Friday, March 18, 2011

How do you say “AAARRRGGGHH” auf deutsch?

If a cat cries miau, miau and person yells Aua! when he stubs his toe, what German sound should I make when I want to SCREAM?
I'm no Edvard Munch, but I think I at least captured my fondness for purple wigs
Now, you may be asking yourself what this Ami in Munich has to be frustrated about. I’ll admit I have little to complain about these days, what with not having to work at the moment and living in Europe.

But residing in a land where your language skills are (depending on the day) somewhere in between those of a half-baked pretzel and a four-year-old can have its ups and downs.

Today, for example, was no red letter day in my quest for German fluency – unless of course that red letter is a big, fat F (for those not familiar with the A-F grading style, that’s failing…miserably).

It was another one of those days where it seemed like every question I asked in my German class elicited something like: Haben wir das nicht schon in Kapitel Blah Blah gelernt? (English translation: Didn’t we already learn that in chapter blah blah?)

Just half way through the lesson, I was beginning to think that any question with enough audacity to leave my mouth hole would be met with a similar response:

Me: Entschuldigung, I seem to have bitten my pencil in half and am unfortunately chocking on the eraser. Would you be so kind as to perform the Heimlich maneuver
Response: It’s pronounced HEIM-lich! Didn’t we already learn the proper syllabification?

Okay, okay, so now I’m just being snarky. But on days like this, I get the feeling I’m condemned to a life of toddler-speak and charades.

On the other hand, perhaps I would do better to stop complaining, and open my textbook instead.  Good advice from the more articulate, English-speaking side of my brain. Of course, the immature four-year-old, German-speaking side thinks watching cartoons and eating chocolate might be a better solution. Guess which one the rest of me is going to side with?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

From domestically hopeless to domestically deficient

Before Thomas and I moved to Germany back in November, I worked as a writer in large company’s public relations department. I can still hear my Journalism 101 professor in college saying, whatever you do, don’t go into television news. So what did I do? Majored in broadcast journalism.  Fine, he said. Just please, please don’t go into PR! Sorry Mr. J. But if it’s any conciliation, I’ve hung up my PR…um pen? At least for awhile.

These days, my time is spent buying German language books, looking at those books laying on my kitchen table, and occasionally opening one – if only by accident when my cat pushes it off the table.

I kid, I kid. Well mostly.

In order to prepare myself for the daunting task of (eventually) working on my master's degree in German, I've been attending a language course, practicing with anyone unfortunate enough to get stuck standing near me (although my charades skills seem to be improving faster than my German) and watching local TV (it's amazing how little vocabulary you need to understand a show like Bauer sucht Frau (translation: farmer searches for a wife). In between that, I've been getting to know Munich, doing a little writing and even taking care of daily Hausfrau tasks like cleaning, cooking and laundry.

Some of these tasks have proven harder than my German studies though…and given the complexities of German grammar, that’s saying a lot. Take ironing, for example. The other day, I spent about 30 minutes ironing one of Thomas’ dress shirts, only for it to look a whopping five percent better than it did when I pulled it out of the wash.
Yeah, this is post-ironing. Awesome, right?
Since then, I’ve tried each setting on the iron, various levels of pressure and contorted my body in more ways than Linda Blair in the Exorcist to get a better angle (okay, that last one was a slight bit of an exaggeration). Nothing has helped. Well, at least I can rule out ironing from my list of possible, hidden superpowers. Whew. That would have been lame anyway.

Of course, no one has ever called me domesticated. Back when I was single, my idea of a balanced home-cooked dinner was a chocolate Sunday and a dirty martini. That said, I’ve at least done pretty well in cooking since moving to Munich.

Exhibit A: one of my latest cooking endeavors: tofu sauté
Can you hear that? That’s the sound of me patting myself on the back…if only to smooth out the wrinkles in my shirt.