Tag Archives: german

No regrets…

2 Sep

…at least not yet. This weekend I have done something drastic that in 10 weeks, or precisely 69 days, will come to fruition.

I have entered the C2 German exam. This is basically the highest qualification that a foreigner can attain when studying another language.

At the moment I have the time to sit and work my way through the grammar and the practice tests. If I waited until next year then I would just be putting off the inevitable. At least now I have a goal and something to work towards. I am hoping that it will help to focus me a bit more and that German words will learn to stick in my head, rather than me forgetting everything the second I have finished reading it.

The exam is relatively intensive. There are four modules: reading, writing, listening and speaking. I don’t have a favourite module (I used to when the level of German that I was learning was a lot easier!). I am under no illusions that if I was to sit the exam today that I would either fail outright or scrape a pass in some parts but not in others. But I do have some time left and between now and then. It would be nothing short of an impossibility that by November 10th I don’t improve just a little bit. I am already imagining myself being the very proud owner of a certificate by the middle of December, when the results come through.

As if that motivation isn’t enough, the first challenge of my #40Before40 is to pass the C2 German exam. One more challenge crossed off the list is perhaps more motivation than I can put into words. But this is definitely one of the most difficult challenges on my list. I guess it is time to hit the books and make sure I give myself a good chance of passing. Wish me luck!

Proof that I’ve taken the first step!

The Problem with My Accent

22 Aug

I have never thought that my lovely Northern English accent was much cause for concern. But lately, living in Switzerland has made me more aware about accents and how I speak.

I have recently upped my German learning intensity and I have been taking classes online with native German speakers, who live in Germany. I have been more than a bit surprised that all of them (without exception) have commented on my German accent. All of them describe me as having a Swiss-German accent. This is strange because as soon as I talk to a Swiss person they will say that I have an English accent when I speak in German.

I’m not so naive to think that I have been speaking the equivalent of The Chancellor’s German but I have still be shocked about how noticeable it is that I haven’t learnt my German in Germany.

One of the teachers that I had a lesson with this week gave me the feedback that she “enjoyed my unique British-Swiss-German accent”. I’m speechless. Is British-Swiss-German even an actual thing? Or have I mistakenly started a whole new dialect all by myself?

I think I have picked up some of the vowel sounds from Swiss-German, which are quite different to standard German, because I hear these sounds all the time when I speak to people in Switzerland.

I also have problems with my vowels in English when I speak to non-native speakers. The vowel sounds that I use tend to be longer in words like ‘lunch’ and I have made a few people confused when I have said things because my accent isn’t 100% like The Queen’s. Some have even asked me how is a certain word meant to be said. To which I have replied that how I have said it IS the correct way to say it. I refuse to modify my accent – I have been working on refining it to its current state for the best part of 35 years.

Sometimes I think that a lot of the stigma related to accents is down to snobbery and nothing more. And while I have been teased about the way I say certain words in English and now in German, perhaps it’s not my accent that is the problem. Perhaps having a unique and distinct accent is something that people should be proud of instead of thinking it as a negative thing.

However, I would like to make it clear that I am officially the founder of the British-Swiss-German accent and you heard it in all of its uniqueness here first.

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School’s Out for Summer

22 Jun

It’s now the end of June and my latest German course has finished. Finally! I have been going to evening classes twice a week for the past 15 weeks. And I really feel like a need a break for a few months.

I can’t honestly say that I don’t really feel like I have progressed all that much. My friend, Mark, couldn’t have put it better when he said (about learning German) that the more he learns, the more he realises he doesn’t know. This is exactly how I feel. It’s as if, for every thing I learn, something that I learnt last week, gets squeezed out of my brain. There isn’t enough space in my brain.

Whoever it was who said that “Ignorance is bliss” might have been on to something. The more I know, the less I feel I know and this has an impact on my self-confidence and my motivation to carry on learning at all!

I am hoping to take (and pass) the next and final German exam early in 2019. Before you ask, yes this is one of the items on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I have decided that if this is to be a realistic possibility at all, I need to carry on with doing quite a lot of German grammar exercise during the summer so that I don’t forget things completely. The idea is that by the time the next course starts in the middle of September that I will know the grammar and I have to concentrate only on learning some vocabulary and techniques for passing the exam.

I’ve decided to try to make a “revision timetable” for over the summer so that I can stay on track. However, I know that this doesn’t always work; it rarely worked in my school days so that chances of it working in the summer, when I feel like I need a break, are also slim. But I will give it ago anyway. I might have to tape the revision plan onto the fridge so that I am reminded of it every time I go to get something to eat.

