In my mission to better my German I adopted a few new systems. In my last post I asked for recommendations for German music. One lovely reader told me about a couple of groups I should check out but I am yet to get my hands on the albums and get the music onto my ipod. A friend of mine lent me a couple of German television programmes on DVD: Doctor’s diary and Türkisch für Anfänger.

I signed up to Duolingo, a free online language learning site which employs a ‘skill tree’ designed with a series of lessons for the learner to progress through. After the participant completes a level they can test out of it to progress to the next level and earn points. The exercises include translating German sentences to English and vice versa, repeating and recording German sentences, identifying pictures and writing sentences from a played recording. The website sends friendly little reminders every day with a particularly imploring owl accompanied with the message ‘Keep the owl happy’.
You can begin at the very first level and go through the various exercises or simply test out of the level to proceed to the next one. It is great because you can connect with other friends through Facebook who are also taking part and compete against them. However, it isn’t enough to simply fulfil a level and rest on your laurels as I like to do, because they remind you that your word strength is deteriorating and that you must practise every day! Keep the owl happy!

I also bought a children’s book. I thought this was a rather clever idea as the language would surely match my level. I bought Disney’s ‘Brave’ for just 3.99. I took it with me to a cafe the other day and planned to read the book aloud to my boyfriend translating the story into English. This was not as simple an exercise as I had anticipated. The story was full of fairytale language words I hadn’t learned like ‘verwandeln’ – to magically turn into something.

The sentences tripped me up with their long and drawn out complicated style, with the verbs strategically placed at the very end of the sentence to filter out the weak. As much as I try I just can’t get my mind to obey and calculate these sentences. It’s the Germans clever way of ensuring the listener maintains complete attention to what they are saying. In English it is so easy to pre-empt the purpose of a sentence or story, but you cannot do that with German. It’s like a well orchestrated act with the big reveal at the very end. Ta dah!

I don’t know if I will ever be skilled or patient enough to arrange my sentences in such a way as to fit the German model sentence structure.
My child like attempts similar to those of a primary school student learning to read, coupled with the stares we were getting from the other patrons as they looked at the brightly coloured children’s book I was holding was entertaining at least.
Since then I have been making German sentences out of English prompts sent to me by my boyfriend.
There have been a lot of witches turning people into things today.

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