Why am I spending three hours every Monday evening, learning to speak German? Or rather, learning to speak better German – I already have a bit of a base, but it’s not so good these days.
The question remains unanswered and, as I sat on the métro heading home after the class (at 10pm) I was really questioning my decision. I’m sure that jetlag was playing a part, but I was thoroughly exhausted and certainly too tired to remember the dativ / akkusativ / genetiv rules.
Anyway, let’s hope it gets better. And let’s hope that my language improves too. It’s really not that good. I should have used the two-week intensive language course that I went on last summer to learn to speak German rather than learning to chat up Germans. But hey, warum nicht? After all, any experience is good experience, nein?
In fact, within minutes of the course starting on Monday evening I got quite giddy. Learning German in Paris is quite the thing – I mean really, where else would you be able to learn the expression ‘der Eiffelturm is sehr bekannt’. Clap clap. How exciting.
My giddiness soon subsided as we were put into pairs for, what I thought would be the evening. It turns out that Eva Maria, our lovely teacher (I’m trying hard to look at her face and not the massive sweat patches under her arms) wants us – like swans – to pair up for life. At least for the duration of the course.
So who did I end up with? Chloé, the charming 18 year-old with the Amy Winehouse eyes? Kamal, the handsome and flirty Tunisian (meine Stadt heisst Sousse. Sousse hat eine grosse Stadtmauer)?
Or maybe one of the two sweet-enough-but-very-bookish Frenchmen?
Alas no. I’m partnered with Kwang Min. He’s from Seoul. I think. It’s not so clear. I know he is Korean. At least I hope he is. Calling a Japanese person Korean is never good (but better than the other way round – at least Korea never occupied Japan…)
We have to interrogate each other (yes, the German lady used this very word, much to my delight – I thought she may be bringing out the interrogation lamps, but no). We were to find out more about where we are each from, what our musical tastes are and whether or not we are married.
From what I can gather, Kwang Min isn’t married, is from Korea (he doesn’t like to say South Korea – it’s all one big kim-chee filled love-in as far as he’s concerned), likes ‘techno’ music and studies….erm, something.
Really, his accent is so strong that I have pretty much no idea what he is saying. When I look puzzled at him (i.e. all the time), he tells me the word in French. This is largely pointless as his accent in French is equally impenetrable.
It is only when we have to tell the rest of the class all about our “learning partners” that everyone else finally sees what I have been up against.
Truly, after Kwang Min has spoken to my classmates about me, in German, for three minutes, no-one is any the wiser about my name, age or marital status. They have no idea where I am from or what I do. I can see suppressed giggles on the faces of the girls, and a look of horror on the face of Eva Maria, who has the look of a woman with a challenge on her hands.
I corner EM after the class and ask if I can have a different partner next week.
“That would be no problem” she said, “but it doesn’t work like that. Rules are rules and the rule is that you stay together for the course”.
“Then I may be asking for my money back”
“Again, the rules are the rules. No money back after first class”.
“Then what do you suggest? I’m here to learn German, not Korean.”
“I suggest you work harder”, said she, helpfully. “No-one ever said that learning a language was easy, you know”.
Oh dear. Looks like there’ll be tears before bedtime….and they won’t be mine.