Week 5: German, I get the hint

I guess Dominique is tired of hearing me complain about not knowing German while my language resources collect dust.

Tuesday he gave me a big fat hint.

Post-it note language lessons

These sticky notes tagging pieces of furniture, such as “Der Stuhl,” and the TV remote, or “Die Fernbedienung.”

As if this will motivate me.

I already have all of the following tools within 5 feet of my finger tips at this very moment:

Rosetta Stone (computer based), German 24/7 (iPhone ap), Berlitz Essential German (book), Barron’s German-English Pocket Dictionary and several native speakers who have offered to practice with me. And yet, blah!

I don’t know why this is so hard for me.

I have this terrible fear that my daughter will be able to talk about me behind my back right in front of my face. Yet I sit here, stubbornly refusing to dig in.

I honestly think what’s holding me back is fear. Fear of sounding like a complete idiot. Sometimes I know a word or a phrase and one of two things happen — either I say it in the form of a question, like, is this right, even though I KNOW it is. OR, worse yet, I don’t say anything at all.

First, I’d like to point out that, for the record, while the Swiss speak German, they don’t. Not really. They speak Schweizerdeutsch, a dialect that any High German-speaking person will tell you is unintelligible.

In fact, when we were on vacation in Naples, Fla., a shop owner, herself an Austrian immigrant, proceeded to caution me against learning Swiss German.

“It’s an abomination,” she said. “Seriously, it’s a hideous massacre of the German language. Don’t do it. Just don’t even bother.” (Can you tell she was trying to sell my Swiss boyfriend something?)

Well, the Austrians have their own issues. Nevertheless, Swiss German has a lot of complications. It is an unwritten language. That’s right. I am going to have to learn High German in its written form and Swiss German verbally. To add to the fun, Swiss German is not just one unwritten language, there are dialects everywhere — from Bern to Zurich and everywhere in between you will find a whole set of words and phrases and accents and speeds of speech.

It’s daunting.

But I’m here. And I want to feel more at home. I want to be able to go into a store and talk to the sales clerk. I want to understand what Sophie’s teachers say. I don’t want to have to turn to Google Translate before I cook dinner.


Now that Sophie is sleeping so much better (see Operation Bedtime Bootcamp for that adventure), I have a couple of hours each day to myself.

Knowing me, I would opt to scrub a toilet before opening a language book, BUT, the new me, the 52-weeks-to-a-better-me me, will now set aside at least 20 minutes each day to explore my new language. In all its crazy forms.

Wish me luck. Or, as Google Translate says, Wünscht mir Glück.

About Tara McLaughlin

I'm a stay-at-home mom to two girls in my boyfriend's hometown of Bern, Switzerland. Life as a new mom in a foreign country has been, in so many ways, rewarding and challenging. I will document that journey here, on Another 52 Weeks.
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7 Responses to Week 5: German, I get the hint

  1. Go Tara Go! Rah Rah Rah! You have 9 months to get better than Mike. Since he knows about 2 phrases in German, I think you will beat him. At least I hope you will 😉

  2. Melanie says:

    Um besser zu helfen, werde ich nur in Deutsch antworten von nun an.
    (If that doesn’t make sense then blame Google Translate! lol)

  3. Ha, WordPress says I’ve spelled everything in that sentence wrong. lol. My sentiments.

  4. I certainly feel for you. I’m trying to improve my German, too, as my fiance’s family speaks German almost exclusively. (Some of them know English and just flat out refuse to speak it!) It feels like such an uphill task that most of the time I get overwhelmed just thinking about it and it’s been weeks since I last opened up a textbook. It is probably a lot more difficult trying to learn both High German and Swiss German, but at least you are immersed in the language, so perhaps that will help you pick it up more quickly. I definitely wish you the best of luck!

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