Testing is done and I never have to speak another word of German again! Well, not true since I live in Switzerland, but the days of German class and studying for the Zentrale Mittelstufenprüfung are over. Results arrive mid-September — stay tuned for reports of great joy or else the gnashing of teeth, followed by a deep funk and the nursing of many Dr. Peppers.
Now I’m at a loss. Should I re-learn French (which immediately departed my brain after college) or Spanish?
Below is a photo I took atop a crane.We went a little too high and wide, stalling the thing. Aaaaah. The operator, who was up there with me, had to call his wife on his cell phone to get her to restart the truck. I took this shot for posterity, hoping it wouldn’t be my last.


Open doors

Today I heard my favorite German idiom used for the first time: “Sie rennen offene Türen ein,” translated as “you’re running into open doors.” It’s the perfect way to say, hey, you don’t have to convince me of that, I think the same. I saw it while flipping through my dictionary a few months ago and say it to myself all the time. Today the bookstore clerk said it to my husband as he was expounding the virtues of American bookstores, what with their late hours, fancy sofas, and built-in Starbucks. We’re lucky to have one night a week where we can stay until 7:00 with nary a hot beverage or stool in sight.

I found a new class

My new German class is kicking my ass and I’ve only been once. I found a new school the same distance away as my current school and took an entrance test for the Zentrale Mittelstufenprüfung (ZMP) class. This class meets twice a week, four hours per week, until the exam in September. The head of the department failed me by three points, but decided I had the wherewithal to make a go of it. Hence I’m in a wonderful, challenging new class that is using the exact same book, on the same chapter, only two pages behind my other class. BUT THEY’RE BETTER. If only I had found them a year ago when I wanted to switch.
This weekend I ran into a former classmate who switched to a different (ahem, better) school over a year ago. She’s finished the ZMP and is working on the ZOP (next level). I have been kicking myself all week in between mounds of sample tests and homework for staying in a class that I knew was holding me back. FRUSTRATION! Another entry with more bitching is sure to follow after tonight’s class.


English has really wormed its way into the everyday Swiss vernacular. On occasion I’ve heard someone begin a sentence with “Enyvay…” (anyway) and continue on in Swiss-German, or she’ll add a phrase or interjection to punctuate the dialog. “Vow” (wow). Often you’ll pass someone saying “sheet” (darn it).*
Last week we celebrated a birthday in my German class. The birthday girl brought a few small cakes and cookies to share with everyone and we started singing “happy birthday” in English. After our teacher prompted us to sing the German version, I began again: “Heppie birsday to you”.
* This practice annoys many people for one reason or another, but c’est la vie, oder? (“Oder?” is similar to the Canadian “eh?”) I should say the Swiss have adopted words and phrases from other languages as well, but English seems to cause the most distress.

What’s been on your mind, Elli?

Well, I’m worried about numbers and my confusion surrounding them. Since learning German I have a hard time writing numbers and remembering numbers I thought I knew*. Case in point: I was filling out a voter registration card for the US and when I got to my current address I couldn’t remember if it was 23 or 32.
The problem is hearing a two-digit number in German, “zweiunddreissig” (literally “two and thirty”), then translating it to English and writing it from left to right. If I could just skip the translation part in my brain, as if German were my mother tongue, perhaps I wouldn’t have this trouble. Instead I write the 2 first because that’s the one I hear first, then add the 3 in front of it. Are you with me?
So why would I forget my address? Because I write while thinking in English, but more often I hear it and say it in German. All this switching from left-to-right then right-to-left is causing my brain to fog over. Don’t even get me started on my phone number.
*Edit: I still remember Elsa’s phone number which I dialed every day of my life from ages 7 to 15 even though she lived next door.