In which I talk about my first week learning German again with italki, the 10th circle of hell, why I think German is like math, how to flirt in German and my new favorite German words and vernacular expressions. Is life really too short to learn German? I disagree. Kinda.
With the Berlin Buddy Bears during their pit stop in Berlin on their global tour.
Week #1: In search of a German teacher
Mein Name is DJ. Ich bin fur immer einundzwanzig Jahre alt.
Because I love challenges, this month I decided to start a 3-month intensive German language course with italki. In preparation for this, I contacted a few professional teachers via the italki website to see if they are interested to teach me. The great thing about italki is that if you’re looking for an online professional teacher, you get three 30-minute trial lesson for only 10 italki points or 1 USD (it’s their payment system).
I was in contact with some teachers and tried the trial lesson as well. I’m amazed at how easy it was to book a teacher, choose a schedule and confirm that you finished the lesson. I eventually found me a professional teacher who was recommended by a friend. Her name is Anja, a German who is based in Thailand.
I told her my 3-month German language learning plans and we discussed if our schedules and budget match and it did so I decided to take her. There are different prices depending on the teacher and depending on what kind of lessons you take.
Our first meeting was very positive and we connected on so many levels because she’s also a traveler like me. So it was an easy decision to choose her. It’s very important to me that I like my teacher because it will also determine the success of this not-so-little challenge of mine.
And so far I think Anja will be able to help me become fluent in German. She can probably help me do this flight reservation in German too!
Hey, Ich kann do dis!
“Wir schaffen das!” she said. And she went on to explain that this sentence means “We can do it!” or “We can accomplish it!” The verb schaffen means to accomplish.
See ? I already love her.
So the other week we already started with my intensive 2-hour a day, 5-times a week, one-on-one online German lessons via Skype. The first days were spent getting to know each other and reviewing some basic German lessons to verify my level, I guess.
I told her explicitly about my specific goals and what I wanted to achieve at the end of this 3-month craziness. That:
1. I want to be able to hold a conversation for 3 minutes and convince a German that I’m German! (a.k.a. flirt in German, a.k.a. gossip in German)
2. Expand my vocabulary
3. Learn slang and German vernacular words and expressions
Knowing this she prepared my lessons by giving me exercises, little assignments and lots of talking in German. The first week we talked about topics related to “Meine Familie” (my family) , “Einkauf” (shopping or buying) and “Meine Wohnung” (my apartment). I’ve been learning German on and off for 5 years now and I still haven’t mastered this basic words for these themes. Oh dear.
The 10th Circle of Hell
No, it’s more like life is too short to know the sex of a noun!
Der die freaking das.
For those of you reading this who don’t have any idea about the German language, nouns have sexes and they are either masculine (der), feminine (die) or neutral (das). In English the only article for nouns is “the”. The unicorn. The yellow submarine. The big bad wolf. In German it’s “die Gabel” (the fork), “der Löffel” (the spoon), “das Messer” (the knife).
Why is a spoon masculine? With its shape and curves, I would say it’s feminine. And a fork is masculine. But in German, it’s feminine. What’s feminine about a fork? And why is a knife asexual? It looks masculine to me.
It doesn’t make any sense.
Nothing makes sense.
“I know I know. It’s all very arbitrary. There are no rules,” Anja reminded me. For such a systematic and exact language like German, this makes me cry.
So forget linking gender to a specific meaning or concept. Apparently, the general rule for learning German vocabulary is to treat the article of a noun as an integral part of the word. So when you learn the word Tasse (cup), learn die Tasse. Don’t just learn Heft (notebook), learn das Heft.
There’s no other way. But here’s a helpful hint: If you’re going to guess, guess der. The highest percentage of German nouns are masculine.
It gets worse when you start considering the German cases: Akkusativ, Dativ, Genetiv and Nominativ. Why? Because to be able to pull these off correctly, you need to know the correct article of the noun because they transform into dem, den, der or einem, einen, einer.
And this is why, ladies and gentleman, the 10th circle of hell is German articles.
“I feel like doing a mental triple integration calculation every time I talk in German. I think of the the position of verbs, then the article of the nouns then transform the article depending on the case then consider if it’s moving or not to change the verb,” I told Anja.
German is math. You can put the rules in nice, little matrices and if you can master it then you’re halfway there! This is just the engineer in me talking OBVI.
What do you compare talking German to?
Hallo. Was moechtest du heute Abend machen?
Flirting in German 101
In this section, I’ll write one sentence you can use to flirt in German every week. This week’s sentence is:
“Du bist sehr hübsch.” (You are very good looking.)
Hübsch means pretty or good looking. I mean obviously not all people flirt like me but this is something I would actually say. HAHAHAH. Besides, you’re a foreigner so when you say it, it’ll probably come out cute. So go for it and tell that hot German how good looking he/she is!
New Favorite German Words and Expressions
So besides “Wir schaffen das!“, what are some of the new words and vernacular I learned this week? Here are a few of my favorites which also gives an insight into the German culture.
verwirrt = confused; as in “Ich bin verwirrt.” (I am confused.) My usual state during the lessons
das Überraschungsei = literally, surprise egg. This is the egg-shaped chocolates from Kinder that have a surprise toy inside it. German kids and kids-at-heart love this.
k.A. = short form for keine Annung (I have no idea) which you can use when texting your German friends!
gewöhnt = used to. For example, “Ich bin das schon gewöhnt” (I’m already used to it.)
übermorgen = the day after tomorrow
vorgestern = the day before yesterday
erfrischend = refreshing
“Rate mal!” = guess! or take a guess!
“Ist mir egal” = It doesn’t matter to me. – You’ll always hear this so it’s pretty useful.
“Scheissegal” = It doesn’t matter at all.
“los gehts” = let’s go!
“schieß los!” = I’m excited. I wanna hear it!” or “Say it!
Phew. If you’re learning a language, you can follow me at italki as well. Here is my profile. Let me know if you have other cool German expressions I should know about!