Sunday, April 19, 2009

Etiquette

Just as some cannot grasp calculus or trigonometry, so hault others in their apptitude for other languages. Some can go through the motions with relative ease, others get stuck on minor problems. Some lack confidence and fumble with the concepts before they've barely begun. And then there are teachers.... Some can present concepts and give clear explanation, some can even correct and encourage.

I met my Sascha at the train station on Thursday. In Germany, one can't help but greet another person with the friendly and simple, "Wie geht's?"-- How're you? Our conversation started in German and that was how it stuck.

We made a pizza from scratch. Sascha handled the dough. He'd made a pizza from scratch before and that impressed me. He's still a young student and I found his prestige in home economics both charming and impressive. He also didn't mind that I topped the pizza with basil tofu ricotta (Vegan with a Vengeance).

Sascha is a native of Düsseldorf. That being so, I supplied him with alt beer. Alt is a dark, bitter lager, produced only in the Düsseldorf region. We each drank an alt with our pizza, then we decided to go for a bike ride. I brought two alts for the road.

On our bike ride, I began to wonder, "When will we switch back to English? Is it a pain or is it impolite to stick to German? Am I succeeding at communication so far?" I assured myself that all was fine, but my insecurities remained.

We took a break, sitting on a high wall that overlooked the Rhein. I pulled out the beer and we "prosted," the German way of saying "cheers," but unpretentious and more conversational. While sitting on the wall, watching the Rhein swim by us, we chatted about nothing and everything. The subject that had been nagging me arose: How sufficient was my German?

"You think more than you used to," Sascha remarked. "You used to just talk; say whatever came to you whether it was [grammatically] wrong or not."

I could see some truth in that statement. I never did find out how adequate my vocabulary and grammar was. It had to've sufficed. We conversed, explained our pleasures and our troubles.... But I was still thinking about every sentence, wondering if it was good enough.

pictured: me and Timo in Berlin; a cartoon depicting the Cologne-Düsseldorf rivaly. it says: How Kölsch is brewed

3 comments:

Regina said...

"Etiquette? Who etiquette?? I never etiquette for noooobody!!" I thought it was you and Timo in the photo, but you were talking about Sascha, so I had a cognitive dissonance thing going on.

Rachel said...

i considered that a possibility for the reader. but i really wanted to include another photo + pimp one of the only good pictures that exist of me.

ps. you've no idea how hard a time i had spelling "etiquette." stupid french....

Tim said...

And that cartoon is simply beautiful. >.<