Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

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aokoye
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Wed Aug 30, 2017 12:56 pm

At the moment I'm typing this on my phone at Cafe Diglas so expect lots of typos that I'll clean up later this afternoon/evening ;)

Today I win at ordering something that I didn't realize I wouldn't like, eating three quarters of it, and then treating myself to cake. I am regretting not just getting goulash like I planned but if the goal was consuming protein I met that goal. I also finally got asked if I wanted the English or the German menu as opposed to just being given the English one, finally!

Today I got really worried about the writing parts of both tests so I'm actually committed to writing something substantive in German every day. Most of it will be on italki and the rest for the prep course. The feedback I got from the course yesterday had me in a bit of a tailspin but it actually wasn't as bad as I thought when I really looked at it. Part of it was about doing too little because I didn't know exactly what they wanted from me (last week I wrote too much for the same reason). That said I do know what the actual test wants from me so that's good. Tonight or tomorrow I'm going to do the second writing assignment that is due this week.

I also finished this week's reading exercise and half of the listening. The reading and listening sections are made up of three subsections (as is the case on the test) and in the course there are two further subsections of those. The first walks you through in a very thorough way and tells you what should do in terms of strategies and the second is similar but holds your hand less.
The reading was interesting because the first text was hard for me and the second was really easy. As in, if it was the actual test I would have to finished it with 2/3 of the time left and gotten one question wrong (except I would have used more time to make sure my answers were right). Note these two texts are for the same type of exercise and should be of around the same difficulty. The listening was also fairly easy and pretty interesting for me. It was about how universities and professors get evaluated in different countries in Europe. I would have done the second half of the listening but I was just too tired.

This morning I worked on vocab (I added a bunch yesterday from the first text), most of the exercises for the second writing assignment for this week, and did the first of two speaking assignments that are due for this week. Then I forced myself out of the house for food which was a good thing and now I'm here.

After I finish this I'm going to read through my new vocab book (I think I now own all but one of the good general vocab books for advanced learners) and then go to my new favorite coffee shop and study some more.
Last edited by aokoye on Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby gsbod » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:53 pm

What vocab book are you working with?
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:49 pm

gsbod wrote:What vocab book are you working with?

It's called Wortschatzübungen für Fortgeschrittene - Uni? Sicher! 3. I bought it at Dussmann Kaufhaus my first week in Berlin but haven't had time to do more than read the first reading until today. There's a PDF example of one of the chapters here. I really like how everything is presented. My two qualms as of now is that I wish there were more texts and I wish that, along with the examples of vocabulary use, they had an actual definition of each word in German. Other than that it seems like a good book for working on vocab, especially leading up to any of the German proficiency exams that universities require because the vocabulary is specialized. The vocabulary in this book isn't made up of words that you could pick up by just reading books aimed at the general public and touches on topics relevant to TestDaF, TELC C1 Hochschule, and the DSH (which I'm not taking) as well as likely topics that are covered in other C1 and C2 tests.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Thu Aug 31, 2017 6:53 am

A quick update - I wrote a 278 word persuasive "essay" of sorts in German in 41 minutes late last night for my TestDaF course. The persuasive part of the large written text for the test should take no more than 40 minutes which is why I timed it. I tried to use dictionaries as little as possible as I won't have access to them during the test. I edited it this morning and sent it off a few minutes ago. I'm happy with how I went about editing it and am probably going to do similar things in the future leading up to TestDaF. First I wrote the paper and then I sat down with my grammar book (turned to the adj declension page). When I had further questions I used Linguee, dict.cc (I'm weaning myself off of it and onto Linguee), and DeepL (thank you emk for your post about this).

I also got feedback on the audio assignment I turned in yesterday. The instructor said that there were a few grammatical mistakes but despite those I would get full points if it was an actual test. Mind you it is one of the easier speaking sections but that's still very exciting.

Today is the first full day of the conference that I'm going to and it should be interesting. The conference language is English but there are a handful of talks in German at least one of which I'm likely going to go to.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Cavesa » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:41 pm

It's not necessarily about looking European or not. Europeans gets switched on too almost everywhere. A high blond beautiful czech girl I met during a student exchange in Spain didn't get any opportunity to talk during the whole month, as she was clearly foreign and northern looking. I got my opportunity to open my mouth first, she didn't. In some parts of the world, it is reversed. A proficient Japanese speaker will get talked to in English because of looking european, and it will be just as anoying, and in some situations, context, and with some behaviour from the native Japanese, it feels just as bad and xenophobe. In Europe including the German speaking countries, English got too dominant, so it is often used on people suspect of being foreign european looking or not, and what is "european looking" has changed during the last decades too. Even small details often become important in these moments of judgement (hair color, who you are with, where you are, your clothing style, whether or not you carry a camera).

