Diary of an Expat, Part 45
German language update: not good
Berlin has been hot, recently — more than thirty degrees for three or four days in a row, which is so hot (we Berliners being sensitive sorts) that the government has had to issue a severe weather advisory. Needless to say today it rained, and it's supposed to be 21 Monday and the rest of early next week.

The heat hasn't been all that bothersome. It means one thing in particular, which is that it cools off well in the evening; biking through Berlin at night really is a lot of fun, and I am coming to enjoy the Weissersee area a lot. The wind coming off the lake, after a hot day, is a thing of sheer, utter beauty.

A couple of times in the last few days — both in the evening, for what that's worth — I've had this weird realization, like: "oh, wow. I'm in Berlin." Which is a good realisation to have, I guess, since I've been here for nearly a year now.

I want to spend some time, right around the anniversary of that (four weeks from now!) reflecting on what all has changed in the last twelve months, because I suspect it's liable to be more profound than I initially guessed.

For example, my German has improved, slightly. More troublingly, my spoken English — never a strong point to begin with — has decayed precipitously.

Today I went to the middle-eastern place I get kofta from often, and there was a new guy there. What I had ordered meant the other guy there had to go to the back to get some more kofta, so we stood there and tried to make conversation.

Him: "Ah, hot. Today."
Me: *nods* Ah... yeh...
Him: "Yeah. Much hot."

But rather than actually carrying out a conversation I merely stared at him like a deer caught in headlights, and when he started to put my food on a real plate I explained that I wanted it to go. But I did this in German, which meant that he decided that I was a German speaker, so then he switched to his even-more-terrible Deutsch and we carried out the remainder of our Rosetta-Stone conversation that way ("you hummus?" "big hummus" "good?" "very good, he tasty")

I was trying to explain to a German colleague the other day that performing a certain action on their computer would enlarge the photograph they were working on. This is an easy concept to explain, if you know the word "enlarge." If you are me, you say "ah... if you tap the button, it will... uh... ah, how do you say it, it will... it will get larger the photo."

I have also found, increasingly, German grammatical quirks slipping into my speech. For instance, "must" is, like in English, a modal verb in German. Ich muss zur Post gehen, "I must go to the post office." It can also negate, however: Ich muss nicht zur Post gehen," "I don't have to go to the post office." (In spoken German, I think it would be more common to use brauche, not muss, but bear with me)

I had been, as a matter of course, doing a lot of tedious editing on something, when the team that was responsible wound up putting together a new version where I no no longer had to modify the data by hand. When they sent it to me, the E-mail proudly said "you must not modify this file any longer!" Which was meant to say that I no longer had to, not that it was proscribed.

Anyway, I had been working with a friend of mine on something, and they left on vacation.

Their E-mail: "I'll try to keep you updated, but I might not have Internet service so I'm not sure I can."
Me: "No, you must not try to talk to me."
Them: "... did I do something wrong?"

I'm heading back to the states for my own vacation next week, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes. For now, I'm going to savor this amazing, lovely evening, and the warm summer night that tells me it's high time for a glass of wine on the balcony until bed.
James Bell
9.08.2012 - 12h40

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