Babel

While Nora’s school has yet to start (August 24), Jack has started going to preschool two mornings a week.  When I picked him up the other day, I realized he is starting to learn German, his new language, and it sounds exactly like he did when he was 9 months old.  He’ll babble like a baby, twirling his tongue with the new sounds, then he’ll laugh and slip back into English.  His preschool is bilingual and I am eager to see how much of the language he absorbs.  When he starts German Kindergarten when he turns three at end of the year (their Kindergarten is age 3-5) I hear he will be fluent within a few months.

At this point in daily life, I get by on a few key phrases and the hope that someone will know English.  I’ve been stuck a couple of times when trying to do a more complicated transaction.  But if you struggle long enough, you can usually get your business done with hand gestures or, mercifully, a passer-by who speaks English will come to interpret for you. But now that we’re settled in more,  I feel ready to make the next step to learning the language.  There are enough English speakers in Germany that I could spend the next 3 years without knowing German.  However, I miss being able to have a discussion with my hairdresser, or the (nice) old lady in the doctor’s waiting room; I want to have a clue about what I’m ordering in a restaurant.  And, I’m curious to understand the man at the store’s joke about me that made everyone else laugh so hard.    

So, I’ve decided to get enrolled in a conversational German class offered here at our village.  Our mayor, the Burgermeister (no kidding, just like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”) told me about it when we met at the castle festival in July.  His English is perfect and he talked at great length with Gary and me wanting to help us get acclimated to our new world.  My English friend Victoria also told me about these classes and she said it’s been much more fun learning German over a latte than sitting at a desk repeating commands from an instructor.  Yesterday, I went down to the Rathaus, which is city hall (yes, insert your own joke here),  to get signed up but….it was closed. Of course.  It’s Wednesday.  You see, German government offices and businesses close as often as possible, especially in August.  So, I learned that our Rathaus is never opened on Wednesdays.   Now, this is not an editorial on our Burgermeister or the employees–all I’ve encountered have been great.  Just, in general, German business hours are trying for the 24/7 American soul. We’ve also been waiting 7 weeks for our digital phone lines but that’s another story.  So, I’ve just ratcheted my expectations way down and am enjoying our new life with the very beautiful view.

p.s. I also learned from another friend about Yahoo Babel.  You can take words, phrases, or large chunks of text and translate it to and from any languages. The document I put together for my first visit to the hairdresser rivaled Beowulf in length but it got the job done.

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4 responses to “Babel

  1. Believe it or not, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that things aren’t open all the time. I think 24/7 isn’t all it’s cut out to be. It creates lots of pressure to always be doing something. While it is definitely irritating while you figure out all the hours and opened days, I’ll be curious to see what you think in 3-4 months when that learning is done. As a tip – if you are going somewhere new, you can almost always bet on 9.30-12.30. That doesn’t help the “Wednesdays closed”, but it is a rule of thumb I use.

  2. Ellen

    Fascinating! I finally found a blog that is worth reading. I can’t wait to sign in tomorrow.

  3. nancy leonard

    Ellen….we are so enjoying reading your blog! It sounds as if you are settling in very well! I would love to hear Jack’s German! What a great thing for him—-fluent by 5 years! Keep your blog—and publish it for a very interesting book read someday! I think you will be fine with the German winters—–you are from South Bend, for heaven’s sake!! We are home after 5 weeks UP NORTH and 3700 miles on our car! All the best….Nancy and Ed

    • Ellen Willson Hoover

      Thanks, Nancy, I’m glad you’re liking it! And, yes, I’ll have to buckle down to South Bend mode in the winter. But, don’t forget I’ve been living in North Carolina, California, New Mexico and DC for the last many years. I’ve gotten very accustomed to mild, short, (or no) winters. But I can adapt–always do!

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