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This week’s happenings

14 Apr

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have no idea where this week has gone. I have been meaning to sit down and write something for the whole week but I just haven’t managed it. It seems that the week is jam packed full of interesting and not so interesting things to do and the weekends are all go as well.

Here is a quick run down of what I have been up to this week:

German lessons – I’m now back into the routine of having my German lessons twice a week. I am finding this level harder than the other levels. This is probably understandable as this is the last level and the exam is a bit different than the other levels. The usual self doubt has more than once crept into my mind in the past week but it isn’t like I have to take the exam in the next week, so I am trying to keep myself calm. I know that when I do come to take the exam, I will wonder why I found it so difficult to begin with.

Settling in at work – I have now been at my new job for two weeks. It’s been a shock to come back to work but slowly I am getting back into it. It is quite an interesting time to be working for a Russian company, as I am sure you can appreciate. I think over the coming weeks I should be able to start making an impact at work and implement some real changes. It should be the start of some interesting times.

Reading – my fear that my impressive reading momentum would slow down after heading back to “real life” has been unfounded. Of course, I am not reading books within days but I am managed to get through a book or more per week. I also read Gabrielle’s book who I met at the Writing Group on Wednesdays. I was a bit reluctant to read the book because I am not really a fan of romance, but I found myself identifying myself with a lot of the situations in the book. I wonder if I could be cast as the lead role when the film is made?

40 Before 40 – this challenge is literally on my mind the whole time. I am making progress with the reading challenges (see above) but I think that I am lagging a bit behind on the movie challenge. I was aiming to watch a movie a week but I haven’t managed to so far. One of the things that is off-putting is that some of the movies are three hours or longer, so it’s difficult to watch these during the week unless I start watching them as soon as I get home from work. I will endeavour to get back on track with this in the coming weeks. There are also a few bank holidays coming up in May, so this might be a good time to get back on track. Also, I will be starting one of my biggest challenges on Monday, when I will be attempting to eat a vegan diet for three months. I have made a meal plan for next week, as I am certain that planning is the key to this. Let’s see how it goes…

First BBQ of the season – last weekend we had a BBQ. Related to my vegan challenge starting, I have eaten as much meat and cheese as possible this week. I do love a BBQ but, if I do stay on track with my veganism, I should be able to enjoy quite a few more BBQ later in the year where the food is not limited to grilled vegetables.

Bar opening – one of my boyfriend’s friend has just opened a mobile bar and we went to the opening night last night. It’s a cool idea. The “bar” is intergrated into a vehicle so that they can drive to weddings, birthday parties and company events to cater for the guest. The vehicle itself is well made and looks really good. I always doff my cap to people who are willing to take a risk and set up a business on their own.

And that is about it. I am also enjoying the lighter evenings and being woken up from the sunshine coming in through the window in the morning. It is certainly easier to get out of bed in the morning. Spring is definitely here! Long may the sun continue to shine.

40 Before 40: Challenge #27

6 Mar

For this challenge, I need to read 40 novels in German.

I haven’t put that much effort into this challenge yet, which is partly due to the fact that I still have to look up quite a lot of words when I am reading in German. I have, however, managed to read two more novels in German this year.

Der kleine Prinz (The Little Prince) by Antione De Saint-Exupery

This is a very well-known children’s book across Europe but I don’t think that I have even seen in the UK. The story is about pilot who, while trying to fix his plane in the desert meets a small prince who is travelling to Earth from an asteroid. The prince describes different worlds that he has explored.

Although this is a children’s book, it is very philosophical in nature and criticises the social nature of the world. I managed to learn a lot of words while reading it. I could see myself re-reading this book again in the future. It is only short and it would also be a good way to make sure that I have remembered the vocabulary that I have learnt.

Die Frau mit dem Hund (The Woman with the Dog) by Birigt Vanderbeke

This was a longer, and definitely, more adult book. When the book began, I knew that normal life was not being described. The first character in the book, Jules, has to go to the supermarket to buy goods with points and, from the descriptions, the whole place is very clean and regulated. When she gets home, there is a young girl called Pola with a dog sat outside her apartment. She panicks because dogs are not allowed in District 7 and she quickly ushers her into her apartment so that the caretaker or someone else doesn’t see her with the stranger.

After giving her food, she discovers that she is pregnant and she says that she needs to get to another district when women have babies. She is so scared about the authorities finding the pregnant woman with her dog in her flat without ID that she tells her that she has to leave. Meanwhile, the neighbour, Timon, has smelt the smell from the dog and this reminds him of the time when he was growing up before the districts were formed. He finds the woman the next day and takes her in. Timon and Pola, with the help of some people she knew before she ended up in District 7, build her a place to live in the attic. Pola ends up giving birth to the baby in the attic one night, even though Timon has tried to get her ID and a safe passage into the birthing district.

