Losing my German

We have been in Ireland for about three months now, and every time I speak to my closest German friend, I notice words slipping away. I was “home” this weekend, so I am feeling better about that again, but it is amazing how quickly it happens.

When we arrived in Ireland in August, our youngest, who was almost two, spoke mostly German. He had started in German Krippe in February of that year and was speaking it all day. His dad speaks German with him as well, so his only English tended to come from me, and sometimes from his older sisters, who mixed languages with the best of them, but were more likely to come out with English than German after seven years in Heidelberg. He did have some English, and understood everything I said, but his first tendency was almost always German.

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Living in Germany FAQ

For quite a while now I’ve been thinking that putting together a frequently asked questions (FAQ) list about living in Germany and other German speaking lands would be a good idea.  Many questions come up time and again on the German Way forums and e-mail list.  They are mostly addressed by our website, but having everything in one, concise list makes life easier.  So here is the start of the Living in German FAQ.

I’ll start with one item and I then extend an invitation to anyone to submit questions and answers to me for inclusion on the list.

Question 1:  Can I get by in German speaking countries without speaking German. Continue reading

The Death of the German Language

The reports of its death are premature

Lately, the Germans have had more important things to worry about than the death of their language. But once they have dealt with the collapse of the euro and the resignation of their flaky President Köhler, they’ll get back to worrying about the demise of German, one of their favorite things to worry about.

As I wrote in my book, The German Way, it is no accident that the term “angst” comes to us from German. Worrying is a national pastime in Germany. Next to soccer (Fußball), worrying is the number one German pastime. To be sure, there are sometimes truly serious things to worry about. I think the endangered euro falls into that category, since it also has to do with European unity, the EU and all that. (By the way, Angela, you really could be more of a cheerleader for European unity.)

When it comes to their native tongue, Germans are terribly conflicted. On the one hand, they take immense pride in what a difficult language Deutsch is, almost daring foreigners to learn it. Continue reading

“On Se Won Händ”

Ripped from the headlines in Germany, YouTube has shamed and ridiculed yet another public figure, this time former Baden-Württemberg’s Minister President and now Germany’s European Union Commissioner, Günther Oettinger.

The widely circulated video is of Oettinger painfully stumbling through a speech clearly neither drafted nor rehearsed by him. The point of the speech, recently held in Berlin at a Columbia University hosted event, and Mr Oettinger’s main message as the new EU Energy Commissioner are unfortunately lost, overshadowed instead by Mr Oettinger’s inability to pronounce many of the more “challenging” words such as “justifiable,” “interference,” and “initiative” and making other words such as “does” and “otherwise” unrecognizable. Already known for his rather distinctive way of speaking in German (read here: he has a very heavy Swabian accent), Oettinger managed to “swabianize” English. The well-known Baden-Württemberg tagline, “we can do everything except speak high German” has been refashioned by commentators to, “wir können alles außer Hochdeutsch – und Englisch!” along with the terms “schwänglisch” and “Spätzle-Englisch.” What made this all the more humiliating perhaps is that the YouTube video included footage of Mr Oettinger emphasizing how all Germans, regardless of their profession, must be able to speak and understand English.

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The Decline of Journalism

It is natural to feel less informed about your country of origin when you’ve been gone for a few years.  Such is the case with me.

I still have access to most of the same news sources.  My hometown newspapers are online, major news channels are available here in English (CNN, CNBC and so on) and of course there are the blogs.  Yet I still feel out of touch with what is really going on back in the old country (by which I mean the US).

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