Sprichst du Deutsch?: Learning German

Vanessa Morales
March 14, 2018

I grew up speaking Spanish, English, and Spanglish as a little Chicanita in Santa Ana, CA. As a daughter of immigrants, I am proud to carry all three tongues and being able to to have this connection to my parents, family, and homeland of Mexico. However, I wanted to know more of the world, so I decided to take French my first year of college. The similarities between French and Spanish threw me off the whole semester--my professor scolded me for vocally rounding out the French words when I spoke due to my Spanish-speaking background. So when choosing my study abroad program, I wanted to explore a new language along with a new country while exploring my academic interests in a city setting. And Berlin was perfect for that.

However, a lot of people speak English in Berlin, so it's been difficult to practice the German I’ve accumulated so far. For the most part, I get as far as ordering in German up until the cashiers give me my total in English. While at first I was flustered, I realized that Berliners appreciate efficiency and it’s much easier to get through one customer in their native tongue than to engage in a mini-German lesson (I am grateful to the one bookstore cashier who was patient with me while I tried to remember what vier sechzig Euro was in English to be able to get my coins together to pay). 

My budding German conversational skills were challenged one Saturday morning when I stumbled into a cafe in my neighborhood of Schoneberg and walked in to find all seats taken except for one awkward table arrangement that meant sharing a makeshift table with an older German man. We were able to get through the introductory questions I learned in my first week of German class, such as “Wie heisst du?” (How are you called?), “Woher kommst du?” (Where are you coming from?), “Was machst du?” (What do you make/do?). But the conversation struggled from there on, I was able to understand that he has a friend in Los Angeles, and that there is a very good gemuse und obst (vegetable and fruit) stand nearby. We finished both our meals and continued with our sunny Saturdays.

This seemingly insignificant interaction has allowed me to realize that even the very little I attempt in conversations with people in Berlin does matter to be able to help bridge those language barriers. I have appreciated the times they answer back in German, or in English, and even in Spanish (to my surprise), and it has been humbling to be learning a language unfamiliar to me. I have plans to attend more Sprechcafes to practice my German with other folks also learning the language, and to try to watch Netflix with German subtitles - here's hoping I learn more beyond the basics! 


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Vanessa Morales

<p>Hi y'all! I'm from the beautiful city of Santa Ana, CA, the heart of Orange County in Southern California. At Haverford, I am a QuestBridge Scholar as well as a Chesick Scholar; aside from being a full time student, I work at the Office of Academic Resources and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. I also am involved with the Alliance of Latin American Students and a resident of Existence as Resistance House at my school. When I'm not in classes or working, I love to take the time and document memories, and growth, through journals and photographs.</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
Haverford College
Santa Ana, CA
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