Friday, February 3, 2012

The Class That Changed Everything- or the key to learning German

Image credit

Yesterday's language class was invaluable! I left school yesterday feeling so light and bubbly inside. Every now and then, we all learn something that just clicks and clears the fog that is keeping us from fully grasping a concept. For me, that happened yesterday.

Das Verb ist immer Position zwei.

The verb is always in the 2nd position. It may not seem like it, but this is the key to unlocking my understanding of the German language.

My German vocabulary is actually pretty strong and diverse. I understand most of what I hear or read these days, depending on the accent/dialect of the person speaking. However, my ability to actually form sentences other than those that I have been taught was weak at best. After completing Level 1 and 2 of Rosetta Stone, I still didn't understand the sentence structure any better. I think that is why I was pretty blasé about starting this language school. I had put in the hours and learned the words, but I didn't feel any closer to actually being able to have a conversation in German. If I had successfully completed 2/5 of the Rosetta Stone program and put in all of those hours already, how long would I have to go to language school before I noticed a difference.

The answer is 3 weeks exactly.

It's been a while since my last grammar lesson, so the actual names of the parts of the sentence escape me. In order to explain what I mean by "The verb is always in the 2nd position," I will just explain it the way I learned in class.

We will use the sentence, "The dog sleeps in the bedroom," as our example sentence.

Der Hund schläft in die Schlafzimmer. 

Position 1: Der Hund = the dog                                                                       

Position 2: schläft = (he/she/it) sleeps (schlafen is the verb and schläft is the he/she/it form)

Position 3: in die Schlafzimmer = in the bedroom                                           

In the German language, you can basically reorganize the different parts of the sentence into different positions, as long as the verb stays in Position 2.

So another way to say "The dog sleeps in the bedroom," is...

In die Schlafzimmer schläft der Hund.

Here is another Beispiel (example).

I play soccer every Thursday at 7:00pm.

Ich spiele Fußball jeden Donnerstag um sieben Uhr.                              
Ich spiele Fußball jeden Donnerstag um 7:00 Uhr.                                  
Ich spiele Fußball jeden Donnerstag um 7 Uhr.                                        

Position 1: Ich = I                                                                                      
Position 2: spiele = (I) play (spielen = to play)                                          
Position 3: Fußball = soccer                                                                      
Position 4: jeden Donnerstag um 7:00 Uhr = every Thursday at 7:00pm.
These three sentences are all saying the same thing. The only difference is the way the time is written at the end. For the purpose of this example, I will use the 2nd version of the time from here on.

Although the sentences above are correct, when the sentence contains a location or a time, it is MORE correct to put them at the beginning of the sentence. In my example, I do not specify the location (wo=where), but I have two "times" (Uhrzeit=time of day, Wochentag=weekday). In this situation, you begin with the broadest "time" and work down to the most specific.

Jeden Donnerstag um 7:00 Uhr spiele ich Fußball.

I really don't think I can properly express how helpful learning this has been for me. When people have asked me if I have learned a lot with Rosetta Stone of if it "works," I really don't have an answer for them. It helped build my vocabulary and I learned *some* verbs, but not how to conjugate them. When I learned Spanish in school, we learned that there is a sort of "formula" to creating a sentence. Yo soy... Tu eres... It is pretty much the same in English. You are... He/she/it is... They are... We would say "The dog sleeps in bedroom" in English, but it would sound strange to say "In the bedroom, sleeps the dog."

My example sentences only have 3-4 positions, but it gets even more bizarre when you have more positions.

  • I call my parents every Sunday at 8:00pm with my boyfriend.                 
Ich rufe meine Eltern jeden Sonntag um 20:00 Uhr mit mein Freund an.

  • Every Sunday at 8:00pm call I with my boyfriend my parents.                 
Jeden Sonntag um 20:00 Uhr rufe ich mit mein Freund meine Eltern an.

  • Every Sunday at 8:00pm call I my parents with my boyfriend.                
Jeden Sonntag um 20:00 Uhr rufe ich meine Eltern mit mein Fruend an.

We would never say the 2nd and 3rd version above, but they are the more correct way to say this in German.

This sentence is also utilizing one of the Trennbare Verben that I spoke about in my last German lesson. The "an" at the end of each sentence is what says that you are calling someone on the phone. If you leave it off, accidentally (like I tend to do), it means you are calling for them the way you would call after a child running away from you or when you see a friend in the park. 

I may not know every verb that I need to know yet and I will still form sentences wrong, but now I have a structure. Before I was trying to create my sentences in German the way I would in English and I was frequently wrong. I went into a shop to pick up a mortar and pestle after class yesterday and for the first time, I didn't have that tightness in my chest that accompanies the anxiety I had/have when interacting with strangers by myself. It was like drowning in an ocean full of all the words I knew in German, but I had nothing to help me. This lesson is my life raft. As long as I remember this, I at least have a good chance of being able to communicate well.

Image credit

This class also brightened my perspective on my life here. I haven't regretted my decision to move here once, but I did feel a bit hopeless about how I was going to actually LIVE here instead of just exist here. I feel as though I am allowed to rejoin society now. I even had a couple of conversation with people in my class in German during our class breaks. When I came home from class today, Felix was on a conference call, so I turned on the TV for some background noise while I blogged. The Cosby Show (dubbed in German) was on and I was thrilled to realize that I understood everything that was said during the first 15 minutes! Yes, I have been able to understand most of what I hear around me, but this was the first time I understood the whole of every sentence. After those 15 minutes, my focus was pulled back to my writing, but I still understood the bits that I paid attention to.

I still have a long way to go before I am fluent or before I will stop feeling awkward when speaking to strangers in full sentences, but I'm excited!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anyone can leave me a message, whether you have a blog or Google account. All I ask is that you leave your name or some way for me to identify you, especially if you are family. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.