Skip to main content

Posts

Read on

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
Recent posts

What's in a name?

My name? Of course, it's ... Yea, I mean, that's an easy question. Of course I know the answer to that one. I know lots of answers to that question. I'm just not sure which one to give. It's the little things, isn't it? "Can I take your name?" asks the hairdresser/restaurant manager/call centre agent and all your life you answer the same way: Tracey (for you it'll most likely be different.) Then you move abroad and many things are done a little differently. "What is your name?" in Germany means my surname if I don't want things arriving at my door addressed to Ms. Tracey. So these days I give my surname, by itself, nothing in front of it. And that, to me, feels weird.  When I was growing up only the boys were called by their surnames. Adults were Mrs. Reilly this and Mr. Kennedy that. S urnames were for barking at people who'd angered you as in "Higgins! Come here now!" As a very well-mannered girl I can assure you that my

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

In part II of common mistakes, I'm taking a look at what can sometimes happen when Spanish is translated to English. As I mentioned in  part I of slipping up  mistakes are, of course, part of the learning journey and often result in great stories you can tell later (unlike at the time of making them when they are usually very, very embarrassing!). This list is not intended to discourage, but encourage. You can't learn a language overnight, but you can tweak it a little all the time and although you might not notice the improvement, believe me, it's there.  Below are some common mistakes that some Spanish speakers make.* *This is a generalisation. You might be a Spanish speaker and not make these mistakes, or a non-Spanish speaker who makes these mistakes! 1. Yes or yes Perhaps you're in a meeting with colleagues and it's time to take decisive action. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done whether you like it or not . It needs to be done 'yes or yes&#

A case for cartoons

"Willst du die suchen gehen, Leo?" I called out to the kitchen walls. Two seconds later a disembodied voice from the tablet echoed my question. "I'm getting good at this," I thought with a smug smile. While I was up to my elbows in greasy suds , my 15-month-old sat enjoying his cartoon at the kitchen table. Having seen, or at least heard, each episode three times, I wasn't surprised I could anticipate the next line. This screen time is completely justifiable , by the way. I play the German version, so, thanks to Covid-19, it is currently one of the only sources of German my son is exposed to regularly. Also it, you know, provides some much needed quiet time.  But there's more to cartoons than meets the eye . They've turned out to be a helpful little study aid for me . In fact, I believe cartoons aimed at very small children can be great learning tools for adult learners. Here's why: the sentences are short and uncomplicated, the meaning is gener

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