November 14, 2011 32 Comments
The women’s toilette at Nopi is all mirrored, the door, the walls, everything. When you wash your hands and look at your reflection in the mirror you see yourself (obviously and hopefully) but behind your reflection, is another smaller you and another and another. I feel my brain’s mental eye expand until what it perceives is so large the edges of the picture wobbles, the picture implodes and then contracts into a tunnel, me hurtling through it into the tiny pinprick at the end before resetting to normal leaving an unsettling shadow of what just happened, in a fraction of a second.
I think German is having the same effect on me. Like a never-ending deck of cards, each with an answer, all furling out and laying on their backs, information bared as far as my eye can see and then just as quickly, *thup*, they get sucked back in, into a neat stack, contents impenetrable.When I say it’s hard to learn German people say, “Yes, the verb is at the end.” But where the verb is hanging out equates to a little Chihuahua nipping at my ankles, when the real problem is that I am locked in a cage with a hungry tiger.
Before melodrama overtakes me completely, let me explain (and also say to you all who have learned German as a 2nd language – hell even as a 1st language: RESPECT!).My grievances can be outlined in 3 main points:
1. The words are long. You will no doubt say to me “Ah yes, but they are mostly made up of words strung together, like ‘kugelschreiber’ which means pen – and could be translated as ‘ball writer’ because of the little roller ball in ball point pens. And I will answer back to you ‘Gänseblümchen’ which means ‘daisy’ but translates as ‘goose flower’.
And also,that my ability to stay concentrated is much like my ability to hold my breath under water, finite. So when I am confronted with something like this: ‘Verständlichwerweise, denn der Vogel war schon von Generationen von Köchen, die hier ein-und augegangen waren, getriezt worden -…”* my brain gives up and goes out for a smoke after the first word, which I think might mean ‘understandably’.
2. The capitals in written sentences are totally distracting, like visual Stolperstein (Stumbling Stones) without meaning. Equivalent to a news reader wearing a bright red clown nose. Anyone prone to distraction (me) will immediately think WTF? and not hear the news. Spoken German has a lot of consonants bunched up together (Someone help that man! He’s choking! Oh, no – my bad, he’s just speaking German), dipping down into vowels and then back up again. So that if I do manage to utter a sentence, I end up feeling like one of the Von Trapp kids crossing the Alps. It’s physical. Olivia Newton John would have not trouble working out to it.