In spite of how much I hate traveling, I was kind of excited to draw the Munich assignment of our "Chasing Brilliance" series. Long ago when I was in high school, I took two years of German language class—though living in Texas, I’ve regretted for years that I didn’t take Spanish instead since it would be a lot more useful in daily life. My trip to Deutschland was a long-overdue opportunity to dust off what I’d learned way back in the early 1990s and make my teacher, Frau Bauch, proud.
To me, German is actually not that different from English—in fact, tracing the tangled roots of modern English back through its inception reveals strong Germanic influence. Probably the most complicated new thing an English speaker has to deal with when learning German is gendered nouns; as with most languages, everything in German has a gender, and a thing’s gender is often pretty arbitrary. The German word for "pants," for example, is female (die Hosen—that's pronounced "dee," not "die") and the German word for skirt is male (der Rock—and, yeah, you capitalize all nouns in German). But as far as words that sound vaguely similar or share similar roots, German and English aren’t too far off. It’s not difficult to string together a sentence or two of (bad, broken, but understandable) Deutsch if you know the nouns you’re talking about as well as a few basic verbs and pronouns.
Hilariously, though, the phrase I got the most usage out of was "Ich bin Auslander und spreche nicht gut Deutsch," which means "I’m a foreigner, and I don’t speak German all that well." It's not hilarious because of the phrase's pedestrian content, but rather because of why I remember it. The stupid thing was burned into my skull in German class by this video of a balding man singing those words to the tune of "She’ll be Coming 'Round the Mountain," except when we saw it in German class, it was on videocassette instead of on YouTube (this was 1992 and YouTube was still about 13 years off).
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