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Don’t hesitate. Sign up for an online German distance learning course and learn to speak German already. Or you can do what I did, and use language learning as your flimsy excuse to live abroad for like ever. Here’s a breakdown of how I improved my German while living in Berlin. Sadly, it’s probably a lot more coherent than my German. Hopefully it will help somebody, someday. Four key steps to success:

1. “Tandem” or “language exchange”
Tandem is what the Germans call a conversational meeting (usually over coffee) in which a German speaker and an English speaker divide the time between two languages. Rather than pay a tutor for an hour of German instruction or conversation practice, I could get a half hour of help in the form of casual chatting, and getting questions answered about how to say certain words or phrases in German. For the second half hour I would help my tandem partner with her English, as she was preparing for a placement test to get back into school.

I wanted to learn German slang. So she taught me that in German the hip-hop version of Wie geht’s? is Was geht? I believe it’s like the difference between “How are you?” and “Whatup?” It may seem trivial, but it actually got me a lot of mileage with the locals. It’s not like anybody mistook me for a thug from the knifecrime district of Berlin, but at least it made people laugh and helped break the ice more than once.

Tandem was the most likely place for me to learn this piece of German slang. I wouldn’t have had the time in the German class I took, where the focus was lesson plans and grammar, nor did I ask any of my German friends teach it to me, as I didn’t want to bore them excessively with minutia about a language they generally take for granted. In Tandem I had the luxury to talk exclusively about the fun aspects of the language. She also hooked me up with an apartment.

You can find Tandem partners in the activities section of Berlin’s Craigslist.

2. Making friends
I knew going into it that the most organic way for me to improve my German would be to speak solely in German with all the new people I met. I assumed all Germans spoke perfect English, so I was prepared

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for a challenge. But after settling in I was happily surprised: not all Germans speak English!

In fact, a couple very close friendships were conducted entirely in German. But because my German was even worse then, I couldn’t help feeling slightly suspicious of anyone who would tolerate lengthy conversation with a verbal cripple like me.

What were they getting out of it?

That remains an open question, but for me the rewards were crystal clear. I got hours of real-life practice forming sentences, responding to questions, making jokes and even working through misunderstandings caused by my poor language skills. Talk about a steep learning curve. I even picked up some very practical language tips: after asking was? all the time, I was told to change it up occasionally with the more polite phrase: wie, bitte?

Of course, many Germans do speak English extremely well, and inevitably I made friends with folks who spoke only English to me. I didn’t mind the friendship, but it didn’t help my German at all. And here’s where an unbroken pattern revealed itself: the first few moments of meeting somebody would absolutely determine the language used for the life of the relationship. The second I said “Hi, how are you,” to someone, the German language was DOA.

I think the reason is because I am a different person when I speak German. I express visible glee whenever I can formulate a sentence. Time slows down and every object on the street or in the café becomes amazing, something worth inquiring about. In German, I am a child.

Once I put it to a test and tried switching to German with a friend who normally spoke English to me. It was a complete disaster. One could almost hear a grinding sound as I tried to switch gears into that friendly, lobotomized character that worked so well in German-language friendships. I smiled and blinked uncomprehendingly as a torrent of gibberish flowed from his mouth. He was baffled by my precipitous drop in IQ. It took only moments for us to switch back to English. We were both embarrassed.

3. Reading books
“Here, read this,” a local once told me. It was Arabboy, by Güner Balci, about a Lebanese-Palestinian boy who chooses a life of crime in the poor part of Berlin. Despite its humor, darkness and valuable insight into the immigrant experience, the prose would have bored me stiff if translated into English. But in German I am a child. And in German, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I followed it up with Bertold Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, and inevitably found some parallels in the criminal heroes of both stories.

Of course, in both cases practically every sentence yielded multiple new vocabulary words. So rather than look each word up as I encountered it, I would simply write it down and move on. Only at the end of each chapter would I look up all the definitions, write them down, memorize them, then re-read the chapter with a whole new level of comprehension.

It’s work, but it works; the primary benefits were reading comprehension amassing vocabulary. But while this is not a direct method of learning grammar rules, reading hundreds of pages in German did make me more comfortable with the way German

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sentences are thrown together, and I actually think it even helped my spoken German.

But for real help with grammar, there’s nothing like taking a German course:

4. Taking German classes in Berlin
I enrolled in a German course through the Volkshochschule, which is a nationwide adult education program for lower income folk. An expat friend recommended it, but the Germans I knew would disparage it. One was concerned I’d get bored, and another, with decidedly elitist sensibilities, was uncomfortable mentioning the word in public. The course was held in a bright orange high school building from the Soviet era, located in Wedding, a district with zero popular appeal and a large working class population.

I was attracted to it because I’m cheap. A month long course involving around 80 hours of instruction cost something like 100 Euros. There were other young American expats like me in the course, along with older people who came to Germany looking for economic opportunities. Some students hailed from really exotic places like Belarus, Nigeria and the newly-formed nation of Kosova. Our instructor was very friendly but inexperienced. She spoke with a slight Turkish accent, and the course moved at a snail’s pace; per the lesson plan we wasted a lot of time in activities like making posters to pin up to the wall. Nobody liked the text book but her hands were tied, she said.

