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German in Germany October 9, 2008

Posted by Paul Rees in Berlin, german.
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It has been over two months since I have written here. Since the last posting I travelled to Germany for most of September. I was mainly in Berlin, although I did have a day trip to Hannover and looked around Frankfurt just prior to my departure for Australia.

So how did my German go? I have already been asked this question many times. There are two answers.

Understanding, ie passive skills, were good. I was surprised and impressed with just how much I could understand. For example at one of the hotels the staff there spoke to me in German and I could understand just about everything and at the Qantas check-in a Frankfurt I could also handle the process in German. I spent a lot of time with my friend Stefan and he spoke to me in German most of the time. I have to admit that I couldn’t understand everything, but I always got the general idea. I even found a couple of times the words registered without having to translate them into English. I guess that’s what it’s like when you can actually speak the language. I came to the conclusion that for someone who has been learning part-time in an English speaking country for less than two years I am doing quite well with understanding.

Speaking, ie active skills, are still poor. I simply don’t have the confidence to speak German. The words necessary for simple conversation are there in my head, but I can’t sort through the grammar points and word order fast enough to actually say anything. I did have a couple of situations where I had to speak German, once asking for directions and once with a taxi driver who couldn’t speak English. To my surprise I was understood and could understand. So although those conversations were difficult, they did actually work.

The most frustrating thing in Berlin is that most people speak at least reasonable English. I found that even if I tried to speak German, when people realised that I spoke English they would speak to me in English. I had expected this to happen. I did find however that if I addressed someone with, for example, a convincing “Guten Tag”, I would get a response in German. I was particularly pleased a Frankfurt Airport security when I noticed the security guy speaking to the English speakers in English, and the German speakers in German. When it came to my turn I greeted him with “Guten Arbend” and he proceeded to give me instructions in German (fortunately I could understand the instructions). So I figured I must have passed for a German speaker.

I won’t go on here about what I did on my holidays. I’ll just mention that through Twitter I met up with some nice people. Timo Heuer in Hannover, Chuck Smith and his girlfriend Judith, and Jesse Skinner in Berlin, and Peter Jakobs in Frankfurt. I have also posted some of my photos to Flickr, there are photos from Berlin and a few from Hannover.

Learning German April 28, 2007

Posted by Paul Rees in Berlin, german.
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For quite some time, almost a year, I have been a half hearted blogger. This is probably because I feel that my life is not particularly interesting and the nobody would be interested in reading what I have to say.

However, I’ve decided that I am going to learn to speak German. And I am going to write about the experience here.

Of course the desire to learn German was inspired by my recent, but brief, visit to Berlin. I loved what I saw of Berlin, but didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the city to the extent that I would have liked to. So I shall return in October 2007.

I found that just about everybody I encountered in Berlin spoke at least reasonable English. I was embarrassed that I didn’t speak a single word of German. I’d like that to be different when I go back there.

I’ve always wanted to learn another language, but my attempts in the past have been half-hearted and lazy. I’m really going to try this time, although I’ve heard it said that learning languages is more difficult the older you are. I know someone in his 40’s who learned Vietnamese to a fluent level, so that has encouraged me. I mean Vietnamese would be 100 times harder to learn than German.

So how to go about learning German. Well attending a class is, I imagine, the best method. I have enrolled in a class at the Goethe-Institut Melbourne http://www.goethe.de/ins/au/mel/lrn/enindex.htm, but this does not start until next month

In the meantime I have started off by listening to a couple of podcasts:

My Daily Phrase German (subscribe in iTunes). Presented by a woman with a Scottish accent. How well that works I don’t know. However the lessons are well planned.

German Podcast (subscribe). Presented by Stephan using the world around him to teach German. He occasional throws in a bit of Italian just to confuse the listener. Crazy really.

I’ve listened to a couple of CD’s but I find it hard to get motivated with these. Not much fun.

I have also found at http://www.mylanguageexchange.com a young guy in Berlin who is doing his internship in Sydney starting in September. He is wants to practice his English with an Australian prior to to then. In turn, I therefore have a native speaker of German to practice with. We use Skype to do this and so far we’ve really only chatted in English, but I feel that it’s been helpful to me too even if only in a limited way. This is fun and it will only get better as I lean more German in class.

Sony Center Berlin March 27, 2007

Posted by Paul Rees in Berlin, photos.
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Sony Center Berlin

Originally uploaded by The Lab.

Just got off the plane. 30 hours Berlin to Melbourne. More photos to come. Berlin is amazing!