October 23, 2010 | German
Conversation Party at the Goethe-Institut
I love hanging out and just shooting the Scheiße.
Yesterday I did a bit of translation work at home for the Goethe-Institut, then went down there for my usual late Friday afternoon conversation. I love this place! It is, by the way, open to the public, so people interested in German language and culture should check it out, on the 11th floor of 72 Spring Street.
Currently on Wednesday nights they have a film series entitled “Celluloid (Dis)Unity—German Film since 1989.” I hope I will not be out of line if I make the observation that cerebral films are usually better places than dive bars for interesting single people to meet other interesting single people.
Not Everything at the Goethe-Institut Is in German!
Cute, Mildly Irreverent Buttons They Gave Me
Our little conversation group of two (i.e., intern Joanna Lang and me) swelled to three and then briefly to five as others, all native speakers of German, joined in. Instead of our scheduled two hours, we ended up chatting for two and a half. I had a phenomenal time, though to my disappointment, I did not feel my German was as good as last week, when I enjoyed a brief moment in the language sun.
German prefixes are a bear. We spent a not inconsiderable amount of time on pairs of German verbs with similar appearances and subtly different meanings: verändern versus ändern (to change), beenden versus enden (to end), bezweifeln versus zweifeln (to doubt), etc. There are many such pairs, and I have an unfortunate tendency to pick the wrong verb in a given pair. Often, as far as I can tell so far, the choice is about the difference between transitive verbs (ones that take a direct object) and intransitive ones (which don’t).
Perhaps the most important thing I learned there yesterday, however, was, “Das Wetter ist beschissen.” If you type this sentence into Google Translate without the period, it tells you it means, “The weather is shitty.” Strangely, if you add a period to the end of these four words, the translation changes to, “The weather is crappy.”
Shitty, crappy, whatever—this is the kind of critical vocabulary I need! Such words are part of the fabric of a civilization.