Sunday, June 05, 2011

Der, Die, Das oh how I hate you.

Well, it was 4 months last week since I've been in Germany.  I've been making a "bit" of progress on the language front.  I've had a couple more German classes and we're now on the highly dreaded "der, die, das".  Being able to speak French, I get that some languages have a (non-sensical) masculine and feminine distinguishment of nouns.  In french, the garbage is feminine and the book is masculine.  It makes no sense.  But since I learned it and was schooled in it as a kid, the distinction becomes second nature.  But now in my (ahem) late 30's, and picking up a 4th language, it's a lot harder.  Add to the fact that German has the added "bonus" of a "neutral" article.  Good lord.  And of course, there is no rhyme or reason to why things have der, die or das.

So far, my German has been on a need to know basis.  If I need to know something, I look it up and practice it before I have to say it.  This works particularly well in stores where the request is simple and I won't be left staring blankly after their response.  I've been particularly sucessful with "Haben Sie?"  (Do you have...)  I've learned a lot of words this way; like rauchmelder (smoke alarm),  reiningungsprodukte (cleaning products and a ridiculous mouthful) and knochen (bones- what? I have a dog!) 

I'm getting to a point though where I have a repertoire of a few (very few) sentences.  Because they're the only ones I know, I say them all the time and so am starting to be "believable".  The issue with this though is that people assume since you know these words, you must know more and so they babble on and on at full machine gun speed.  And I'm left staring blankly.  I go with the hope I can recognize a word, body language, hand signal, ANYTHING that will make me understand what they say.  My usual response is "I'm sorry, I only speak a little German" and theirs is usually "ahhh but you speak so good".  Yeah.  When you say the same 10 sentences over and over again, they start to roll off the tongue.

Since my German is so basic, I only know the present tense for everything.  It's interesting really.  It's like I have no past or no future.  only now.  I can only (sort of) tell you what I'm doing.  Not what I've done or will be doing.  In principle, it's not a bad place to be, but I can't help but feel like a 3 year old trapped in a late 30's body. 

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