Archive for November, 2009

Remember Ingrim Strasse, being hideously behind and ‘qualified’

November 23, 2009

Ingrim Strasse is one of those tiny, tiny streets up at the east end of Altstadt. Up there, they all get a bit complicated and go in all manner of different directions. But there’s something better about Ingrim Str. compared to the rest.

It’s a pretty narrow and high street, quite like all of them down that end of town. The windows are high as well, but some of the window and house-faces are large open windows, not unlike shop windows

But the special thing about Ingrim Strasse occurs to me every Friday when I’m walking home from my 9am Language Acquisition lecture in the germanistisches Seminar. It’s such a strange street. You walk down it and, just because of human curiosity, you move your head from side to side. You look in windows, because they’re at your eye-level. This is the good bit.

Every window has something odd and different in it. It’s so… oddly exotic and fun. It’s such a traditional street, though. All the wooden furniture in the weird rooms beyond the exciting frames. You walk past that show with the huge office right there on the street – huge glass window – the name of the shop written in some odd script that you can only guess is something like Armenian, even though the ‘first’ letter looks a bit like an M…

Ingrim Str.’s just one of those places you can’t quite believe you’ve finished walking down when you get to the end. It’s the kind of street you just want to walk down again. And again.

I’ll take Polly there when she comes on Thursday (!).



Remember Dead Set and dejection

November 8, 2009

Aminata, Cynthie and I watched a 5-part TV series that showed in 2008, Dead Set.

Considering  I’m the most squeamish wuss I know, I absolutely loved it. Sure, some scenes in it where some of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever seen (I’m not going to give anything away cause everyone should see it), but maybe I’m just poorly experienced.

Anyway. The point is: it was amazing. I hadn’t realised before that zombie-type fiction often had a social comment type message in it – Cynthie informed me of this. It was so, so good. I managed to vent it all out to Jenny, which means I’m not going to write all the bits I enjoyed or all the comparisons that spoke to me. I would like to mention that I was nearly crying at one point, but the fact that mass peril and destruction makes me cry is not a new thing (cue scenes of my crying at Children of Men).

Dejection: I did a search on Ravelry for groups with “Middle East,” “Syria” or “Damascus” in the name and it yielded no result (except ‘Middle East’ gave some ‘Peace in the Middle East’ type groups). Looks like I’ll be knitting alone in the Middle East. If indeed I go.

Remembrance Sunday. The two minutes’ silence are officially happening right now. So I’ll be sure not to speak.

Remember: butter-pretzels, Mannheim, Plöck, cello, orchestra, European winter Zara, other things and to blog more often

November 5, 2009

This is another blog-post with a to-do list. A to-do list so out of date, that half of it’s in one pen and the other half’s in another.

It was originally going to be a post about Plöck, a post about cello and then another, more recent post about things innumerate that have happened in-between. But it’s getting shoved all into one now. Like it or not.

So. Here goes.

Some bikes whistle, some bikes squeek. Some bikes crackle and some rustle. Some click, some clack. That’s what it is to walk down Plöck at any time of day. Bike-riding culture is something I knew I’d have to expect. I’d heard that HD had a huge bike-riding culture, because of it’s annoyingly medium size. But I hadn’t expected this extent, quite so much. I’ve taken to walking down Plöck more often than not now, just because I like being zoomed past by people and their noisy metal. It’s so interesting to hear all the different songs they sing.

Bikes. Who’da thunk I’d ever spend that many words on writing about bikes? Those of you who know me a bit more intimately may be interested to learn that I rode Sophia’s back on Akademiestr. recently. If that doesn’t say anything to you – then you’re not going to find out. Yet anyway.

Sophia. Speaking of, Sophia’s been the agent of a discovery I’ve made about learning language here. With her, like few others, language is important. She plays with words in a way I don’t quite expect and manages somehow to humour-shock me with the way she sets things up (even if she does have a pre-funny face (like a sex face, but a bit more serious)). She’s the one who’s made me realise how important it is to have contact in your own language. German’s great and all that, but being able to know a language as thoroughly as you know your own, as deeply and as laterally, is unsurpassable (WordPress seems to think I’ve made a mistake with that word, but’s telling me I’m safe… All of this kinda goes against my point a bit, worryingly).

