Husband has been asked to be on the jury of the International Sound Awards in Hamburg, Germany—he’s kind of a big deal in the sound design world. Of course I’m going to tag along. As I’ve been moving into translation and localization, I’ve been trying to make strategic decisions about which languages I should focus on. Spanish is a no-brainer. French is in the mix because after spending some time on it at UW, I quickly got myself to a point where I’m reading French novels. It wouldn’t make sense to drop Spanish or French now that I’m at C1 level in each.
But then it gets tricky. I was shocked to find, after an assessment test, that I’m already at a high A1/low A2 in German after a year or so of self-study. But I didn’t think that German would be a wise choice, in terms of what would be “useful” for me in future endeavors. Portuguese, for example, is considered a “critical language” spoken by many around the world. (I also love Portuguese and had picked up a fair amount during my time in Portugal a long time ago.) Romance languages are easy to add on – since I’m already so proficient in Spanish and French, I’m an extremely quick study in Portuguese and Italian. I’ve begun learning Russian and enjoy speaking to my son’s best friend’s mother when I have the chance (they’re Russian) and I can easily read and write the Cyrillic alphabet at this point. So I had decided, for practical reasons, not to focus on German anymore.
But then… BUT THEN. Of all the languages I know, German really sunk it’s hooks into my life. I have tried speaking to myself and my son (who is learning Spanish) in French and Spanish. But whenever I talk to myself, talk out loud, or make exclamations, it’s German that comes out. Every. Single. Time. I read Spanish and French every single day, I listen to French news every day, I listen to French and Spanish music, I occasionally write in Spanish or French… but I think in German. Warum? Das weiß ich nicht. Maybe it has something to do with that fact that I’ve been fascinated with Germany since elementary school, or my strong Germany heritage. Who knows.
Anyway. My point is: I had decided to let German go, even if German doesn’t want to let go of me. But then, with my background in technology and doing localization, it was pointed out to me that German is actually a damn good language to have in my arsenal. It would be especially good given the plans I have laid out for the next couple of years. SO. Husband is going to Hamburg for these sound awards… I’m going to fly out a couple of weeks early, to do an immersion German course at Humboldt in Berlin, then take the train to Hamburg when he arrives, then go back to Berlin for another week after he leaves. A few weeks may not be much, but I’m freakishly adept at picking up languages. I’m already around an A2 level, so I expect I’ll be around a B1 by the time I arrive. Really, what I most need is practice speaking and listening at a natural pace.
So that’s that. I’ll be in Berlin (and Hamburg) this September, which has shifted a whole bunch of other travel plans around. But that’s ok, because I am so happy to go revisit my favorite haunts and old friends.
And if I’m completely honest, it’s not so much BERLIN that I’m going back to but Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Yes, they are part of Berlin, but these two neighborhoods are very different from the rest of the city and very special. I have been through other neighborhoods… Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte… and they’re just fine. (Well… if you go to Berlin and spend all your time in Mitte, you might as well just save your time and money and stay in Bellevue, Washington. *cough cough*) If you want the best Arabic and Turkish food, go to Neukölln. If you want to see the best graffiti and urban art, go to Kreuzberg and Neukölln. If you want to be immersed in creativity and irreverence, get thee to Kreuzberg. And on and on.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write about the places I’m eager to revisit (food-wise, mostly). And it’s hardly an exhaustive list, there’s so much I didn’t get to. I DID make a point of going to many, many, many coffeeshops. Five Elephant, Populus, 19 Grams, Silo, The Barn, Distrikt Coffee, etc. I am very serious about my coffee and always have been—you can drop me into the middle of nowhere and I WILL find the best and most interesting coffee spot within a 20 mile radius. Sometimes it’s rough going, but I always succeed. In the last decade, it’s also been a “thing” of ours (my husband and I) to bring beans back from wherever we go. Husband always wants to tear into them as soon as we get home, but I always find it kind of painful. I’d probably lock it all up or frame it if I could! (I know, that would be weird.)
Stay tuned. The first on the list is Populus Coffee, since I was just swooning over one of their Instagram posts this morning…
In the meantime, here’s a collection of my pics from my time in Berlin.