Es war einmal im Wilden Westen...

I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say that the scariest thing about moving to Vienna is the prospect of being forced to speak German all the time. It's a much bigger deal for CameraMan, of course, since right away he will have to speak German AT WORK. For a little while at least, I should be able to coast along comfortably saying little more than "Grüß Gott" and the names of fruit involved in ordering ice cream. I'm lucky, too; because Papa Bossy is a real live German it's by far my best language. Still, we've both been studying the language pretty rigorously so that we'll have a good head start when we get there. It's amazing how much easier it is to motivate yourself to study when a deadline is looming over your head.

We've been experimenting with various methods. As far as CDs go, I love love love Michel Thomas. He's quite the taskmaster, but I find his lessons helpful and thorough. Sometimes I wish his other students (the ones on the CD) were a little quicker, but their slow pace gives me ample time to practice. We also upgraded from my old clunky Rosetta Stone to the new, improved, sleek version, and it is so much better! Both CM and I get highly frustrated with the speaking exercises, however. The computer never recognizes his "u" vowels, and every time I start a sentence with "Entschuldigen Sie, bitte" (which is A LOT), the program refuses to recognize it as German. Be both end up yelling at our computers.

When we need a break from the challenges of the formal programs, sometimes it's necessary to think outside der Kiste. I had a lovely afternoon reading Deutsch Vogue in Barnes & Noble one day (with a dictionary by my side, of course). And yesterday when I began the Great Purge of 2010 (yes! it's already started!), I discovered that I own Das Lied der Prärie (Song of the Prairie), a Donald Duck comic book auf Deutsch. The Purge was paused while I started reading. So far, the plot is as follows: Donald and his nephews are coming to the Wild West to visit Uncle Scrooge (ahem, Onkel Dago). On the way, they have to elude a band of Indians who, naturally, want to scalp them. (I'm hoping that I'll be able to use my new vocab word skalpieren in as many conversations as possible when we get to Vienna.) Luckily, Huey, Duey, and Louie (in German called Tick, Trick, and Track—be sure to use lots of uvular r when you say these out loud) give them a sleeping tonic disguised as Feuerwasser, which is the Indians' favorite drink (no, really, I'm not making this up). Oh, the Wilden Westen—what a crazy place.

It's nice to read something in German that doesn't send me poring through the dictionary every other word. True, that's because it's written for children, but it's still helping to make me feel like it might actually be possible to clamber over that language barrier. And, on the practical side, I will know exactly what to yell if I see a Klapperschlange ("HIIIIILFE!"), or what sounds to make when I spit out something I don't like ("Huch! Würg! Spuck!"), or how to laugh and sound German ("Hihihi" or "Hugh hugh hugh," apparently).

And, should the situation arise, if I'm about to be scalped, I will totally pull that old Feuerwasser hoax. Danke, Tick, Trick, and Track!


  1. AHAHAHA! Brilliant! Very much enjoyed this story. Sometimes its the best way to test your knowledge of new language - reading children's books, especially ones you know already.

    I don't envy your task... the last language i was even vaguely proficient in was Spanish and that was ages ago.

    The only German I know is from opera...

  2. The dude that wrote "4 hour work week" is a HUGE fan of reading local comic books and kids books. Pictures and vocab all at once!

    I saw a German production of "Guys and Dolls" when I was in Wien...Mitzis und Stritzis! It was hysterical but also really satisfying to be able to follow along so well.

  3. tick, trick, und track - that IS fun! i'm going to be saying them outloud as much as possible until i forget, which will probably be in 15 minutes. :D


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