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.

German Verb of the Week (No.1)

Verunglücken

Everyone is familiar with the satisfying German loan words like “Schadenfreude” and “Doppelgänger”, but I have come to love these neat German verbs which slip into a sentence and describe actions or experiences for which English would require a whole phrase.

Verunglücken means “to have an accident”, and if you break down the sections of the word, it relates to “unlucky”.

Use the word, but stay safe! Ich hoffe, dass ihr nicht verunglückt!

Image: Lilith (Cat)

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.

Language Tips of the Week

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Hola a todos und hallo zusammen! I have a handful of tips from my learning this week which will fit neatly enough into one post: my new favourite Spanish resources, and some real bad German words (i.e. DENGLISCH).

Entonces, el fin de semana que viene, voy a viajar a Madrid! Estoy muy emocionante para practicar el idioma y, ademas, para compartir mi experiencia con vosotros. Pero al primero…

Listening
Listening is one of the hardest skills for an intermediate learner – not necessarily in the classroom, but absolutely when you turn on the radio. Since I am always listening to podcasts (in fact, this weekend I was at the 3rd annual London Podcast Festival with all the other cool kids) I’ve naturally been on the look out for podcasts that’ll help me with my Spanish.

TV can be more helpful for language learners because you have the visual aid – but at least you can listen to a podcast when you’re out walking. On top of that, several podcasts have written transcripts you can refer to or even read while you’re listening. Por ejemplo…

Españolistos is a conversation podcast aimed at intermediate learners. There is definitely a ton of podcast options for beginners, which teach simple phrases, but these presenters (Colombian and an American) speak everyday Spanish at a manageable speed. Plus, it is comforting to hear the American guy’s good Spanish but distinct American accent – I guess we all go through the accent struggle!

Radio Ambulante is a culture and current affairs podcast about a myriad of topics from Latin America. They recently became part of NPR, and each week features a different story. It is advanced Spanish – I am starting B1 Spanish next month, and it is a real challenge for me. However, the transcripts are in both Spanish and English. Given the strength of the reporting and the stories which are being told, I find it worth following the episodes and referring back to the original transcript as well as the translation. I can really push my listening comprehension and overcome some of the “oh my god” feeling you get when you hear native level Spanish.

Another Language App
I am definitely not being paid by busuu to plug them, but I saw a half-price subscription offer for this app (which is similar to Babbel) and I am really enjoying it so far, based on the structure, topics, and grammar tips. The lessons also encourage listening comprehension (entire little conversations) and get you to provide written answers – it feels like the most proactive language learning app I’ve tried so far.

Last but not least I learned a new terrible ‘Denglisch’ word this week. You might have already heard of the German word ‘Oldtimer’ – over there it means a vintage car. But, even worse than Oldtimer is the term Youngtimer. If Oldtimer is a car from the 40s or 50s, Youngtimer is a slightly-less-old vintage car, i.e. from the 1980s. It-is-so-terrible-why

It reminded me of one of the word offenders, and oldest examples, of Denglisch: der Keks (pl. Kekse). Keks is the German for biscuit (cookie). But the word comes directly from the English word cake.

Given that cakes and biscuits are very dissimilar and that one is superior to the other (we all know which one) I have always found this very disrespectful to cake.

Further reading: British biscuit vs cake drama

A Word from German History (no.2)

Image: Dietmar Rabich

Lampenladen (m.)

Lampenladen literally means a lamp store, but in East Berlin it was also a dig at the government. One of the most important buildings in the communist part of the city was the Palast der Republik, or the palace of the republic, which was a cultural centre with restaurants and a theatre, among other things.

It had a big glass facade and at night was brightly lit, which seemed obnoxious to some Berliners, who called the building “Erichs Lampenladen”. Erich Honecker was General Secretary of the ruling (and really only) party – and this was his massive lamp emporium.

The building, which replaced the war-damaged Berliner Stadtschloss, (city palace) was eventually demolished due to asbestos (which again is kinda funny). After some debate, the city decided to reconstruct the Stadtschloss exactly as it was, which should be finished in 2019.

I like the story of the Lampenladen because it touches on the issue of East Germany, but instead of highlighting the dictatorship, it reveals something of Berlin humour (or scorn) and is one major example of the city’s complex architectural history – not to mention the debates which are being had about its architectural future.

See also: the ongoing debacle which is Berlin Brandenburg Airport, an airport which was supposed to open in 2011… and is an utter financial disaster and a long-running joke. The stereotype of German efficiency and frugality has taken a real hard knock.

A Word from German History (No.1)

Die Wende

A “Wende” (f.) means a decisive change, development, or turning point, and for Germans it really means the dramatic period following the fall of the Berlin Wall (die Mauer). Die Wende encapsulates the social and political earthquake not just of 1989 but the years afterwards, as the East German government collapsed and the current reunified republic came into being.

When Germans refer to “the change”, they are talking about something so integral to modern Germany, so self-evident, that all you need to say is die Wende.

See also Eva Ladipo’s recent novel Wende, which carries the political double meaning of both German reunification and of the turn away from nuclear power.