Party Time!

Today was the last day of our one-month course, and to celebrate, we spent the last hour chatting and (of course) snacking. Everyone brought a treat or two, but the hit of the party was easily a still warm, unleavened bread with cheese or a’tar topping. After lots of oohs and ahhh’s, our classmate identified her contribution as a Middle Eastern delicacy know as man’ousheh. It was delicious!

We all enjoyed having a break from learning just to chat with one another, and were even more excited to learn that many of us were taking the next level course with the same teacher. This meant that we would therefore be together again in the coming semester. Moving forward with familiar faces was heartening, so instead of saying goodbye, we could say “see you later!”

Practice Your German…On the Go!

I recently downloaded the very affordable Deutsch Akademie App onto my smartphone. Using it has become my favorite way to brush up on my German language skills without having to haul my textbooks around!

There are several sections in the app, including an area that is taken directly from the most popular Akademie textbooks. There are also several sections where you can practice your grammar using multiple-choice answers by level, from A1 through to C2. Because I tested out of the first part of A1, I was eager to practice and see what I already knew, (and what I needed to brush up on.)

My first thought after using the app is that I need some more practice with reading whole sentences. Often, when I get a question wrong, it’s because I lost the meaning somewhere in the middle of the sentence and misunderstood what I was choosing. Conversely, I do seem to know my grammar a bit more than I thought that I would, which is a confidence booster for sure. One very cool are of the app is the “statistics” section where it shows how many answers were incorrect vs. correct. It’s a bit embarrassing to say, but I keep hovering around 55% correct. The app is easy to use, but it’s just proving how much more I need to practice as I move into A2.1 next semester.

Train Travel in Germany

Within the city limits of Berlin, there are a multitude of options for travel: buses, S-Bahn, the Tram and more. But what options are there for a girl who just needs to get away from the city? You could rent a car, but I wholeheartedly recommend a Deutsche Bahn (DB) train trip for travelling outside of the city.

One of my favorite things about the DB is that you can easily book tickets in advance using their online system and even use your smart phone to store your ticket for travel. The interface is simple to use, and if you don’t feel confident in your German language skills, you can easily change the language of the site to English.

A few items of note:

  • Searching for your trip requires you to choose a departure point in Berlin. This can be somewhat tricky, as there are several to choose from. The most central option is the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, but if you are departing from school, the Alexanderplatz station may be a better option. Or…maybe you live in Kreuzberg? Then the Berlin Sudkreuz option is better. Or maybe…well, you get the idea. Do some research before booking your ticket, or you may add additional unnecessary time to your travels.
  • When booking your ticket, you’ll see that there is an option for a discount card that will reduce the cost of your booking. Take some time to review the discount options on the DB site. There are student discounts, (up to a certain age), senior discounts (that begin at a certain age) and additional options that allow you to purchase an ongoing discount of 25, 50 or 100 percent. I highly recommend the 25% discount card, as it can be used across all types of fares. The other cards come with some restrictions which you can review before purchasing on the website.
  • I recommend trying to book either an Intercity or Eurocity train. With each of these options, you will have the opportunity to do your best Doctor Zhivago impression while dining in the Boardrestaurant or Boardbistro. Plush seating, dining tables and relatively affordable food and drinks can be found in these rail cars, and whether you’re doing your homework or penning your next great novel, this option allows you to do so in comfort and style. If you are not booked on one of these trains, be sure to purchase food or drinks before boarding.

Whether you heed all or none of these recommendations, train travel in Germany is easy and fun. It’s a great way to discover more of the country, and a fun option for trying out your new language skills. So, get out of Berlin for a bit, and have an adventure on a train.

My Inner Pig Dog

We had lots of fun in class today as discussion centered on the German idiom: Innerer Schweinehund. Simply put, your Schweinehund is that inner voice that encourages you to lay in bed for a bit longer, (when you know you should get up) or to skip the gym “just this once.” The Germans really do have a word for everything, don’t they?

After reading the textbook explanation of the phrase, we broke into groups to compare our inner “pig-dog’s” words. No surprise, everyone in our group had a Schweinehund they were working to overcome. We all loved the idea of anthropomorphizing that voice, and agreed that the phrase was somehow perfectly accurate. So the next time you struggle to achieve your goal, remember to tell your Innere Schweinehund to pipe-down, and see if it helps!


Phone Calls

One of the more challenging moment when speaking in a new language comes in the form of the dreaded phone call. In person, you can act out or point to your intended object. On the phone, we only have our words. To make matters worse, here in Germany, people actually make phone calls…. A LOT.

The online appointment system is slowly coming to the EU, but unlike America, making appointments online is still a relatively new endeavor. With that in mind, your work to learn German is no longer just a “nice to have.” From registering your new residence in Berlin through to getting some pizza delivered, I can guarantee that a phone call is in your future.

