Backside of Berlin

Ich lerne hier Deutsch


First class yesterday, and what a nervous rag-tag bunch we were, waiting for our teacher who showed up ten minutes late. Not very German, muttered a voice in the crowd. Japanese catering lady with a square business card, Israeli ginger, petite Spanish, Basque guy from Spain (I’m from Basque Country – in Spain), wizened young Italian musician, two beaming Vietnamese.

We had to spell our names aloud using the German alphabet. I suspect some would have had trouble in their native tongues let alone a new one. Neol turned out to be Lior. Ehuazel revealed herself as Iguacel. We all chuckled commiseratively over each other’s mistakes and made oversized faces to pronounce new sounds, gargling our Rs and hocking up our CHs. We were introduced to insipidly contructed dialogues between Peter and Laila and Carlos and Marina, which we recreated in a mingle just outside the classroom.

Thomas our teacher has a flowing brown crown surrounding a bald pate, infectious energy, and is self-conscious about his own (excellent) English. Actually English was used quite a bit both in the classroom and outside of it, as it’s the lingua franca of most of the students; I’m not sure if our German will get much better but everybody’s English certainly will. Three and a quarter hours is a hell of a long class, so we gladly collapsed outside with coffees and rolled cigarettes during our break and swapped potted histories. Nobody’s really got a proper job except Tomoko the smiley caterer. Everybody else is a student or intern or housewife or househusband or, like me, has decided that the word ‘unemployment’ is decidedly more palatable if you can claim to be learning the local lingo.