Kim's Austrian Adventure

My year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Graz, Austria. Yes, there are other cities in Austria besides Vienna.

3. April 2007

When languages collide

  • Reading: Peter Altenberg: Vita Ipsa: Kaffeehaus

  • Listening to: Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, are You the Destroyer?: Gronlandic Edit

  • German Word of the Day: Akzent

  • Translation: accent

  • Example: Wenigstens rede ich nicht Englisch mit deutschem Akzent./At least I'm not speaking English with a German accent.

I’ve been home two months now, but my default language is still German. I first noticed it when at the Detroit Symphony, where I kept accidentally dropping my program into the lap of the guy next to me and saying, “’schuldige”.

Then I came out of my room one morning last week and greeted my dog in German. He obviously did not care, because “snausage” is the same in both languages. Yesterday evening, when I was running on the elliptical machine, I was highly confused, as I knew I could not possibly be running THAT slowly… wait, it was in miles, not kilometers. (Side note: I was driving to Bowling Green, Ohio for Amy’s recital on Sunday and on the way noticed a sign that said “Toledo: 10 miles, 16 Kilometers”. I mean, wha? Ohio just putting up km signs around Toledo? They are terrible drivers, have annoying football fans, and now they put up km signs in an inconsistent fashion? Do you all see why the people in MI hate the people in OH? /rant.) On the other hand, I felt I was superhuman while working on the weight machines, until I started converting everything to kilograms.

I’ve been reading German books, watching German movies, and speaking German while talking to myself, which makes it all the more hilarious when people catch me. This does something to my brain, convincing me that the people all around me are speaking German. I guess it’s just something I want to hear. On the flight home I tried to absorb every last drop of German, from the flight attendants complaining about annoying, non-German speaking passengers to the pilot’s warnings of turbulence.

There is, however, one area where I simply cannot bring myself to speak German, and that is the use of German words in the English language. Soon after my arrival in Graz, Chrissi asked me if we used German words in English, and I could only come up with a few, like "über" and "Zeitgeist". Throughout the year, I would bark words at her, mid-conversation (with her or anyone else). The words had nothing to do with the topics at hand, but I was so excited that I had thought of another German word that we used! "We" being everyone else except for me, of course. Language snobs (I prefer the term "purist") don't do that sort of thing. Unless we're talking with another person who also speaks the language. Then we like to show off. To each other. Or is this just me and Adrienne?

The words are often pronounced with an American accent that makes my skin crawl. Words like

Fahrvergnügen (always pronounced "far-fig-newgen")
Gemütlichkeit (oh, they will never truly understand it unless they have lived in Austria!)
Leitmotiv (I actually like this one, especially when it comes to music. Also, it's difficult to mispronounce.)

Wow, that's a long list. A guy was recommending me wine over the weekend and said that the Spätlese was particularly good. Except he said "spaatleeza". I almost fell over.

Similarly, there is a list of English words used in German that annoy the crap out of me. I'm typically not annoyed with how they are pronounced (I always manage to flip-flop them -- I pronounce them in German when they're supposed to be in English and vice versa), but that everyone is being so LAZY and just using English words instead of German. I understand certain technorati terms like blog, computer, and browser, but these?

Boss (der Chef)
Business (das Geschäft)
Camping (das Zelten)
checken (kapieren - I will admit I like this one)
City (die Innenstadt/das Stadtzentrum)
Consulting (die Beratung)
Cranberries (die Preiselbeere - not exactly, but still)
Homepage (die Startseite)
Image (das Ansehen)
Juice (der Saft - Eva and have I a special hatred of this one)
outen (sich offenbaren)
Queue (die Warteschlange - I'm surprised they even use this English word, as they DO NOT KNOW HOW TO STAND IN LINE!)

I would say one word and they would correct me. I don't mind being corrected -- in fact, I encourage it, because I want to learn from and fix my mistakes. Sometimes I thought that they were saying words in English because they were conversing with me, though -- like I wouldn't understand if they said it in German. Now I know better.

Oh, there is one German word that I use in English all of the time: Schadenfreude. I like this one more because of its definition than the way it rolls off of my tongue.

"Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude (denn sie kommt von Herzen): "Schadenfreude is the most superb kind of joy (since it comes directly from the heart)."


At 29 Mai, 2007 16:25, Anonymous Anonym said...

The historic city centre of Graz was awarded World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in more

At 13 Juni, 2007 02:20, Anonymous Charis said...

Hey Kim! Thanks for leaving the nice long note. It's cool to know that you're still reading. What's going on in your life right now? No updates, busy life? Hope you're doing fine, all the best, Charis :-)


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