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Learning a New Language

This summer I’m taking a river cruise from Bonn to Bucharest. I’ve done add-ons that will give me a few days in Amsterdam before the cruise, and a few days in Roumania at the end. (Yes, I will be visiting Transylvania!)

(Click here to learn more about this trip!)

In addition, I added a week in Munich on the way home. I’ve booked a room in a private house which is very close to the city center. One trip I’m planning in particular will be to see Neuschwanstein Castle, which is only a couple of hours from where I’m staying.

Because I’m spending so much time in German speaking countries, I thought it would be interesting to learn how to speak the language – at least a little bit.

Before we went to Russia, Honey and I tackled Russian, and before we went to Spain we tackled Spanish. We had fun with both, even though we didn’t do more than a basic course. (My second language from school days is French. I can get by, almost.)

The program that I am using – as I did with Russian and Spanish –  is Pimsleur. This offers 4 sets of 30 audio lessons, each one 30 minutes long. They suggest that you do one a day, every day, and focus on learning how to speak the language from an auditory perspective. The course also offers reading lists that accompany the lessons. These are not vocabulary lists, but rather a guide to pronunciation.

However, I’m quite a visual person, and I have been “cheating” a bit by doing some transcribing, and some web searching to help me understand the crazy world of masculine, feminine, and neuter Nouns, word order that shifts around, and strange variations of possessive pronouns.

And even though I haven’t always been on top of the one-a-day routine, I am making progress, and quite enjoying it.  I’m on Lesson 26, and looking forward to what Set 2 has to offer me.

I know how to tell you I would like a drink of wine in a restaurant, and that I want to drive to Munich in my large car to buy something for my wife and my children, of which I have 3 or 5, depending on the lesson, and who are variously large and small, with me in Germany, or at home in America. I can drive straight ahead, or to the left, or to the right, and I can take the right road when I drive to the left.

I’m quite good at saying, “Ich weiß nicht.” (I don’t understand.)

My current favorite is,  “Sind die Geschäfte geschlossen oder geöffnet heute Abend?” (Are the stores closed or open tonight?) It’s really very musical.

Is this an important part of the trip? Not really. Most Germans speak English, and often better than we do. But I’m going to their country, and I expect there will be some appreciation for the fact that I’m trying to understand their language, even if my vocabulary will be quite limited, and my sentence construction probably very awkward. Our language defines how we think, and I’m already understanding these people I’ve yet to meet a little better.

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