|me being obsessed with myself in Israel|
I am trying to learn German through an app on my phone. I keep a list of my favorite words so far & they reveal a pattern-- the kissed sound of ‘sch’: schmutzig, Schmuck, Schlüssel. Though the app teaches me unusual phrases (“these are keys”), I still cannot count to ten. When I have travelled briefly to a country, I try to pick up on things like simple numbers as quickly as possible. However, in less than two months, I will be living in a country where German is the spoken language. Learning how to count to ten will become just as useful as the descriptors of an apartment. The equal value of all words (versus weight given to ‘survival phrases’) is a both strange and freeing concept. I give up on the app, watch Orange Is The New Black with German subtitles instead. I learn the word for ‘cherry pie’ and it goes on the list. Kirschkuchen.
Language was one of the most intimidating factors when deciding to move abroad for university next year. I have been toying with words since my first (it was ‘bubbles’). Their sounds, precision, emotional weight-- though not unique to English, it is the language in which I have the most dexterity and thus for which I have the most affection. Author Jhumpa Lahiri examines a similar issue while learning a new language in her article, Teach Yourself Italian:
In preparation, I decide, six months before our departure, not to read in English anymore. From now on, I pledge to read only in Italian. It seems right, to detach myself from my principal language. I consider it an official renunciation. I’m about to become a linguistic pilgrim to Rome. I believe I have to leave behind something familiar, essential. [...] When you live in a country where your own language is considered foreign, you can feel a continuous sense of estrangement.
I would like to clarify that I am nowhere near this point, of being able to not “read in English anymore.” My German vocabulary is sorely limited, a pretty set of words that stick more than others. Nonetheless I love Lahiri’s passion for detachment, for becoming a “linguistic pilgrim.” My girlfriend, in my bedroom, writes “du bist schön” on a large piece of paper with sharpie. She does not speak German, she must have learned it for me. Passion for attachment remains. I listen to all my favorite songs, put them in a playlist for a party. Drive my friend to the parking lot by the lake. Mourn the gentleness of summer.