The Lernen to Talk Show: Episode 1 – Revisited
Oh hey. What’s new? It’s been a while. I’m back from THE ROAD. I hope things have been good with you. Okay enough chit-chat. The Lernen to Talk Show is nearing its end. That’s right, my rigorously meticulous post-production has finally brought us to the one-year mark of my time in Germany. I’ll be writing a long teary-eyed post when things do finally wrap, but for now I want to revisit a more simple time. A time when adjective endings and dative cases were problems I didn’t even know a person could have. A time when looking and sounding like an idiot could be viewed as a noble attempt at learning a language. A time when speaking German was but a dream. That time was, of course, July 31st, 2011. I flew from Washington, DC to Frankfurt am Main that day (and night). But before we flew I filmed the first ever Lernen to Talk Show with my friend Alex. It’s kind of adorable, in the way that a helpless creature struggling to survive is adorable. Anyway, I recently went back and added subtitles so that you can enjoy it more. So enjoy it!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Say, his German sure was bad… but it wasn’t, like, that bad. If I didn’t know that Mickey would never deceive me, I would think that he had had some experience with the German language before.” Well, you got me. It’s true. This conversation was not the first time I ever attempted to speak German.
In 2007 I took a German class for four weeks during my junior year of college. I wanted to take the course for the whole semester but I was overloaded and forced to drop it. During that time I spent 9:00am to 9:50am every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with about fifteen other people in German 101. All in all that amounted to about fourteen hours of formal German instruction, four years before I went to Germany. I was very focused, and I still remember some of the things I learned, like die Krawatte and die Armbanduhr. But beyond a couple vocabulary words and the ability to say “My name is Mickey”, I didn’t retain much.
Fast-forward to January 2011, when my aspirations to live in Germany first materialized. I applied to the CBYX program and made it to the interview stage. One of the criteria the selection committee looks for in candidates is a demonstrated interest in the German language and culture. The program is unique in that it accepts people with no experience with the language, but I felt that the best way I could demonstrate my interest in the language and culture would be to use the six weeks I had before my interview to learn as much German as I possibly could. So I went to the good ol’ Rondo Public Library and checked out a CD/Book collection from Living Language called Ultimate German. At the time I was commuting ninety minutes a day to work, so I took a break from my books on tape and instead listened to elementary German conversations to keep me company on the cold Minnesota mornings. The book and the CD were divided into chapters which each featured a simple conversation in German, followed by a list of new vocabulary words. My routine basically involved playing the conversation on the CD player, then listening to it again sentence by sentence, pausing to repeat the sentence aloud over and over until I was convinced that I was pronouncing the words perfectly. Often I would rewind and listen to single syllables in order to make out the exact phonemes before I moved on to the next sentence. Eventually I would be able to parrot back an entire conversation in German without having a clue what it was I was saying. Then I would read the transcript of the conversation in German so that I could picture the words properly as I spoke them. And then finally, when I could no longer take the pressure of not knowing what the heck I was saying, I would read the transcript in English and compare what was actually there with what I had guessed was being talked about. I did this for about six weeks and during that time covered about ten chapters. I can still recite most of these conversations from memory. They sunk in pretty deep.
So there you have it! My journey with the German language began very trivially in August 2007, then faded away until January 2011. After six weeks of laborious study by myself in my car I had my interview and was able to say “Ich esse Apfel” to the panel with confidence. It must have worked, too, because before I knew it I found myself on a plane to Deutschland.
0:40 – I think it ended up being 351 days. Not a whole year.
0:57 – Frühstück (Breakfast) is one of those words that I got from the CDs. Pretty much all of the random words I say come from those.
1:08 – I was trying to find the word for “grape”. That’s Traube. NOT Mühle (Mill) or müde (tired).
1:20 – Hmmm, this will take a while… I suppose I’ll just leave it at that for now.