16 August, 2009

Refrections 3 & The Joys of German

A week or so ago, I started (self) studying German. I was expecting it to be difficult. What i wasn't expecting was HOW bloody difficult it is. And it's difficult on different levels too, which i also didn't expect.
I had had numerous warnings from friends (both non-Germans & Germans) that the grammar is difficult. And it is. The problem for me is that the grammar is completely alien to me - it's so different to English in how it's formed. For example, there are verbs with prefixes (e.g. bekommen (to get) or ankommen (to arrive))
Seems simple enough, right.
But no, NOTHING in German is that simple.
Some prefixes are inseparable from the verb (e.g. Yuki bekommt eine Einladung (Yuki gets an invitation)) However, others ARE separable (e.g. Yuki kommt in Deutschland an (Yuki arrives in Germany))

I'm also having problems with the pronunciation. I cannot master st- or sp-; which look deceptively simple. In German, they are pronounced more like 'sht-' or 'shp-'. Z is pronounced like a Japanese 'tsu' and 'ch-' sounds like someone is clearing their throat. Individually, these sounds are not too bad, but when they are together, it's really hard. For example, no matter how hard i try, I cannot pronounce streicheln (to stroke). I just get a confused tongue & spit all over everyone.
Saying that, German pronunciation/spelling is very consistent - how it's spelt is how it's pronounced, with very few exceptions.

Those are just a couple of examples of how different/difficult German is - there are many more (and I'm only on lesson 7), but i will not bore you with the details. Don't think i'm going to be fluent anytime soon; definitely not in 30 days...

In other news, I am in the process of renewing my passport. Do you know how much a British passport costs nowadays? 154€ (= JPY20,000 or US$220)!!!!!

I also found out that if i were to get my passport renewed in Britain, the price would be GBP77.50 - about half price. Why the hell does it cost twice as much if i renew it in Germany? FYI, it costs around JPY20,000 to renew it in Japan, so at least they're consistently ripping off British people overseas. The mysteries of British bureaucracy, eh?

Still discovering a lot of interesting things about my new home...here are some of the latest.

OK, this isn't a new discovery. But i am in awe of the price of beer here. A crate (20x500ml bottles) from the local supermarket costs around 12€. TWELVE! That's about 1,600 JPY or $17! That's 60 cents a beer. About 80 yen per beer!
Not only that, all the bottles & the crate have a deposit too, so if you take back an empty crate, you get about 3€ back. So actually, the crate of beer only costs 9€! No wonder Germans drink a lot of beer. Or is it the opposite way round - it's cheap because Germans drink a lot of it? Whatever - beer is cheap & that makes me happy!

Recycling Machines
At the supermarket, there are two machines to get your deposit back. One is for soft plastic bottles & cans, the other for hard plastic & bottles. The first machine crushes the plastic bottles, with a satisfying crunch sound. The other just sends stuff to the warehouse at the back of the supermarkets. Both machines are fully automated & calculate the total, then print out a receipt which you can either cash in, or use to pay for the next crate of beer. Last week, we collected all the bottles & cans here, took them to the supermarket & got about 25€ back. And yes, we did buy a new crate...

I know this is going to sound really silly, but i am fascinated by the windows here. A lot of places have tilt-and-turn windows which i have never seen before. These are windows that can be opened in two ways; either opened like a normal window or tilted, with the top just open. Don't know if that makes sense - maybe it's easier to look at a photo. I have no idea how they work, but it's a really cool idea/design. Have no idea if they exist elsewhere - i've only seen them here.

And that is the latest news from Deutschland.
In short: In reward for mastering a nightmarish language, Germans get the privilege of cheap beer, cool windows and 50€ passports.

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