02 October 2012

Ich lerne Deutsch!

I did a quite scroll through all the posts I've made on here through the years (man, I did so many back in that first year! In 2008, I made 78 posts and that was only the last four months! Shameful.), and I found that I never told you guys that I started studying German!

I've wanted to study German for as long as I can remember. I don't know why, but as a kid I thought it was cooler that I was half German than it was that I was half Italian. (I like to say it's because of all the guidos on Staten Island, but I really don't know for sure.) I even remember making German food for the two international fairs we had in junior high school (German potato salad & apple strudel). I also remember that before I started junior high school, I thought I would have the option to learn German, but when I got there the only options I had were Italian or Spanish. (I took Italian, hated it, but still did pretty well because I'm a nerd.)

Then when I got to high school I went to Staten Island Technical High School where they only teach you Russian (it's something to do with looking good on your college resume). At first I was terrified of this language (I even went to summer school BEFORE school started to get a jump on it — I told you I was a nerd), but I instantly fell in love with the language. There's something really cool about learning an entirely new alphabet — not the least of which is that you can write secret notes to your friends in English but using Russian letters that most teachers and parents could not read! You are required to take 3 years of Russian, but I ended up taking an AP class in my final year because I loved it. I wanted to continue in college but they only offered beginner Russian. I took that anyway because I needed the language credits and it was an easy A. I never let myself forget the alphabet through the years, though, and while I can't really translate much, I can still read it, which is the only way to use a Russian dictionary, so it's something.

I've often thought about continuing my Russian studies. But then in 2010, during the World Cup, after USA & England had dropped out, I was on to rooting for my third team, Germany (they've moved up to #2 since then). During matches, my dad would text me some things in German. Now, he doesn't speak fluent German. When he was three, he was brought to the US by his parents and didn't speak fluent English until about 8 years old, but his parents encouraged their family to be AMERICAN. Which meant, stop speaking German. So he stopped. I now remember all the times my dad would tell me one word or one phrase in German during my childhood, but I never really payed too close attention. It's amazing how much still stuck with him even though he never really spoke it. To this day, he can understand a lot of German when spoken to him, but the opposite is a little more difficult.

So anyway, these little German texts about the World Cup games got me really thinking about learning German again. While a part of me still wanted (still wants, really) to continue learning Russian since I think it's such a cool language and I'd already started, a bigger part of me wanted to connect to something that was actually ME. Back when I was living in London for a semester (2001!), I took a 4-day trip to Munich on my own. I know it's silly, but I just felt this little connection to it. It's all in my head, I know, I had never been there or even really had any interaction with my German relatives, but still, it felt cool. And I wanted more of that. Again, I don't know why I don't have that yearning for my Italian side. Maybe it is BECAUSE I've had no real connection to that side of my family growing up, while I grew up very close with my mother's side of the family, eating Italian food, etc. But there it was.

So one day about 2 years ago I saw a Groupon for 5 classes at Rennert and they offered German, so I grabbed it. I've been going there since. Not non-stop, mind you, but tonight I started my fifth semester (they're 10-week semesters, 1 2-hour class per week)! I'm FAAAAAR from being fluent, in fact I KNOW that will never happen without living in Germany, but it's pretty amazing how much I've learned after just 80 hours. And it's really fun TO learn. It's funny how much you miss school when you've not done it in forever. I mean, not all those classes you hated but had to take or all the homework and tests, but there were definitely a few classes you just loved being in the classroom for, learning stuff. Taking a class for pure interest is so amazing. You WANT to be there, the homework is not really that difficult (and it's only for practice, no "points off" for not doing it) and there's no tests. There's no grades, it's just about doing it because you WANT to know. It's awesome. I can't recommend it enough.

And as an added bonus, learning German has been a cool bonding experience with my dad. Often when I'm visiting my parents we'll just start saying words to each other. Me practising, him trying to remember. I help him remember, he helps me pronounce. It's pretty cool. My poor mother feels left out, but that's ok because usually I'm talking to her most of the time anyway.  (The other thing that my dad and I do that kind of ignores my mom is the crossword. haha)

So that's about it really, I'm learning German, I love it, and I hope to one day be able to live in Germany for a few years so I can really get this shit down pat. :) I have no pictures of me learning German to share here, so here's a picture of some wine I bought just because of the label!

Eins, zwei, drei, vier... FÜNF!

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