With that in mind, your work with the DeutschAkademie has prepared you for this interaction. Because classes are conducted in German, when you’re faced with a fast-talking German pizzeria representative, you will be calm and collected. Just like in class, you can always ask for them to speak more slowly, and just like in class, when they repeat your will have that “a-ha” moment where you finally understand. Unlike class, your reward will be delicious pizza. Now that is a reason to celebrate!

Easter Weekend Noises

This weekend I travelled to Bavaria to experience the German countryside. The area is beautiful, and waking up to the sounds of birds chirping is delightful. Less enjoyable was being awoken by a sound I can only describe as a piece of wood being dragged over a washboard at 6AM. And now I have learned about the tradition of Ratschen.

This tradition was explained to me thusly; “in the Catholic tradition, all church bells stop chiming from Thursday to Saturday before Easter. So that you don’t miss the church bells, children walk through the town making noises with instruments made from wood and reciting  Ostern Ratschen poems. If you want to, you can give them money, which they share with the other children in the neighborhood.”

I wasn’t able to find a lot of other information online that wasn’t in German, so to say I continue to be somewhat baffled by this tradition, is an understatement. I’ve attached a picture of the children who came to the door. They were very cute, and very confused as to the excitement around taking their picture. If you have more information about this tradition, would love to hear from you in the comments.


Food in Germany

In reflecting on my Blog posts, I’ve recently noticed that the majority of them are about food. Sourcing, cooking and eating different kinds of fresh food is one of my favorite past times. And happily, we have finally gotten to the point in our coursework where we are talking about food.

In our class (Level A1.2), the bulk of the first week addresses the basics of grammar. What is nominative, and which prepositions indicate which case. Once we had those basics in place, we started the second week learning words that addressed travel and tourism. Now, in the latter half of the second week we are talking about words related to food, and I couldn’t be happier.

One of the most challenging parts of moving to a new country has been around cooking. Every food has a different name, and sometimes foods with the same name have a different taste, (paprika is a red pepper for example.) This week’s lesson couldn’t come at a better time as I have been flummoxed more than once at the grocery store when a helpful sales person asks what I want. “I don’t know” is not an appropriate answer, so I do a lot of pointing. Although some people are not so friendly at times, for the most part, kindly Berliners are happy to play along with my charades. Suffice to say, I am ready to start speaking with greater confidence and I’m looking forward to my next trip to the grocery store after this week’s lesson.

Fotos vom 2. Stammtisch im März

Liebe Teilnehmer,

es war wieder ein sehr lustiger und unterhaltsamer Stammtisch mit euch gestern Abend im Café Berio. Wir freuen uns schon auf den nächsten Stammtisch mit euch allen!
Vielen Dank an alle die vorbeigekommen sind!

Euer DeutschAkademie Team

Mauer Park Flea Market

I’ve now had several interactions with locals that recommended a visit to the Flea Market at Mauer Park on Sunday. When a classmate indicated a similar interest, I asked to join, and we met up for a rainy Sunday stroll through the event.

First things first, we went during terrible weather and it was still relatively packed. I cannot imagine how busy it might be during the summer, but based on pictures on Google images, I would suggest being ready for a crowd. Also, FYI, the ground was extremely uneven, and not paved, so ladies, no high-heels or wobbly footwear. Additionally, several people told me that Berliners usually don’t even arrive at the market until 2PM or later, so there might be a more limited quantity of items if you are an early bird.

Booths ranged from antiques and vintage clothing to handmade goods and even food items like spices and sweets. There were also several snack areas with all kinds of yummy foods and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. I would say that almost every type of shopping was represented and if you’re looking for something, you can probably find it there. For example, I purchased a Middle Eastern spice called Za’tar that I ‘ve been looking for since my arrival in Berlin. Conversely, the person I was with tried on a variety of hats at a “hat shop.”

Although the shopping is considered the main event, my favorite part of the day was the people watching. While at Mauer Park, I heard many different languages being spoken, and the ages and races of the attendees were extremely varied. Some people had on colorful costumes, and others were dancing or blowing bubbles. As a San Francisco native, this sort of “vibe” appeals to me, and I found myself smiling all the way home. If this type of event appeals to you, I highly recommend a visit to this weekly unique Berlin affair.

Moving to Germany?

A lot of people ask me why I chose to move to Germany and learn a new language. The answer is simple: I really enjoy the culture and people, and living in a country makes it a lot easier to learn the language. As a not-so-young person, (I’m 40 years old) this was a big life decision, but one that I don’t regret.

Although some people would never consider a move like this, with just a little motivation, the tactical pieces aren’t too hard. Just like in most cities, Craigslist offers a variety of options for housing, and as an American, you can easily visit for 90 days on a tourist visa. There are some challenges, like mastering the transportation system, and of course, figuring out new cultures and customs. Learning these things, as well as the language becomes a lot easier when you are experiencing it every day, though….and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you find yourself ordering your morning latte with ease.