A German Word from History (No.3)

The previous post in this little series was a word from German history but this week I’m picking something from Austria:

Psychoanalyse (f.)

This is Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis and a bloody hard word to pronounce. (Something like “puh-soo-show-anna-loser”, but quickly).

Sigmund Freud, 1905

In researching these German words my starting point is my own knowledge of German history, which in school was focused on 1933-1945, and then later I became fascinated with the East German state.

Beyond Nazi history, Freud was included in my 2 years of school psychology – though don’t test me – and I think as teenagers we all found his theories a bit ridiculous but super interesting because of their drama and absolutism. He captured concepts in his work which are still part of our language now, such as defining the subconscious.

On a related note, there is a great fictionalised version of Freud in Robert Seethaler’s book Der Trafikant, about the elderly psychologist befriending a young man in 1938 Vienna. Short, charming and sad.

Foreign Horror Tips!

Here’s some foreign-language suggestions for the spooky season – boost your listening skills while enjoying some scares…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dark
A German Netflix production which portrays life in an isolated small town where various children have gone missing over the decades… could it have something to do with the power plant? Or with what lies beneath it? Low-Medium Spooky

Los Ojos de Julia (Julia’s Eyes)
Spanish thriller about a woman who is quickly losing her sight to a genetic illness. Her twin sister, who recently killed herself, had the same condition. Was it a genuine suicide? The eye stuff brings this into the horror genre… Medium Spooky

Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In)
This atmospheric Swedish film, adapted from the novel of the same name, is one of the best examples of a vampire movie. It is creepy and effectively chilling but in some ways it is also quite moving. Medium Spooky

El Orfanato (The Orphanage)
Would it really be Halloween without evil child ghosts in an abandoned orphanage? This is the best version of that. Very Spooky

REC
This tense zombie flick is one of the best examples of the found footage genre and uses a claustrophobic quarantined apartment building to excellent effect. Turn out the lights and try and remember to breathe. Super Spooky

Because it is almost Halloween and there are many amazing horror movies in English – especially in the last 5 years – here are some of the best (and scariest) I’ve ever seen:

The Babadook (2014)
Ghost Stories
(2018)
The Witch
(2015)
The Borderlands
(2013)
It Follows
(2015)
Hereditary 
(2018)

… and The Blair Witch Project, imo it’s still scary.

P.S. I am obsessed with the new Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, it is terrifying and I can’t stop watching!!

How hard is German vs Spanish?

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There is a lot to love about German and Spanish. If you are a native or fluent English speaker, it’s easy to see that German is from the same language family. If you live in certain areas of the US, you probably hear Spanish frequently and have a feel for its rhythms. Finally, all three languages share a lot of vocabulary, mostly via Latin/French.

I am seriously impressed if you have learned or are learning a language from a totally different part of the world, but it is comforting to know that a word like information works all over Europe. If you master the accents then all the “-ion” words will fall into your vocabulary-lap.

Here are the similarities and differences to watch out for if you choose to learn both Spanish and German:

SIMILARITIES

  1. Gender: German has three genders. Spanish has two. Learning German first, then, is a good way to ease yourself into el vs la! Nevertheless, they have similar rules. Some things are always feminine, and overlap across the languages – such as die Information and la información.
  2. Spelling: is easy! English spelling, to an outsider, can be a bit of a nightmare. Bear or bare? Where or wear? Spanish and German both follow regular rules of spelling and pronunciation, and in standardised speech, you should pronounce all the letters. (Classic example: the German word for fries is pommes, from the French, but it has two syllables).
  3. Sentence Structure: Okay, sentence structure is not exactly the same. But in both Spanish and German you have to get used to the idea of ditching English structure and realise that a direct translation does not work. You can train your brain to think in the target language and learn how to build sentences differently.

DIFFERENCES

  1. Pronunciation: okay, if you show someone a phrase like Öffentliche Verkehrsmittel (public transportation) then you might get the idea that German is a hideous pronunciation nightmare. But I have always found German much closer to English than Spanish – I can make myself understood in Spanish and French, but way more than with German, I will always sound like I am super mega obviously British.
  2. Cases: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, Genitive – the four horses of the language learner’s apocalypse. German cases took me years of school to get my head around and they are not worth explaining here. Needless to say, Spanish wins this one (even accounting for indicative vs subjunctive).

At the end of the day, these are both wonderful languages and talking with native speakers in their own tongue is amazing.

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Language Lessons Learned From a Weekend in Madrid

I have just returned from a weekend in Madrid, where it was crazy hot (for late September) but the atmosphere was the best and I got to throw out a bunch of “holas” and “graciases”. Here is a breakdown of how it went, language wise – and let me know about your own experience of putting your beginner or intermediate language skills to the test!

