for a year at university but until I met B and my other German friends, I knew nothing in German beyond “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you”. To be fair, even after seven years of hanging out with German mates I still don’t know much more and I am constantly embarrassed at my lack of language when we visit Germany, which has averaged at about about once a year. The one complicated phrase I do know, “ich habe eintotus eichhornchen gesen!”*, doesn’t really get me very far when I want to order dinner.

Lack of money and time and motivation, however, means that I’ve never progressed with learning the language. I have tried – I booked onto a course of evening classes once but they got cancelled due to lack of interest – but to be honest, it’s mostly been because of laziness and the fact that I’ve never really needed to learn anything beyond the basics, due to my in-house translators and tour guides.

An email received yesterday, though, has changed all that and has given me a real kick up the arse. Lovely B and her equally lovely boyfriend have finally (after being engaged for 2 years) set their wedding date for January 2012 (before they head off to Nigeria, but that’s a whole different story). So, as I don’t want to force her wedding guests to have to speak in English whenever they’re around me, I’ve signed up for the BBC German steps online course. It’s supposed to take 12 weeks, although you can do it more quickly, and I’m planning to supplement it with my phrasebook and listening practice.

So far, I’ve learned how to introduce myself and to tell people that I’m a doctor. Since I’m not a doctor, I now need to look up the words for what I actually do. I can also now say that I’m from England and that it’s a pleasure to meet someone. I can introduce S, I can say that B is my friend, and I can just about remember how to ask whether someone lives in Munich.

I’m determined that by the time we go over for the wedding I’ll be able to have a conversation. It may be stilted, it may involve me saying I work as a doctor, but it will be in German.

* Translation: “I saw a dead squirrel today!” I can’t really remember why they taught me this. Probably something to do with the suicidal nature of Toronto’s black squirrel population and their propensity for hurling themselves under cars.


2 responses »

  1. A sugar skull! That is so cool! They don’t do Halloween over here, but maybe I’ll have to file that idea away for another time and place. I admire your determination to learn German; I need to stop being so lazy and head back to classes considering I live in a German speaking country :-s

  2. Good luck with your German studies. When I thought I was going to be unemployed this summer I started trying to learn French with the idea that after I get a UK passport, Europe is our oyster. (Of course, knowing my luck the UK will opt out of the EU precisely three years after I move there!)

    But then I didn’t really become unemployed and home renovation projects got in the way of my language skills motivation. I should take your example as a gentle prod to get back to my studies. Got to keep these aging synapses firing!

    P.S. Way to go big on Halloween!

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