Monday, May 26, 2008

On German

I’ve already mentioned the English bookstore that I went to a few days ago, and how everybody was speaking English there, and that was a little foreign, and a little weird, and a little fun. Later that day I found myself saying to my English ex-flatmates, “I’m so tired of German. I’m so tired of not being able to communicate perfectly or having communication be such a job. I just want to be easily understood! And to be able to convey my personality through what I say!”

I should mention this: my German is good. I’ve been taking German since sixth grade, with my previous 2 years of college off. My German is good and I’ve never really had to work at it because my learning has been spread out over such a long period of time. But no matter how many times I correctly put the verb at the end of the sentence (probably the hardest thing to do when you are speaking spontaneously), I cannot convey my personality through what I say. And I think everybody feels like this.

When I’m speaking in German, I use facial expressions, tone of voice, and hand gestures much more than I do in English. This is to try to make up for my linguistic shortcomings, because, while my German is quite good, I make plenty of mistakes. I wonder how long it takes to actually become fluent, truly fluent. I’ve already been here for about seven months, and while I could speak more German, I speak a decent amount. And any time I’m tired, mentally or physically, my German starts to go down the tubes.

Mastering a language is an interesting thing. Unfortunately, to become fluent, you must live in a country where it is spoken. I could take every single German class in Toronto and still not have as good spoken German as I do now. Fluency really depends on what the definition being used is. A teacher asked us in the first week, “is everyone fluent in German?” When no one said anything, she followed up with, “is everyone comfortable with German?”

I must have made a face, because she singled me out and asked me the two questions. While she seemed to use the two terms almost interchangeably, I think there is a world of difference between the two. My understanding of German is near-perfect. You reach a point where you can glean so much from context that knowing actual words doesn’t matter-- just as we all do with English. Because of that, I can understand and read almost anything. But I am still far from being fluent when speaking. So I am definitely, auf jeden Fall, comfortable with the language, but not fluent.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Immer mehr Fotos.

There are even more pictures up on my Flickr now, mostly from Meaghan's visit.

Also, a little political comment: Hurrah for John Edwards endorsing Obama! And hurrah for California striking down the ban on gay marriage! Those are things I like to hear on the news.

It is a little rainy here, and I have been a little bored because I don't have very many classes. Oh, well. I went to an English used bookshop yesterday. It was fun to hear everyone speaking North American English-- that doesn't happen that often. Perhaps the best part, other than the guy working there being attractive, was that I was able to trade in a bunch of books that I had here. Since I have to come back stateside, it is good that I know what I can do with English books. I bought Love in the Time of Cholera, a book by Ali Smith (contemporary Brit writer), and a book called Sustainable Planet. I then biked down to the Friedrichstra├če area and bought tickets to see Santogold, a urban-world-music singer of sorts from Brooklyn, and Sunset Rubdown, an indie band from Montreal. I am very excited about both! A blessing in disguise about Berlin is that a lot of musical acts that are popular in the US & Canada are not nearly as popular here, so it is easier to get tickets, and they are cheaper.

My family will be here in a little under four weeks, and I absolutely cannot wait!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

RIP Sven

I have sad news. Sven died yesterday evening. I will miss him, but he was in desperate need of retirement (apparently). I had taken him to the mechanic to get a new lamp- finally- and the mechanic informed me when I went to pick him up that the gear system was shot and so was the rear wheel! And that it is dangerous to continue riding him.
But, today I went to a flea market out in Friedrichshain, where I bought a new bike! I am so happy to have already replaced Sven, because life without a bike was absolutely killing me. This is a nice city bike that has been spray-painted bright PINK! I bartered the price down to 60 euro, and was trying to get even more off when the guy angrily wheeled the bike away from me, which prompted me to practically scream at him that I wanted it, and would pay for it. I think I will definitely be able to re-sell it for a good price. Jenn, who also purchased a pink bike, and I biked home from the flea market, and I would have to say the best thing about my bike is that it is silent! It is almost completely silent. My other bike sounded like a rattling deathtrap.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I went to Stockholm with Meaghan, a friend from Toronto, last weekend.
It was awesome. I forced our agenda to mostly consist of shopping.
No wonder the Swedes are so stylish; they can afford to be! The stores there are much, much more affordable than normally-affordable Berlin.
And we ate at a place called The Muffin Bakery every morning.
And I spent a lot of money on clothes, but they are awesome, so it's all good.