I totally get why the "admiration" of your level of German is rather annoying, I felt similarily about my French during the Erasmus. Including the amazed coments like "how did you learn it so well in such a short time?". Yeah sure, I learnt French to C2 in two weeks, don't mind the years before that. Or "French must be so hard for a Czech" like comments. Really, I am a Czech native, not Mandarin, we have a lot in common. If I happen to move to France, I suppose I will have to deal with this too, just as you describe it, and of course it is a sign of strong stereotypes and sometimes xenophobia. Again, being European may or may not help, it varies, your looks are probably innocent in this case :-). In France, I would say many people stick to many more stereotypes about the "eastern countries like Czechoslovakia" (don't mind the 30 years of history since then, who cares cares about fellow EU members) than about more differently looking people from culturally more distant countries that used to be colonies all over the world. Those are like External French. And this attitude often extends to non-native French speakers of non-european appearance too.

It's not necessarily about the race. It is just because of the stupid prevalence of English. Noone admires anyone for speaking English, that is expected. And almost noone expects anyone to learn anything else, that is sad.

I wish you to get through this phase soon. You'll get to visit the less popular touristy atractions (there is a huge difference between big museums and small museums in Germany, just a recent observation, between big and small hotels in Austria, between cafés in big and middlesized towns), you'll get to more natural situations. And you'll get more confident. I'd say it is about our subconsciousness sending signals out too. The "I totally belong here and of course we are speaking German" feeling will show :-) I am sure you'll get there and it will be awesome.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby aokoye » Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:24 pm

Cavesa wrote:It's not necessarily about looking European or not. Europeans gets switched on too almost everywhere. A high blond beautiful czech girl I met during a student exchange in Spain didn't get any opportunity to talk during the whole month, as she was clearly foreign and northern looking. I got my opportunity to open my mouth first, she didn't. In some parts of the world, it is reversed. A proficient Japanese speaker will get talked to in English because of looking european, and it will be just as anoying, and in some situations, context, and with some behaviour from the native Japanese, it feels just as bad and xenophobe. In Europe including the German speaking countries, English got too dominant, so it is often used on people suspect of being foreign european looking or not, and what is "european looking" has changed during the last decades too. Even small details often become important in these moments of judgement (hair color, who you are with, where you are, your clothing style, whether or not you carry a camera).

I totally get why the "admiration" of your level of German is rather annoying, I felt similarily about my French during the Erasmus. Including the amazed coments like "how did you learn it so well in such a short time?". Yeah sure, I learnt French to C2 in two weeks, don't mind the years before that. Or "French must be so hard for a Czech" like comments. Really, I am a Czech native, not Mandarin, we have a lot in common. If I happen to move to France, I suppose I will have to deal with this too, just as you describe it, and of course it is a sign of strong stereotypes and sometimes xenophobia. Again, being European may or may not help, it varies, your looks are probably innocent in this case :-). In France, I would say many people stick to many more stereotypes about the "eastern countries like Czechoslovakia" (don't mind the 30 years of history since then, who cares cares about fellow EU members) than about more differently looking people from culturally more distant countries that used to be colonies all over the world. Those are like External French. And this attitude often extends to non-native French speakers of non-european appearance too.

It's not necessarily about the race. It is just because of the stupid prevalence of English. Noone admires anyone for speaking English, that is expected. And almost noone expects anyone to learn anything else, that is sad.

I wish you to get through this phase soon. You'll get to visit the less popular touristy atractions (there is a huge difference between big museums and small museums in Germany, just a recent observation, between big and small hotels in Austria, between cafés in big and middlesized towns), you'll get to more natural situations. And you'll get more confident. I'd say it is about our subconsciousness sending signals out too. The "I totally belong here and of course we are speaking German" feeling will show :-) I am sure you'll get there and it will be awesome.


