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Planning for Berlin in summer 2009 March 3, 2009

Posted by Paul Rees in Uncategorized.
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People who follow me on Twitter will know that I have booked an airline ticket to Germany so that I can spend the summer in Berlin. The primary purpose of this trip is to improve my German language skills (such as they are :)

I intend to enroll at a school at attend class for say four days per week as well as, of course, having close to three months of full on exposure to the language.

I am also going to use this opportunity to make some short trips elsewhere in Europe. Although I have travelled to Europe five times I am not well travelled. I have only visited Germany (3 times) UK, London (4 times) and Italy (2 times, many years ago).

I have started to look for somewhere to live in Berlin. This is not an easy process. There are a number of websites that one can use to look for accommodation. However it seems to me that the best ones are only in German. That is no surprise really.

This task has highlighted just how poor my German skills are, even after almost two years of learning. Those websites might as well be in Chinese. They use a technical vocabulary that I am not familiar with; some words are not even in the dictionary. I can hardly read anything! Very disappointing and frustrating.

Luckily my German friends have come to the rescue and offered to help. I am going to need it. Can’t do this one on my own.

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German in Germany October 9, 2008

Posted by Paul Rees in Berlin, german.
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6 comments

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.