Making nice and France

Yesterday I went to France. What’d you guys do?

(more on France later)

Tip: If you want to practice and improve (as I wrote this it took me a few seconds to think of the English word “improve”...) your German, you must make nice with the other foreign exchange students. The main reason being that your common language is now German. Unless, of course, your group of exchange students is made up of primarily English majors – then it is beneficial for them (but not you) to speak both German and English. However – German is best, because that’s why we’re all really here, isn’t it? At first it will be, I’ll admit, very intimidating to speak German to or around these other exchange students. They will have most likely taken German language courses for longer than you have. They will also seem to sound better at speaking the language than you do. Truth is, they’re not. Heh.

First: After several hours of sitting with them and talking to them you realize that each of them has their own accent when speaking German. In a way, it’s just like when we’re (we being the US kids) speaking German, but with European accents. It’s really fun (now) to listen to them speak, because once you’re able to recognize that they have accents as well, there is one less thing for you to be self-conscious about. This is not our mother tongue, and we all sound funny when we speak it, so get over it. Plus, they sound funny when they speak English, so if you’re counting points, you have one-up on them.

Second: Even though the other exchange students (plus Kathy, “The Dictionary” from our Coe German classes) seem to know a lot of big words in German, many of them relating to studies here, or credit systems, or other... complicated things. This, in turn, gives the impression that their overall vocabularies are larger than ours. But, I can say this from experience: when it comes to four-letter words in German, or other self-expression words in the “swears” family, or certain slang words, or more contemporary things, no one tops us. As mentioned in the previous post, the phrase “Ich liebe dich, du Arsch” came up during our trade-fest last Friday. As also mentioned, the two Polish students I was grouped with had no idea what that meant. “That” being “Arsch.” I knew, and thought that it was basic knowledge. I also taught Joanne, the same Polish student who didn’t understand the above phrase, the word “verdammt” (damned). She tried expressing something about her bike (in anger) and I mimicked her situation using the phrase “verdammtes Fahrrad!”, to which Joanne said, “Ah! Verdammtes! Ja!” Whether I was reminding her or educating her, I don’t know. It’s a good thing I watch foreign films, and have been reading comics in German. I know lots of good words :) Another point for the US kids.

Third: I have to admit that when it’s just the three of us (Kathy, Andi and myself), we speak English. There is no temptation like the ERASMUS or IPAS people talked about – we just do it. It comes naturally. The Polish students speak Polish to one another from time to time, as do the Greek students with Greek. I will say now that I would like to work at it so when the three of us are together we are not speaking in English, save high-stress or extreme situations. Also, the more we try to speak German amongst ourselves, the more we can work on improving during the times we are away from the other students. Hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have greatly improved.

So Wissembourg, France, is a very nice little city. Today, however, the streets were literally empty until around 4 P.M. Then there were some crazy grade schoolers on bikes and other people. Kathy, two of the Polish students (Ewa and Kati) and I took a train and were surprised when the 30 minute ride was over.

There was a circus in the city today, so my guess is that everyone was there. For a €1 cover charge, it’s apparently something not to be missed. There's one older church (the one in the background of the first photo) and a newer one that's too cold feeling.

It didn’t hit us until we got into the main train station that it was seriously all in French. I did hear some people speaking German, however – at one time a little boy demanded something from Ewa, one of the Polish students who came with us (she kind of backed away from him and said “Nein...um. Nein?”), and we all kind of looked at him and tried to move past him and his group of friends. Then a little girl from the group asked us “Wie viel Uhr ist es?” (what time is it?) and we all went “Ooooh, ja, _____!” The kid had asked for the time (Andi told us afterwards), but we didn’t get it. It was cool how the other kid spoke German. Comes in quite handy. Other than that we spent the day as German tourists in France.

Cakes and pastries in France, even though it’s just across the boarder (30 minute train ride), are SO much prettier than here in Landau. I didn’t buy anything, because those kinds of things need to be purchased with a coffee and enjoyed on the spot, not taken with and eaten in a student apartment. We’ll go back again on a busier day to really experience it. It was, however, a relief to get back to Landau and see the Berliner, pretzels, and other simple pastry or breadstuff items for under €1.

Joanne met us at the station and she and Kathy and I went to a local Italian restaurant/café where we can get an “exchange student” discount for cappuccinos and huge pieces of tiramisu. I had never had tiramisu before, so one of the waiters said if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have to pay. Tiramisu, as I saw it = cake + pudding + cocoa powder. The waiter came back later and asked if we had liked it. We leaned back from our plates (empty) and I (bluntly) said “Nee, es hat mir nichts geschmeckt.” (= nope). Then we laughed, we cried, we were moved. It’s good tiramisu. The workers at the café have a great sense of humor and enjoy talking to and joking their customers – the owner came by a few times and asked us where we were from, etc. That kind of establishment is nice because you don’t feel like you’re being rushed to sit down, eat/drink, pay and leave. Even though you’re a paying customer, you’re an equal.


At 1:23 vorm., Anonymous Anonym said...

for more swear words - contact Jason Alcott!



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