Despite these criticisms, I really did learn fundamental grammar rules that I wouldn’t have learned outside the classroom environment. No matter how inefficiently the course was run, I feel that by getting up early and putting over four hours in every day, I was bound to learn something, even if I didn’t make it through to the end of the month. If I had to do it again, I might pony up a bit more, for a faster paced and more exciting German course in Berlin.

So there you have it. Since moving back home my German has degraded a lot but I’m trying to keep up by attending a German conversation group in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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This is a well-known clip from the motherland. It has everything one wants from black and white memories; Pre-hooliganism innocence; Blighty’s best musical export; and quirky, overstated analysis by the

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his head. A recipe for sad associations? Not a chance. It was The Kop. It was

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Underground Accident

Ever try to do the right thing? Terrible idea because the forces of fate are loathe to permit such acts of responsibility society puts forth as ideal standards. Time and time again the inclinations of would-be do-gooders result in failure, ridicule and winking, “should’ve known better” glances as the viral tales of defeat spread from amused bystanders to friends, family and co-workers.

My own life has been a steady trickle of avoiding situations which require a choice of right or wrong because the fear of retribution and the desire to act in accordance to values promulgated by church and state conspire with handshakes and bank transfers to tear me asunder. I hate the metro stops along the Embarcadero for the simple fact that they have fare boxes at either entry and standing on the platform suggests that the social contract has been signed– you have paid the entry fee and are waiting with evidence of this transaction for your civil chariot.

It may surprise you that I’m at all hesitant to pay for the bus. Okay, it doesn’t surprise the people who think of me as a pauper among misers nor the people who know of my coin jars but it might seem contrary to those who know my opinions on civic infrastructure and transportation: cities should not require the use of a car for the citizens to get to and from home and work and all points between. San Francisco has a far-reaching bus and trolly system which provides ample coverage but has never been able to manage this service in a timely, clean or safe manner. If the bus driver isn’t taking out a stop shelter or if the train isn’t dragging old Chinese women underneath then there’s a lunatic who has spent the past week marinating in their own shit yelling at their invisible friend or some kid with a gun in their backpack in the wrong part of town. All this after you waited for half an hour in the rain and get skipped by the first two busses which are packed closely followed by the third which is only going half the route.

So when you walk up to one of the Proof of Payment (POP) stops you’re subject to trying to ignore the fare cop who’s standing in your personal space shouting in a desperate attempt to raise their voice above your headphones– wearing dark sunglasses helps. But the cops are no where to be seen when you’re standing at the entry eyeing the fare boxes and so the casual observers will see only you paying for no damned reason and thinking you’re the fool for doing so. The only reason is fear of being caught but I always lost in the battle of fears and I always paced nervously around the stop near suffocation. For some reason I never had any problem smoking the whole time which is also liable for a ticket even after a maintenance worker warned me.

The odds are on your side, of course. How many fare cops can there be out there at any given time? There’s seven metro lines with any number of cars on the rails going two different directions. The underground stations are probably where most of the searches take place because tourists are easier to intimidate and not even the fare cops actually wanna ride MUNI. Hell, it’s not that long ago no one even gave a shit about the fare collection. Little kids would stare down bus drivers after running on the back door, bums would wave spent kleenex for fast passes and station attendants, if there was one, were usually too busy talking to someone to notice anyone hopping the stile. Shit, they didn’t even seem to notice anyone opening the wheelchair gate and its piercing alarm. But then they built these new stations out by State and the mall which was a joke. Except to Jay, the only person who was ever busted for fare evasion resulting in the second time he had to go to juvenile court. (more…)

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I sincerely

apologize… It’s been a hell of a month and it seems knowing me was a sure fire way to have some trauma in your life: Three people I know lost loved ones this month, one losing two friends in seperate overdoses. A friend’s grandfather also was admitted to the ICU with a highly elevated white blood cell count but no tests have proven conclusive last I’d heard… My parents’ both lost their cars in one fell swoop. A high speed chase ended in my dad’s van which ended in my mom’s car. Both rear axles were snapped and the insurance company towed the derelict husks away in exchange for a total of five grand which, as you probably know, doesn’t buy a new car let alone two. This instigated a week-long mess for the folks which involved trains to Sacramento, cell phones landing in Salt Lake City needing to be returned, locking keys in cars (on loan) and a faulty oil change dumping everything on the street and leaving the car empty and needing to be towed to a diagnostic by Honda. When I last saw them they were just finishing the paperwork for the accident a week prior and looked pretty worn out. My roommate had a late night collision leaving his bike a little fucked, the car unfucked and some staples in his head. Black eye, swollen face, light concussion ambulance ride and a night in the hospital. After a couple days being cared for by his mom he returned home wearing huge and ugly sunglasses but in a chipper mood. Two friends spent time in psych wards, one brought by the cops and one on their own terms. The spiral of impact these events had on others was enough to wipe me out for a month on their own so luckily they happened within a week of each other smack dab in the middle. One friend decided to check into rehab which I guess is good but also carries a lot of bad into the conversation. The same head-trip as the last paragraph,

