Tuesday, March 3, 2009

where we are in German

your faithful Berlin correspondent here, sadly, recently, a little too faithless!

this will be short and sweet, do you dare believe me? I just wanted to talk, and think, and write about when, how and where we speak German in this German town now, almost 7 months after getting here.

In the building we live in, everybody reflexively greets anyone, known or unknown, in English. Most of us are English speakers, and I guess there are more people in the building who don't speak German than there are who don't speak English. If you know what I mean.

Tuesday mornings I speak a lot of German for hours - I walk for an hour with one of my two new Weight Watcher friends. They are both completely fluent in English, and have lived in the States or Canada - and yet we speak German. And dutz each other (familiar you) - and then we go sit in our hilarious, loud and lively Weight Watcher meeting with all the other ladies and we all siez each other (formal you) except each person has her one or two or three buddies whom she dutzes.

And I talk a lot in the Weight Watcher meeting, and I love that.

Where else? With baby niece and her mother and her father, with almost-grown-up nephew, we all (son #1, son #2, and I) speak German. That happens a couple of times a week. I babysat Saturday night (but I have to admit, when baby was crying in her crib and I picked her up to fall asleep, worn out, on my shoulder, I sang to her in English for about half an hour. She was asleep for the last twenty-nine minutes or so of that, so it worked out OK).

I've joined two and a half writing groups in German - the 2-Saturdays-afternoons-a-week write-your-own-prose and then do-an-exercise together one; the last-Wednesday playing-with-prompts-together women's poetry group; and the bilingual (that's the half) first-Friday group which is actually a group to critique. But those are hard to keep up. The odd schedules end up getting in the way.

What I am keeping up are my two weekly groups in English - Friday mornings the writing group, it's wonderful; Wednesday nights the play-reading group, it's almost more wonderful if such 'twere possible. I can't help it that they're not in German - they're weekly, they're intense, they're what I need.

So German? We went out with friends Anja and Alexander Monday night and hung out and chatted in German before we saw Milk, the movie, in English with German subtitles. We went out for dinner Friday night and talked German for hours, a funny and lively family in a glorious apartment. Again, as ever, the family. The people in the stores. For Felix, a few hours a day of school every day. For Max, now, living on his own with a roommate and working at the bakery, I guess he's talking German all day long when he isn't with us. 

I'm reading. I just finished Nachtzug nach Lissabon, which Anja recommended since we were going to Lisbon, and got really bogged down in the middle but I unbogged myself and slogged away and was glad, very glad, at the end that I had. Big long book all full of German all the way through.

I guess we haven't quite fulfilled the idea of plunging ourselves into German. I think Felix's mental health means he needs chances to chill and speak English, but still we push. His German teacher said for his German to really solidify we had to stay two years, did I already say this? Ain't happenin'. A friend mentioned the other day that a translation class might be the thing to put her German over the top, and I thought,  yes, that might have been the thing for me too but I don't now see it happening anymore. Maybe I shouldn't say not anymore, maybe I still will? 

No conclusion to this post, as to so many not. 

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