Monday, August 18, 2008

Ich spreche kein Deutsch. Sprechen Sie Englisch?

The title of this blog is "Die Wanderwege und die Beobachtungen" or "The Trails and Thoughts" or at least I think it does.  As the title of this post might suggest "Ich spreche kein Deutsch. Sprechen Sie Englisch?" or "I don't speak German. Do you speak English?" I am not going to be your authority on the language for quite a while.  In fact, a typical conversation before I left for Germany, my home for the next year, went something like this:

Them: And what will you be doing with yourself next year?

Me: I'll be doing research in Germany on a Fulbright Fellowship.

Them:  Really!  That's awesome! (Subtext: Wow, they're just giving those things out like Dots on Halloween) Do you speak German?  

Awkward pause

Me:  No...not really.

Them:  Oh, well they all know English anyway.

Me:  Yeah, but I'm trying to listen to some language CDs and I'll be taking an intensive German class in Marburg so hopefully I'll learn how to sprechen Deutsch.

Them: Haha (Subtext: Sure you will, and I'll have my dissertation on Ulysses done by Christmas)

Well, here I am finally in Marburg.  It's been a week since I first touched down in Frankfurt and I'm starting to get my life under control.  By which I mean, I'm on the grid.  I know where all of my classes are, I own a functioning cell phone (or Handy as they're called here), I have reliable internet connections and I walk out to a panoramic view of a medieval town capped by a castle on a hill that looks something like this: 

Life is good.  

I have begun the process of learning German in the lowest, basic course with other Fulbrighters who share my absent expertise in Deutsch.  I'm actually starting to make sense of it ("starting" being the operative word).  I'm like a little kid wandering through the streets, "Hey, that sign says 'No smoking here, please.'" "Yes it does Matthew." "And that one says 'Are you tired? Take a break'!" "Yes it does Matthew, but it's time to get out of the street now or you'll get run down by the car." "You mean Das Auto!" 

As my year progresses I will hopefully update this page with information on fossils (my area of research), observations about the land of my ancestors (or at least half of them, anyway) and a few self-deprecating stories about my head-on collisions with language barriers.  

Tschus (Cheerio)

German Heutewort: billig (adj) - cheap

Ich bin einen billig Student. (I am a cheap student.)


Carolyn said...

Question: does "Tschus" mean "cheerio" the affected British greeting, or "Cheerio" the cholesterol-reducing breakfast cereal? I suppose if you used it in a sentence, the capitalization would tell me, but I can't tell from the way you have it written.

John said...

I think this blog will turn out to be a cool idea, always loved hearing of your wild adventures. Now I can read them as a "live" ongoing journal.

Oh and I too am intrigued as to whether you are sending us off or instructing us on a health based nutritional choice.

Matthew said...

Matt- You can write cognitive sentences with proper capitalization and effective use of punctuation marks, but you still leave me muddled. This, "Tschus" and, "Cheerio" situation... it makes me feel all sorts of mixed up. What if I prefer, like I assume most AMERICANS do, Honey Nut Cheerios? Are you some sort of elitist, over-sea-er poppycock who says I can't eat what I truly enjoy? Shame.

Oh, and Marburg looks like magic. As in, I'm sure you'll encounter a witch, a kettle, and Hagrid.

Matt said...

Just to clarify "Tschus" has multiple definitions such as "See Ya!" "Good-bye" or "Peace out!" A German telephone conversation ends with:

Person A: War schön (It was nice)
Person B: Und tschüss (Goodbye!)

I thought it was cute that the Oxford German-English Dictionary translates it as "Cheerio."

Note: This explanation does not imply I do not support the consumption of Cheerios (which should probably be spelled "Cheery-Os" anyway) or Honey Nut Cheerios. In fact I would love to say "Tschüs" with a huge bowl of bee-endorsed, whole grain, heart-healthy cereal.

Anonymous said...

Matt, it makes me so happy that even in towns from the dark ages musical theater has infiltrated the culture. Forget gregorian chants and beautiful mass music by Beethoven and Bach when you can have Andrew Lloyd Weber and Frank Wildhorn!

(and sorry I had to use my AIM account name. Haven't seen that in years)