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I suppose: where were you before all this happened and why do you think trying to deal with if after makes up for the neglect and carelessness you showed not being there for people… Ah… Hell, I was declined for the first credit card I ever applied for because I don’t have any references. How do you get references? You have previous credit cards. They offered me a lower limit pre-paid card but frankly I just wanted free airline miles so fuck you and the pigs… Feel like I’m forgetting things and to be honest I probably am since I lost my ability to think about two weeks ago and have only slowly begun to sleep more than six hours at a time and complete sentences again. It wasn’t all bad: a friend of mine found out she was pregnant (which was good news) and two friends just announced today they had birthed a baby girl. Two friends got married (to each other, which is easier to deal with) and I was allowed to watch. A lot of people were in town who I don’t get to see very often and it was great to be able to spend a little bit of time catching up. Then again my friend in from Minneapolis was hung over when we met (we only had an hour due to my dealing with some shit and his previous engagements) and tho he was doing well it did come out that someone we had both worked with and been friends with years back had been killed a couple years ago in an accident. Tho by a bow or a boat I’m still not certain. Anyways, it brought the already quiet and still morning to an even slower speed. Anyways, a pretty polarized month. More eventful then most, to be sure, but I’m not really made for constant activity of the best sort let alone the worst. Again, I’m sure I’ve neglected to write something down so if I’ve missed your personal trauma and you would like an apology just get in touch. If I neglected your happiness remind me of that too unless I just pissed you off… Sorry for another indulgent, off the wrist posting. No pics, no links, no regard for the world outside my head… Shame, for shame! I promise to get the pony started in July with actual research and thinking and cross-references and babies flying out of carriages and shit… Seems like I’m dripping topics from my pants right now. Let’s be safe out there.

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After a difficult internal debate the votes were tabulated and it was decided that attendence was unavoidable. The walk down Townsend, left on 4th, right on Bryant was made, ending in a small doorway concealed from the street by a small sickly tree. Two windows on either side, choked with neon lights looking more like fire hazards then enticing adverts. Inside the darkness that only real despair can achieve– a dim sallow light accenting the filth and decay instead of chasing it from the room. An odd place for a company holiday party, but then again it

was an odd company.

It was a small bar that never felt full. The door leads to a short bar on one side,one bathroom and a wall directly across. Three beers draft but one was Beamish and since there were drinks already paid for (for the first hour) and they didn’t seem interested in how old I was Beamish was the drink. A jukebox past the bar in the corner hanging off a partition had been plugged full of quarters and Myrna, the company founder, had selected every Eagles and Bee Gees song she unearthed. This was not irony, it was sad. In quieter times the jukebox was cheaper than most but the selection reflected this and many times the same songs were played.

Past the jukebox, behind the partition it hung from, was a small raised platform with a couple dartboards and a couple small tables making a game of darts impossible. They had a sushi spread that day, pizza showed up later, and the writing staff held viagracanada-onlinerx.com court looking down their noses at the tech staff who seemed to dress in the dark every day. Across from the platform was the pool table, cheaper than most, about a foot shorter than most. Five or so booths stretched back from the table to the end of the room, two more dartboards hung amidst Budweiser banners and sad little pennants. free viagra or cialis

So

we sat, milled about, talked about work or the latest internet gossip. Myrna wittled away her sobriety and staggered thought the proceedings with flushed face and began singing along to the soundtrack. I sat at the bar with two of the bitter tech staff talking shit. The bartender seemed bewildered by this flood of people and tried cialis from canada her best but her ability to work in such a fast paced environment was not quite enough to make her seem comfortable.

This place was great, even crowded with the social retards and fashion wannabees I worked with at the time. Bars were never places I wanted to be but this wasn’t a bar so much as a clubhouse for people that had been kicked out of the more reputable clubs. On a normal night you may find a couple quiet drunks at the bar watching TV, whatever game might be on, or talking their non-conversations with the bartender. Occasionally is cialis from canada safe a pool game, occasionally a couple at a booth playing Scrabble. It was a neighborhood bar in a part of town that was predominantly commercial and industrial, a part of town that was desolate at night except for the periodic rattling of a shopping cart or roar of a rice rocket headed towards the freeway. It was a half hour walk from my house but one I made eagerly.

A friend used to universal kits cialis work swing shift and I would swing by when the crew got off. Everyone would caravan down Bryant as fast as possible and order two or three drinks upon arrival. The bartender passed out makeshift ashtrays and wandered around the motley collection trading jokes or just milling about. She would make last call at two and seemed to appreciate the business if not the company. Of course it was just as likely to be closed on any given night, without warning and eriacta vs viagra often without any indication it had been closed forever.

It’s been closed forever, gutted and gone. No more Eagles Drift In Lounge. Just another casualty.

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