Which leads me onto another thing I’ve noted about deepening my German. Firstly, Sarah Marks was right when she said that your acknowledgement of a mistake moves slowly back in time, relating to the mistake itself: you start, when you get here, by making a mistake and either not realising or realising a few minutes after; then it gets to a point where you say something, and you realise a second after, that you were wrong; then it moves over (I have the image of a clock-face in my head, where the center is the problem and a finger is slowly going forward in time – at this point, the finger’s pointing at 12), so that you think about the potential mistake as you’re making it, then the finger swings forward (backwards, respectively), so that you think about it just before you make it (and are able to correct it), then it moves even further back, where you can feel yourself wanting to use that construction and pre-empting the mistakes, words before you get to the crucials, then it becomes automatic. My example of this is the construction “… should have done…”, which, unlike most German verb constructions, does not parallel the English as neatly as you might expect. I’ve always wanted to say “sollte gemacht haben” (“[should] [have] [done]”), but they actually say “hätte machen sollen” (“[would have] [should] [do]”). I constructed it without mistake (and without realising at first) the other day, which made my life. (on this topic: Aminata told me that she thinks my German is fluent, because I don’t think about what I’m saying and it just comes out, which is true, but I don’t want to define fluent like that. It was nice to be told that and it’s always nice when people question your nationality or parents’ nationality/language when you tell them you’re not a native speaker).

Secondly, and onto the thing I actually started this paragraph meaning to tackle, is that I’ve noticed that German is slowly moving closer to having an emotional connection with each of its words’ meanings. That sounds poncey, but I used to note that saying something sensitive (like “I’m gay”) in German was a lot easier than it was in English and figured it was because I’d grown up with those English words and had them bandied around me everyday in school or whatever. So that they were my first point of contact with the concept. With German, however, I’m finding that I have to inject more emotion into what I hear and what I say, because it’s still a little cold to me. The words are still a bit distant and don’t lie in my heart with the perfect connotation or whatever. I realised this because I’ve picked up a lot of slang words recently, (including, krass, gell?, voll, richtig, abgefahren, halt and so on). Halt‘s the one that made me realise this. It roughly translates as “just” into English, in a normal sentence. So you’d say something like, es ist halt so for that’s just how it is. My brain, constantly on the look-out to understand German as its first priority, picks out the words “es,” “ist” and “so” and pieces together that the speaker is drawing a comparison, but the ‘halt,’ in that flat interpretation gets lost. So I find myself having to listen to those kinds of words, just to pick up exactly what kind of an angle the speaker is taking towards their subject matter, or similar. Now I come to write about it, it’s actually pretty difficult to describe, but I hope I’ve done it at least a smidge successfully and not just ranted for ages.

From here on: it is less boring.

I felt that was necessary. The previous paragraphs have been really, really cold and linguistic. Unintentionally subject-specific. So massive soz about that (not really).

I woke up very early this morning because I have Arabic with Dr. Hug at 8am (read it… 8am) on Thursdays. I stumbled upon a couple of ’10 questions for an interpreter’ type videos on YouTube and eventually onto courses/colleges (one in America) for interpreting and translation study. Or was it last night?.. Can’t remember. In any case, it’s given me a new impetus and realistic approach towards actually becoming what I want to be. I’ve slowly been getting more and more despondent about my skills in Arabic and my interpreting skill as whole and worrying about what I’m going to do after, but those few videos have really kicked my motivation core and made me really want to pursue a Masters in Interpreting. For that, I’ve also had to realise my different approaches to my two languages. I really want to be able to exist as a native in German, whereas I know that’s nowhere near possible for Arabic (at least at this stage) and being an interpreter (or even translator) requires only (I say ‘only’) a 100% comprehension of the source language, which is something I can work on in the next 6 months in the Middle East and again in my 4th year in Durham, then again at my MA institution, if I indeed a) get onto one or b) do that in the first place.

I do, however, desperately want to stay in Germany for the whole of my YA. Every single German word I say is like a drop of enjoyment into a big pot of self-confidence and I can’t bear leaving it. I don’t feel like my German’s good enough now nor will it be good enough by the end of the Wintersemester for me to leave, but giving up on Arabic is just such a huge waste and I actually do enjoy it, even though it’s hideously like learning Latin at the minute (almost purely grammatical and less like actual communicative medium).

