I am studying Germany and the German language specifically and it’s blowing my mind. The language is beautiful and easy, something I did not expect. Umlauts are hard, there is not denying that but after a couple of weeks of practice, they come a bit easier. The vocabulary is about 40-60% interchangeable with English, either by spelling, pronunciation or both. The syntax, or order of words in sentences, is like old English. Imagine you are in a Shakespearian play and translation becomes simple. “Ich auch” does not mean “Me, too” as Pimsluer would have you think. It means “I also.” “Ich merschte jetz etwas trinken,” (I am guessing on most of the spelling as that phrase is from the audio set) does not mean, “I would like something to drink now,” it means “I would like now something to drink.” I don’t know. I just love it.
But the language is only half of the coolness. I graduated high school with a 3.9 GPA. I got a 31 on my ACT’s. I was home schooled (which means, through magical means which required no effort on my part, I am supposed to have a more complete education). Yet, if you had asked me three months ago what I knew about Germany I would not have had much to say. They started both World Wars. They had really high income tax but great socialized medicine (my husband worked with a German national and that’s what she said). I could have told you that the country was smaller than America but larger than…oh, some small country. I might have thought they still dressed in knickers and suspenders. Maybe I would have known that they enjoy and are proud of their beer. I don’t know. But that’s about it.
First of all, Germany is a very young country. The people have been there a long time but they did not unify under one flag until 1871. They, in a very short period of time, became powerful enough to be a threat in World War 1. Then, after being beaten soundly, they recuperated and in a couple of decades were again strong enough to threaten all of Europe. After being soundly beaten again, the country was divided. Half was ruled by the France, the U.K, the U.S. and the other half was ruled by Russia. The non-Russian side prospered under nonRussian rule and the Russian side struggled to keep its head above water. The two sides were reunited in 1990 and is now the fifth largest economy on earth. Not bad for a country that had to clean up the mess the Russian’s left, eh?
Also, about ten, fifteen years ago, they noticed that their trees were dying. Now the forests are a big part of German culture. Hansel and Gretel were lost in a forest, most of Grimm’s other fairy tales involved a forest of some sort. The Black Forest is the setting for many of them and the trees of that forest were being poisoned to death by pollution. So they cleaned it up. The whole country. They walked it back. They cleaned up the Rhine river. They’ve lowered the amount of pollution they produce from cars by encouraging alternate forms of transportation. And no, I’m not talking about electric cars or hybrid SUV’s – the very phrase of which makes me want to vomit. Words can not express how much that pisses me off. Yes, the answer to America’s gross overconsumption of power is to turn our big, lard-ass gasoline vehicles into big lard-ass electric vehicles. We couldn’t just drive a smaller vehicle, because that would be going just too far. Anyway, Germany has bike paths that connect the place you are to the place you want to go, resulting in, get this, increased usage of bikes as transportation. Amazing, no?
What else have I learned? All stores are closed on Sunday. Federal law. “Not free market,” we scream. Yup and yet, they’re economy is growing. Hmmm. I guess if you aren’t pretending to have a free market economy, you can still make it work. Interesting.
Anyway, I am loving studying German. I’m using three different sources right now. An purely audio CD set and two books. They don’t agree with each other in pronunciation which makes it a bit difficult but it’s fun nonetheless. I figure maybe I’ll reach a nice balance.
Auf Weidersehen! (Good-bye)