Please permit me to go on a brief navel-gazing expedition. I have a singular frustration which has been building up and I’ve wanted to write about this for a while.
In the past seven days, three different people who know perfectly well that my German is terrible have switched to full Deutsch in the middle of a conversation and gone on for several sentences, looking at me the whole time as if I’m going to just intuit what they mean. It’s as if the part of their mind that knows that I won’t understand has gone on vacation.
It’s frustrating that I don’t understand- I know the basic vocabulary and grammar. I understand more written German than spoken, but still not nearly enough. After almost three years here, I really should be able to understand more.
I know that I am smart as hell. I know that I am competent. I know that I have an amazing grasp of some pretty sophisticated concepts and that I have an aptitude for trivia. I am, by no possible definition of the word, stupid. Still, living here makes me feel like a perennial dunce. In Deutschland, I can be verbally outpaced by a five year old.
It’s exhausting being in a place where I can’t handle simple governmental bureaucracy, or get a haircut without getting confused, or parse my junk mail without help. It’s grinding me down.
I know quite a few Americans who live here, and most all of them just sort of fall right into the language. They pick up other languages without a struggle. That’s never been me. Living for nearly three years in a place where I don’t have any degree of fluency has been a trying experience. Living in a country where you don’t have fluency in the local language takes a toll on your self esteem. Every day here is a challenge. Every day I feel more and more stupid.
I don’t really have a good closing thought for this post, or even a real point beyond just venting. On Monday, I’ll pick up the Nordic Adventure posts again with Reykjavik, Iceland. That’ll be fun.