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  • I learned that the casual thing to say in Madrid is just “Buenas” or “buenos” and drop the “días” – one step closer to sounding like a native.
  • I had a mixed English/Spanish conversation with the hotel receptionist about a museum, and although I resorted to a bit of English and she explained some things in English, she kept returning to regular speed Spanish (which I could follow) which was nice of her and really rewarding!
  • I remembered to use the formal address “usted” instead of “tu” – this can be difficult at first because most learners use informal pronouns the whole time.
  • I overheard some old men calling their friend an “hijo de puta” – finally, something from Narcos heard in real life!
  • I asked questions! They were mostly fairly basic but I was proud of requesting a book in a shop and understanding his response and well as explaining a little further.
  • I used an impersonal construction! (I pointed at the mega spicy sauce and asked “se come con pan?” Apparently you could eat it with anything as long as you liked setting fire to your face).
  • I understood a whole bunch of plaques!

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  • I was asked by people, in Spanish, to take their photo, and I think just looking like I can speak Spanish is an achievement.

Estoy en Madrid!

Hola a todos, hoy estoy escribiendo en español porque estoy en España! Here’s a little note in Spanish while sitting in Madrid’s most important park!

Estoy en El Retiro, un parque grande en Madrid. Hace mucho calor pero me encanta el sol! Oigo música y pájaros, hay mucha gente y Madrileños que están cambiando por el parque.

Me encanta este ambiente distendido. He olvidado que significa el estrés!

Pronto tengo que escribir algo sobre mi experiencia hablando español.

Hasta luego~

Don’t know what to read auf Deutsch?

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I started reading in German a couple of years ago, and with each book it gets easier. You acquire vocabulary of course, but once I had one or two novels under my belt I felt more relaxed, confident and better able to properly lose myself in the fiction.

As mentioned before, if you are beginner-intermediate, you can totally start with translations of your favourite children’s books – I started with Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter about a year before I began with adult fiction.

Here are three modern books I loved and can recommend – they have a lot of dialogue, which makes them much easier to follow:

Tschick, Wolfgang Herrndorf
This is a kids/YA book which is also a movie so a really great place for a B1-B2 learner to start. Two outcast tweens take an impromptu road trip at the start of the summer vacation: Maik, who has an unhappy home life, and the mysterious Russian kid known as ‘Tschick’.

Und dann steht einer auf und öffnet das Fenster, Susann Pasztor
Fred, a single dad with a troubled 13 year old son, has trained as a volunteer companion to the dying and finds a challenge in his first assignment – the inscrutable Karla. When Fred manages to torpedo a tenuous friendship with Karla, son Phil provides a link between these three lonely souls. Odd couple tearjerkers, anyone?

Wende, Eva Ladipo
A political thriller from a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung journalist. The protagonist, René, has a successful career in the nuclear power sector until public opinion ruins the company. On top of that, one of his colleagues commits suicide. René, who comes from a poor family in East Germany, grabs a new opportunity from a mysterious older woman, Anna, and finds himself leaving Frankfurt for a swish job in London. What kind of secrets does Anna have in her past? And was it really suicide?

Time travel in Spanish!

Netflix will soon open their first European production hub in Spain, dedicated to producing original content. The current Spanish-language options – the ones found on Netflix UK – are pretty limited, although some are big hits. These include the heist show Casa de Papel (Money Heist), about a bank robbery going wrong, as well as the syrupy-sweet period drama Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls), about 1920s telephone operators.

I did not stick with those shows very long, but the bank heist premise could be kind of fun and Chicas del Cable could be a Downtown Abbey stand-in – maybe try them out if you haven’t already. What I would recommend is the bonkers Spanish TV show El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time). Two seasons were made for the broadcaster RTVE, and the final third season moved to Netflix.

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Image: Radiotelevisión Española

It turns out that Spain has a secret ministry which controls a series of portals in time, which have been guarded by dedicated civil servants (!) for centuries. It is like watching a Doctor Who for adults, except the TARDIS can only go backwards. The heroes (a trio assembled from the 16th, 19th, and 21st centuries) get assigned different tasks in each episode, such as saving the life of a Spanish Shakespeare (Lope de Vega).

The characters feel like actual humans, the stories are lots of fun, and I am even being forced to learn a tiny bit of Spanish history. I also appreciate a show in which they use Spain-Spanish, so I can balance it out with all the Latin American Spanish resources. I am more likely to need or use the Spanish of Spain, but of course we should all be aware of both.

Also this week I have been listening to season 3 of the podcast series Coffee Break Spanish. It is a step up from season 1-2 beginner level and involves more listening practice aimed at an A2-B1 level. I love the Scottish presenter Mark, he is a talented linguist, teacher and all-round language nerd. The season 3 song/jingle is dorky as hell but will put a smile on your face, I promise.