Anyway, the whole Masters story made me motivated and gave me hundreds of ideas for what I could do after my degree is finished (now that that’s a nearing doom I have to reckon with).

While I’m roughly in the same area as Arabic, two things occured to me. One good, one bad. The bad: the teacher I have on Thursday mornings (Dr. Verena Hug) is fantastically clever (that’s not the bad thing), but writes about the very fine details of the ins and outs of deepest Arabic grammar using Latin characters. Which is very, very frustrating, especially because it means she has to end up using apostrophes going one way for hamza and the other for ع. The good: I’m really proud of myself for being able to follow such a deep and face-close analysis of the Arabic grammatical system, even when it’s entirely in German. Sure, when she asks us to render something into German, I struggle and flail a bit and the others do it so quickly and easily that I miss what they say (and therefore a segment of the teaching, if it doesn’t get repeated), but I’m able to follow a very great deal, without having to worry. Relaxing into comprehension is an amazing feeling.

(I want to write about good days and bad days with German here, but I fear I’ve written enough about language for one blog post, even though it is massively, massively over-due. So I’ll write it in brackets here, for me to remember later, when I’m old and grey as well as Arabic verb forms being vaguely similar to the changes of meanings of German verbs when they undergo transition into zer- or ver- or be-).

— Language bant has really stopped now. Honest. —

In other news, I got my hands on a cello last Friday, because I’m going to play with a quartet with some friends. Reached the whole situation completely by accident. She and I were talking about music and she said she thought she might start a quartet & that she has everything, but a cellist. I play cello! So I started looking for one (luckily, Sophie rents hers and I just had to ask for details). Funny thing is, the guy who the cello belongs to is a) a Geigenbauer (violin-maker) and b) in the orchestra I’m playing in (also reached pretty ‘randomly’) on Horn! Quel surprise et quel coincidence dans mon life. French. Standard.

That actually reaches the bottom of my list. Which is depressing, non? I’ll start one of those iconic, one-phrase-here’s-other-stuff-I-did lists and see what happens:

bought, stored and ate a considerable amount of chocolate, bought, but am yet to eat, a pomegranate, knitted the back of a cardigan for myself in some beautiful green Noro, taught Ami how to knit lace (she’s making a hat), bought a beautifully blue woolly jumper from Zara, which, by the way, is fantastic at the minute (they had some dreamy leather shoes which I didn’t get (boo)), successfully joined and integrated into Heidelberg University’s Lesbian and Gay society (called LSBT Karl-und-Ruprecht AK ( … lol)), bought an Arabic textbook for €50 on a whim, received £1,000 from Durham Grant which I’ve yet to put to good use, continued to forget to hand in/post forms for even more money from ERASMUS, dropped “Deutsch und Englisch im Kontrast” and “Sprache und Emotion”, wished I’d taken Czech instead of Japanese (now that it actually does fit into my timetable), struggled learning the first of 3 Japanese alphabets (one of them is a series of thousands of characters, akin to Chinese and therefore can’t be counted as an alphabet, but I’m on the waa-waa, so you’ll do as your told), tried to convince myself I need lots of Ökowolle from Wolle Rödel, when in fact I don’t; continually failed to find enough time to practise cello, knit, play computer games with housemates and read (must work on a way of doing all at the same time); had some delightful email contact with Jane Gannaway, have boxed up but am yet to send boxes with small presents in for two of my nearest and dearest, continued eating a pretzel a day and, in fact, have had two on some days (including today), dropped the habit of sleeping in, agreed to play in a horn quartet recital at a Church mass a week on Wednesday, bought new jeans (again, on a whim), (this should be up there with Zara, but…) bought a really interestingly-shaped brown cardigan/jumper thing with a big necky neck cowl/scarf thingy thing, needed a wee the entire time I’ve been writing this blog, …, got massive pins and needles in my left leg whilst writing this bloody thing, bought a pair of test contact lenses from an opticians, only later to realise that I needed a stronger prescription than the glasses I’m wearing; given a girl I barely know from Japanese class break-up advice, seen a woman breast-feeding her young child in my Japanese class (betcha glad you read all the way through this list now, arencha!), shaved surprisingly regularly, urmm.. that’s like it. *bored*