Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chapter 6, In which my language skills made my day

Yesterday was an exciting day for me. It was also extremely taxing, but I suppose that's life. In my last post I talked at length about the Goethe system, and how my studies are being conducted. I said that I was at the B2.1 level, after completing the B1.1 level in the last four week period. Yesterday, I took the first piece of the B1 certification test: this is a certification called the 'Zertifikat Deutsch,' and it certifies that you have mastered German up to the B1 level. It is also, incidentally, the level of certification required to become a German citizen. Fundamentally, it states that one has the German required to live in Germany.

I received a bit of validation of this on my way home from class - I had taken a 3 hour German test in the morning, and sat through 4.5 hours of lecture. I was pretty tired, and listening to my music. At the station before mine, the loudspeaker binged, so I took my headphones out, just in time to hear an announcement from the train operator. You must understand, this is actually quite unusual -- usually, the announcements come at regular points, and are prerecorded. This was actually the driver sitting in the front of the train talking. He greeted us (the passengers), and went on to explain that there was a downed power line in my station (the next one), and the train would not be moving until it was fixed. Sadly, he did not know when that would be. At this point, I looked out the window, noticed a set of buses idling, and made a split-second decision. I lept from my seat and ran through the station to the bus stop. I went to the first bus, and asked rather breathlessly: "Fährt dieses Bus nach Hochdahl?" (Does this bus go to Hochdahl?) The driver told me the bus went to the marketplace (not so useful for me), but that I wanted bus 5, which was at the front of the line. I thanked him, and headed to the aforementioned bus. I got on, and to make a long story short, I arrived home only 10 minutes or so later than I would have otherwise.

The experience left me with the sensation that I could really live here. Before, it's always felt like I was barely making it. But I've started to develop routines -- I know my way around the city, I have places I like to eat, and I can understand most communications, even if they're unscripted. I've discovered German music, and I'm listening to it almost exclusively now. To drive the point home, I'm typing at my normal speed on a German keyboard. What does that mean? Well, the keys are all mixed up! A normal sentence in English (typed like on a normal keyboard) would look like this: Mz goodness but it takes some SERIOUS getting used to to make use of this sillz kezboard )obviouslz z and y are mixed up)! I mean, <i canät even make things work!

You get the point.

Returning to language, it feels like I have arrived at the edge. Prior to now, I was unable to really understand most of what went on around me. Now, it feels like I understand most of it, even if my vocabulary is a bit lacking. But I have the connections to learn vocabulary at a phenomenal rate. All I would need is about 3 or 4 months living here, and I would be totally fluent (Incidentally, the Goethe Institute estimates that after about 6 months of study here, I would speak German better than many Germans). It's an empowering feeling.

I write this in one of my breaks from class, and it will end shortly, so I must here sign off. To all who are reading my blog:

Liebe Grüße, und ich freue mich, eure Achtung gehabt zu haben.
Best regards, and I'm happy to have had your attention.