At the end of the book, I really wanted to know more about the circumstances of these districts because nothing is 100% explained to the reader. A lot is left to the imagination of the reader, which is no bad thing, but so many things are left unsaid that it is a bit frustrating to know exactly what happened for the living and working condition of the population to end up like this. The book could also lend itself to further books, where the reader sees exactly what happens to Pola and her baby girl, who she, for some reason, calls Michael.

40 Before 40: Challenge #1

17 Jan

My first challenge for my #40Before40 is to pass the C2 Goethe German exam. On the European Framework of Languages this is the highest level and means that you are almost on the same level and understanding as a native speaker.

One of the reasons I moved to Switzerland was to learn a language. A lot of people I know, and I mean mainly British expats, don’t bother to learn the local languages. It is possible to survive working here in an international company where the preferred language is English. However, I feel it is a bit of a shame not to try to learn it because, I believe, your experience will be much better for it.

That is not to say that it is easy. I came here not knowing a word of German and now I still don’t think I know any of it some days. It requires a huge investment of time, brain power and perseverance. So, I have worked doggedly for the best part of four years and slowly but surely I am getting there.

I have now finished my C1 course. So that means I am one more level away from completing this challenge. If you have every been stuck on a level in Candy Crush, you will know that “just completing one more level” is not as easy as it sounds. I will begin the C2 level when I am back from my travels in March.

To become even a little bit closer to being considered as a native speaker, I know that I have to improve quite a bit. Mistakes are not looked upon kindly in the exam. Also I know that I need to work on managing my stress levels in the build up to the exam because it is pretty unbearable how stress I manage to get myself. I dare say it is worse for people who know me.

I am under no illusions that this could be hard to achieve but I am going to give it my best shot and see what happens. I have got this far so that has to mean something.

One thing that I found equally laughable and endearing is that a colleague of mine confessed that I have inspired her to take her German exams as well. I never thought that I would inspired anyone to do anything, let alone take German exams. From the sound of it, she is doing more work and preparation than I have for the last four years.

But as a former boss of mine once said: You only need to be one mark above the pass mark. Everything else is wasted effort.

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40 Before 40: Challenge #27

6 Nov

Reading is one of my passions in life. I could easily sit and read for the whole day if I had the time and there were no interruptions. A great way to learn another language is to read. It is surprising how much you can learn passively.

However, as it is not always easy to read in another language, this can take the fun out of one of my favourite past times. Sometimes it feels like you are taking more time looking up words than you are actually reading the text. Despite this, I decide that my Challenge #27 would be to Read 40 novels in German.

So far, this is what I have read:

1. Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink (The Reader)

I read this book as part of my German lessons earlier this year. I wrote about this at the time on my blog. If you didn’t see it the first time, the link is here.

2. Happy Birthday Türke! by Jakob Arjourni (Happy Birthday Turk!)

This is the story of a private detective of Turkish heritage born in Germany, who is asked to investigate the death of a man, after the police have shown their disinterest to use resources to solve the murder of a “foreigner”. The story begins on the birthday of the detective, hence the title “Happy Birthday, Turk!”

The story also explores issues, such as racial stereotypes and the tensions that exist between people who are seen as foreigners and those who consider themselves to be natives. The books ends with the detective not only discovering the truth but also uncovering a corrupt system.

Thanks to this book I now know more words for prostitute in German than I do in English. I have no idea when I will use these words though.

3. Ein Tag mit Herrn Jules by Diane Broeckhoven (A Day with Mr Jules)

This was am interesting book about a woman whose husband passes away in his armchair in the morning. She doesn’t want to accept this and carries on her day as usual. What throws a spanner in the works is when the autistic child who lives in the same building comes over. He regularly comes over to plays chess with the man who has passed away.

Being autistic, he doesn’t like changes to his routine and the wife has to let him in to play chess with her husband. The boy realises quickly that his normal chess player has passed away but he spends the day with the wife anyway. By the end of the book, the wife has come to terms with her loss and admits that she needs to contact the relevant people, including her son and daughter, to deal with the death of her husband.

4. Ein paar Leute suchen das Glück und lachen sich tot by Sibyelle Berg (A few people search for happiness and laugh themselves to death)

This was an interesting book. I mainly chose the book because the author lives in Zurich. The story has short chapters which focus on individual chapters, by the end of the book several of the individual stories have intertwined.

The book explores themes such as love, loss, the complexity of relationships and, to a certain extent, the meaning of modern life.

By the end I wasn’t sure what to make of it all. I had quite a few unanswered questions. In terms of my language learning, I did learn a lot of new words, especially colloquial terms that are perhaps not easy to pick up by formal German lessons.

Four down, 36 to go…