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Damned if you do

I rang the bell and waited. Nothing. I was reminded of a similar situation about 2 years back when I'd arrived at an office and rung a small black bell which was connected to the company logo with a giant arrow. I rang it twice and eventually a woman appeared and told me there was no need to ring the bell, I should have just walked straight in ('someone should do something about that giant arrow then,' I remembered thinking at the time).  So here I was again. Waiting in front of another small black doorbell. 'Once bitten, twice shy', I thought to myself and I pushed the door open. Another door stood in front of me and a man was exiting. He held the door and I thanked him and walked in. It was a small office, barely enough room to swing a cat with two chairs in front of me and two more to my right beside a hatstand. On a table to the left stood the ubiquitous bottle of disinfectant. Covid. A woman appeared in front of me and I knew she worked there that way that you
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What's in a name?

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When translation doesn't work (slipping up...again)

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A case for cartoons

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Come again?

A man crossing the street approached to ask me a question. "Eshmm hummm gartz?" he said. "The podcasters in my ear grew fainter as I removed the earphone in preparation for when I'd ask him to repeat himself, inevitably.  Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash "Eshmm hummm gartz?" he said calmly. At least one of us had patience. With one hand on the buggy and the other straining to rein in my inquisitive dog, I was quickly losing mine. And now, to cap it all , I had to decode muffled gibberish . "I don't know. I think it's there." I motioned him to a doctor's surgery just behind me. I was taking a stab at a suitable reply and seemed to have hit the mark. I heard a "danke!" before I manoeuvred both dog and buggy around a tree and back onto the path. It was a cold morning and the lost stranger had his scarf covering half his face as a result. Or so I assume. It may have been a makeshift mask. Either way, the scenario reminded m

Reaching the plateau

I used to go hiking as a teenager. I remember huffing and puffing my way up the mountainside, the summit just up ahead and the sight of it encouraging me to push on. But on reaching the spot that I'd believed was the top, I felt my excitement turn to disappointment. What I'd thought was the summit was just an illusion and there was more mountain left to climb. Photo by Wolfgang Hasselman on Unsplash *** In the beginning, when you were just starting to learn the language, your progress was fast and perceptible . You jumped from zero knowledge to 20 new words in a week. You kept on learning and suddenly you could pick out familiar words you heard in a conversation, menus gradually lost their mystery and you were using 'yes' and 'no' with the confidence of someone who means what they say. Your speedy development motivated you to keep on learning. The more you could feel yourself breaking through the language barrier, the hungrier you were to learn. Fluency was ju

Are you listening?

Listening. The most daunting of the 4 skills. For me, anyway. Let me explain. First off, there's writing. Writing has something listening and speaking cannot offer: time. It allows you to stop and consider your wording,   look up new words and correct your spelling. You can even research the best way to phrase something so that your text is natural and error free. Reading is similar.  You can also stop, go back and reread, then  mull it over , consider the potential meanings, even slowly analyse the grammar. When speaking you can prepare what you're going to say, look up more words, practise and repeat it to yourself.  But listening, folks, is  a totally different kettle of fish . You may or may not be able to hear the text again, and if you do, perhaps it won't be said in exactly the same way (when you ask someone to repeat themselves, for example). Plus, isn't it irritating  when you can't quite catch a word or sentence and can't simply look it up because yo