these are the posts tagged ‘languages’:

elevator talk

i don’t think i ever told this story, which happened to the boy when we were in shanghai. he was on our building’s elevator with a friend who was also a foreigner. a chinese couple entered the elevator mid-trip, pink cheeks and ruffled clothes.

“what will you tell your husband?”, asked the guy in chinese, while straightening his tie.
“i’ll make something up”, answered the woman.

the boy didn’t get the conversation, but his friend did and told us about it later, with much laughter.

foreign languages — they’re like an encryption protocol for your secrets… unless someone else has the key too. :)


i started studying german a few months after arriving in berlin, in november 2011 – and last week, i finally finished school. it’s been an intensive year of learning, with classes 3 hours per day, every single day… but i’ve made it! my german isn’t that great yet, but i understand what people say, and i can make myself understood in most situations. it feels… fantastic! :D

last week i did the testdaf (the german toefl), for which i had been preparing for a month now. i didn’t “need” to do it, but i think deep inside (like with chinese) i wanted some sort of closure, a way of proving that i’d actually done it. the test is long but after all the intensive training we got at school, it felt almost… easy! the results will be out in six weeks, so i guess we’ll see then! :)

oh, by the way, if you’re thinking of coming to berlin and learning german, i can recommend my school, die! i found it rather by accident, but it turned out to be a great school, not too expensive and with friendly teachers. thumbs up!

so, that makes it 5 languages now – or more like 4.5, since my chinese isn’t doing so great these days. i wonder if i’ll be able to squeeze in a few more… i’d love to learn proper spanish! oh, and korean too! and arabic! hum… this might be a problem… how many languages can one aspire to properly learn, i wonder?

these lingering summer days

with test daf scheduled to a month from now, my days are spent describing graphics and improvising 2-minute speeches about random events in my country. (how does one celebrate a silver wedding anniversary? or what happens at a funeral? errrm… )
learning german has been a fun ride, but i’m happy that i can almost see the end of school in sight now. i look forward to regaining control of my mornings!

on other news, it’s finally summer! i love these long and (mostly) sunny days. we wake up early to study or read and enjoy the weak sunlight of the early hours from the café around the corner. berlin’s esplanades are now perpetually full, as if everyone was soaking on every last bit of available vitamin d. it’s pretty much perfect… until the mosquitos come abuzz at sunset! :)

ich will mehr von alles

last week i finished b1, the third level of my german course – this week we started b2, and i’m officially an intermediate student. almost suddenly, i’ve noticed that i can understand a lot of what people around me are saying – even if i’m not able to answer back as fluently as i’d like to. i’ve reached the point where german is no longer background noise, making it impossible to tune out.

i persevere because there’s a sort of magic in languages, like a key to the country’s culture and modus operandi. i’m also fascinated by the unexpected and delightful words – like glühbirne (glowing pear = light-bulb) or bauchredner (belly speaker = ventriloquist).

sometimes i wonder – will this be the last language i learn? i find it a sad prospect… but at the same time, language learning is so time consuming, and i don’t see the point of doing it if you’re going to do a half-assed job. what’s the purpose of speaking just a little bit of anything? either you do, or you don’t. still, at each new language, the previous ones get dimmed, put aside… not forgotten but just lulled into a silent corner, their words mingling with the new ones. which reminds me, i really should dust off my mandarin books someday…

Où voulez-vous aller aujourd’hui?

yesterday, a french tourist asked us for some directions to a nearby hill. straightforward stuff, follow us, and on that road go straight ahead till you get to the top. and then, as i visualized the answer in my head… i couldn’t say a straight french sentence without sprinkling it with chinese. my french used to be pretty decent, but every time the man asked something, my first reply was in chinese, then i stopped, switched and tried to finish the sentence in french, much to his bewilderment (and my own!). i hope he found his way to that hill.

portuguese/english are the languages i use to think, but chinese is the closest thing to my “second language” these days: when i communicate with a non-english speaking foreigner, i instantly speak in chinese. it’s unconscious and… weird.

which is why i really need to find someone to practice this with, before i forget it all. any tips?