I know this is definitely not just a European phenomenon, I was just commenting on my experiences in Vienna specifically and contrasting them with my experiences in Berlin. Like I said, in my four weeks in Berlin I think I was addressed in English before the person made the switch to German once. Xenophobia in Japan is also both fascinating and horrifying for so many reasons. I think, at the moment, most of the, "Du kannst aber gut deutsch!" isn't a clear cut case of xenophobia or racism. If I move to a German speaking country then I will most definitely revisit that on a regular basis and if I have kids in a German speaking country it will most definitely be about racism and/or xenophobia. That said right now not 100% this or that.

The "your German is so good" thing is actually often about race, and likely to a lesser extent xenophobia, for Germans, and likely Austrians, who aren't white and have an immigrant background and have lived here/there for years and years as well as those who were born in Germany and Austria but aren't phenotypically European. When it comes to POC who were born in German speaking countries I really do see a lot of parallels to the phrase, "you're so articulate!" Yes sometimes that can be used in a genuine way when referring, in the US, typically non East Asian POC, but that isn't typical at this point (again in the US) and really stopped being the case after Obama's first presidential campaign.

But yeah - more and more people are speaking to me in German and only German which is nice. The first half of next week I'll be in Burgenland and then I fly back to Berlin on the 7th. Once I get out of Vienna it'll really be all German all the time in service encounters and then I expect the same for the most part in Berlin as well. Thanks too for the well wishes! I know most of this pst has been "eh I don't exactly agree with you" but thanks for your confidence in me :)

On a related note, I was discussing my disagreements with a speaker at the conference today after his talk and at some point he asked if we could switch into German (the conference language is English). We ended up switching back into English in part because one of the people we were talking with had briefly went to get food came back and didn't understand German, but I love seeing people's "oh thank god you speak German" reactions, almost none of which are verbal. I definitely had a lot of trouble expressing my disagreements because I don't have a lot of German vocabulary surrounding the issues of power and privilege and how they relate to activism/ways in which people affect change (shocking I know :P), but it was nice he asked if we could switch into German in the first place and didn't just 100% assume that I only spoke English.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Cavesa » Thu Aug 31, 2017 11:57 pm

I guess the situation will be different in a decade or so. Worse for language learners during short or medium journeys, as English is likely to prevail even more in this area (while possibly regressing in a few others). But various phenotypes will be normal in Europe and they will be better spread in various social spheres, thanks to second or third or later generations of immigrants. Hopefully, if things go right, as there are lots of ifs in this theory. But I think the overall underestimation of people based on certain looks is likely to decrease. Germany has a huge job market with lots of vacant places, taking highly skilled workers from everywhere. If they don't mess up, for example by allowing English to be the working language in many international teams in the country, German will be the normal expected language from anyone, and solid education will not be a "surprise" from people of various looks.

But one of the conditions sine qua non everywhere will be insisting on the national languages. No matter whether we talk about a renowned american professor at a local university, a Hungarian businesswoman working for an international company, or a native arabic stay at home mother. As long as all these people don't have to learn the local language, the ones who actually learn it will be treated like weirdos.

I used to think this was mainly a problem of small countries with useless languages, like the Czech Republic. But I have recently read too many posts and articles about long term studying in Germany in English and similar stuff.

I'd say you have less to worry about than it seems now, and I hope I am guessing right.
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Systematiker » Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:38 pm

Just to stir the pot a bit, "Du kannst aber gut deutsch!" is, depending on situation, sometimes more of a microagression than you're giving it credit for, because most of the time if they're that surprised about it and you didn't meet in an informal enough context, it should have been "Sie können..."usw. You'll probably get it more than I did, but I remember a period when my accent was shifting (not identifiably anglophone, but still dentifiably foreign) and I got gedutzt way more often in inappropriate situations for it. Of course, depending on your comfort level, you can always call it out (which I did), even if it makes you look like a stickler (which I did :lol: ).
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby tastyonions » Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:23 pm

Systematiker wrote:Of course, depending on your comfort level, you can always call it out (which I did), even if it makes you look like a stickler (which I did :lol: ).

I would like to know the German equivalent of "On n'a pas élevé les cochons ensemble!"

https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/avoir_%C3%A9lev%C3%A9_les_cochons_ensemble
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Re: Aokoye's Journey Through German (and other languages?)

Postby Josquin » Fri Sep 01, 2017 5:42 pm

tastyonions wrote:I would like to know the German equivalent of "On n'a pas élevé les cochons ensemble!"

I'm afraid that's quite an intranslatable idiom that has no equivalent in German. If someone felt indignated by being called "du", they would probably just say something like: "So gut kennen wir uns nun auch nicht."
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