October 22, 2010 | German

Flash Cards and Cool Coffee Bars: Not a Match

In which flash cards make me feel like a nerd.

Yesterday, after a late-afternoon nap that stretched into evening, I decided to take myself (and my SparkNotes German flash cards) out for a brain-stimulating latte at a local café, a different one from my usual language-learning coffee haunt.

The guy working there was Italian, so naturally I tried speaking Italian to him. I preface most Italian discussions now with, “Ho dimenticato quasi tutto quello che ho imparato.” (I have forgotten almost everything I learned.) That buys me sympathy and, ideally, a decelerated rate of speech from my conversation partner.

Words I Am Having Trouble Remembering

Words I Am Having Trouble Remembering

The guy seated me and introduced me to three Italian women, tourists, at the adjacent table. I spoke a bit of Italian with them, too, but found myself somewhat foiled by my inability in the moment to recall plural you verb forms.

They praised my skills nonetheless. As I have said previously, that seems to be kind of what people do when Americans try to say anything in a language other than English.

I have been to this café mostly in the daytime. When it is light outside, the place is very café-like; at night, not so much. I wasn’t quite prepared for the sexy evening ambiance, which was far more boozy than caffeinated.

After a few minutes, I noticed how out of place I was in my yoga pants and Skechers, and with my dorky flash cards, which I could barely see in the dim lighting. All around me people seemed to be either on dates or discussing how they weren’t on dates but wished they were.

Suddenly I felt like an idiot. I could feel myself blushing in the dark. So as soon as I finished my latte, I requested the check, which the Italian guy then took 10 minutes to bring, despite the shoebox size of the place, and during which time I continued studying my flash cards while pretending to be less embarrassed than I was.

Really, it was more about the clothes than the flash cards; I think Americans are way too slobby about their attire these days, and I try not to underdress. But it was the combination of flash cards and gym-friendly clothes that did me in.

Once home again, I recovered my equanimity and put on a CD of German pop music that my sister (the one I have mentioned previously, who grew up in Germany) made for me a few days ago. Since she has lived in the U.S. for quite a while now, most of the songs are pretty old.

I multitasked, folding clothes as I tried to make out the lyrics of 1990s German pop tunes. It was actually surprisingly enjoyable! Especially since my sister is a music sophisticate with excellent taste.

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