Dear Gods, my German sucks…

Just a random aside, but you really don’t want to know how long it just took me to write up a rather lengthy – and appallingly spelled – email to a bunch of friends from Germany. It’s embarrassing really 😉

Ouch.

Just an odd feeling…

It just occurred to me that I barely read anything in German (except for Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld trilogy and the occasional German classic [Goethe, Hesse, Frisch and Kafka rule 😉 ]) It just strikes me as interesting how I as a non-native speaker of English read and what is more, write, in a language that I should be less proficient than in my native German. Truth is, I guess this is just another syndrome of being bilingual – there is no real difference between both languages for me – even though I’m aware of my occasional grammatical flaws in English, but hey, I do have those in German too (at least in my spoken German 😉 )

It just feels odd, realizing that when I started to read my first English books back in 8th grade I’ve been armed with a dictionary, trying to figure out what this and this word is in German. Now almost the opposite is true. I’m reading A Thousand Splendid Suns right now – in German – and catch myself thinking about it – in English!

It doesn’t really bother me, just something I thought is interesting, but then again it shouldn’t surprise me since I’m living in an English speaking country, married a solely English-speaking guy, living with his solely English-speaking family. THEN I’m on the phone with my mom, my brother or friends from back in Germany and I catch myself at throwing in random English words making them exclaim about my ‘funny German’.

Seriously, I’m going to be a German and English High School teacher so you should expect me to get the German right, shouldn’t you? Well honestly, you can trust me to get it right in a classroom, but sometimes in everyday speech it’s not as easy to distinguish.

Now I’d wish for all my other languages being as good, but heck that would be confusing, wouldn’t it? I guess that’s another explanation for my non-German accent. I know I sound different from most Americans and definitely from all the Brits I know, but that’s probably due to a mix of German, English, Spanish, French, Italian – and yeah if you want to count those two – Latin and a tad Anchient Greek.

What can I say? I’m a mixed breed and a linguist on top of that. Deal with it 😉

Bilingualism – “Ich speak Denglish”

One language rant down for today, here’s the second one inspired by a conversation I had today after being asked if I took all my notes for Light in English or in my native German.

The answer: I’m writing in English, so my notes are in English. If you ask me which language is easier for me, I really can’t give you a good answer, probably because both languages are pretty close to me, even though I only learned English at school and haven’t been in either England or America until November 2006.

Blame it on a really good (sometimes even creepy ;)) memory and a natural affinity for languages, but I guess I’m not bragging when I’m saying that I’m pretty dang good at learning languages. Always have been (‘kay now I am bragging, sorry ’bout that. Eigenlob stinkt, so to say…)

Anyway, being bilingual like I am now, living in the USA after having spent the first 20 years of my life solely in Germany is an interesting thing. It also is confusing sometimes.

Take the question whether I’m thinking or dreaming in German or in English for example. The answer: It depends. I guess right now I’m primarily thinking English, given that I’m spending my day talking a lot of English on the phone, being married to an American, living in America…you get the picture.

Anyway, it’s really funny to see how German me ended up speaking English so well. I started it in 5th grade at school and then just kept going from there. I always liked languages and in 8th grade I started to pick up English books. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was my first one and it took me a while to get through that, but after that I just kept going, because it was fun and also kinda cool. So after a while I almost didn’t read any German books at all anymore and would just keep buying the English originals (most of them fantasy,  who might have guessed).

I didn’t really talk much English until like 11th grade or so. I used to be rather shy about talking to any native English speaker, just because I thought it must sound so totally stupid to them, but then again once started I just kept going. Online, I made many English-speaking French and used it there and at school every day, also starting to work with international organizations, exchange programs etc. It got to the point when I was almost speaking more English daily than German.

There were some funny incidents too, like once when I was still able to drink alcohol at parties now and then and probably had a little too much that one time (ya know ;)) and started talking English to the bemusement of my friends or another time when I was packing to fly to America and was on the phone with Stephen. It was hilarious when he told me to pick a language as I was talking to myself in English as well as in German.

When my parents came here to visit as well as when I’m on the phone with them or with friends from back there it’s quite funny because I keep mixing English words like “anyway”, “whatever”, “like”, “you know” etc. into my German. Seriously, people back home must thing my German got so bad 😉 There’s one side-effect of being bilingual and mixing up languages.

I guess I’ll make a pretty good German teacher though, considering that that’s what I’ve been planning all along. Alea iacta sunt, so to say 😉 I wish I was able to speak my other languages (Latin, Spanish, Italian, French and Anchient Greek) as well as I speak English. Latin probably comes close, but then again you can’t actually “speak” Latin as it is. Too bad, really 😉

Well at least I can use them well enough in my writing. Cheers for that!

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Languages

One thing that tends to make me want to throw some books against the wall is the fact that some authors think they have to use phrases etc in a foreign language. I guess they think it makes their characters more authentic.

Honestly I agree.

Hey, I even use a lot of French in Light, maybe even some German. But at least I fucking know the language. Nothing pisses me off more when authors use languages just to sound all spiffy without actually knowing the language.

At all.

When I’m reading Vous dispose a apprendre in LKH’s Burnt Offerings (yeah, still reading those at work, sue me ;)) it just drives me up the walls. There are at least 2 grammatical errors in this sentence; 1.) “Vous” doesn’t just mean the American “you” (singular as well as plural), it only refers to the plural in French (2nd. person plural) which either indicates formality or that the person is talking to two individuals. Neither of that is the case and 2.) “dispose” is 3rd person singular and would work with il, elle or on, but never with vous. You forget a -z at the end to make it work if at all…

I know I’m sounding extremely picky, but seriously this is something that just plain irritates me. If you want to use any language other than your native one in your books, at least make sure you know enough about it not to embarrass yourself.