Sunday, May 17, 2015

Well...Are you fluent yet?

Without a doubt the top question people from home ask me has always been “are you fluent in German now?" They pretty much started asking me that from my first few weeks living here!

When I think of the word “fluent” I imagine understanding absolutely everything and since I'm not quite there yet then I feel bad about why not and tend to answer "no". However, a better definition of fluency is actually the the ability to get by in most situations, to make oneself understood and to be able to go about daily tasks such as working, going to the doctor, post office and so on without language problems or barriers.You might still have your accent and not sound like a native speaker but that's ok!

Often I'll be sitting in a meeting at work and have no problems keeping up with the conversation and tricky technical speak and I'll feel confident and fluent at that moment but then at another time I might be on a night out with a group of Germans in a noisy pub and I find it hard to follow the conversation with the background noise and then I feel a little lost. I used to ask people who had lived here a long time at what stage they felt really fluent and I was often told it took them three years living in the county but others said it took them at least five years.

Recently, I came across an article that helps explain how to tell whether you are fluent. One of the ways is that people don't modify their language for you anymore. When I first moved here I noticed that a lot of Germans would try to speak Hochdeutsch (high German - without using dialect or slang) and speak clearly to make it easier for me to understand. Now they talk quickly and normally using local dialects, which I'm now able to keep up with. Also I can watch TV shows and read articles in German and understand without having to stop to think about the translations in my head or acknowledge that it's not English, which is great.

My first month or so living here I found myself exhausted each night from the effort of having to constantly translate everything in my head, formulate an answer in English and translate that before speaking. Now something like 90% of the time I understand what's being said without having to try to think of the English equivalent. So I guess I would say I am fluent now!

If you speak other languages, at what stage did you feel truly fluent? Or do you think you will never reach that stage as a non-native speaker?

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Run for your life

To be honest I don't particularly enjoy jogging like some people seem to. Once the weather started to improve here recently I decided I would take it up again but I knew I needed some kind of extra incentive to motivate me. The GerMann and I follow the zombie TV series The Walking Dead and when I heard about a zombie jogging themed app I decided to give it a try!

The full app for your smartphone costs about four euro but I went for the smaller version that is focused on training you for a 5k marathon and costs half that. The idea is that you listen to it while you jog and using GPS it can determine your route and speed. There are different chapters or levels and as your running improves the story progresses. You are known as "Runner 5" during a zombie apocalypse world and you are sent out on mini missions to help the base camp, such as to find medical kits or bring back supplies.

The story began with an exciting start when my helicopter crash-landed into an area surrounded by zombies who I had to then escape to reach the base camp. Through my earphone I had the voice actors telling me whenever any were close and when that happened, they would shout "move!" and I had to run faster. It was really quite realistic - I could hear zombie groaning in my ear if I wasn't running fast enough!

At one point I was getting really into it and nearly jumped out of skin when a cyclist whizzed past me from behind just as I could hear zombie groaning in my earphones. And I found myself scanning my terrain for possible weapons to defend myself from a zombie attack..such as big sticks or rocks.

I've only done a few missions so far and the first was the most exciting. The ones after that so far have just been more or less training drills with a mixture of walking then running in short bursts back at the base camp.

What's good though is that you can choose your playlist from music on your phone and the songs will be interspersed throughout the story. However, it made me laugh at one point as just after escaping a zombie, the Sugababes Get sexy song blasted into my ear which somehow just didn't seem appropriate during a zombie apocalypse!

I've signed up for a 6km marathon in less than six weeks so I'm going to have to try to aim to get out running twice a week if possible. Once I've completed more "missions" in the app I'll let you know how I found it!