Saturday, February 13, 2010

Deutsch Zertifikat für Zuwanderer. Fertig!

German Certificate for Foreigners. Done!

I took my big German test today. Big sigh of relief. I'm sure I passed but I have to wait three weeks for the official results. This basically means I have achieved a B1 level in German. I think that equates to about fifth grade by our standards but considering that I started at a Kindergarten level, I've come pretty far in six months. Not far enough to actually have a full on conversation in German mind you. But getting there. Not good enough to understand 100% of what is being said around me but I think I'm at the 60% range depending on the topic.

I still panic whenever I have to speak to someone. I rehearse even the most simple request endlessly. Having to go to the bank to ask for a roll of Euros so I can do the wash is akin to asking a boss for a raise. It's that bad. And forget it when someone speaks to me out of the blue which, for some reason, happens to me a lot. I'll be standing waiting for the train, or in line at the supermarket and someone will just start talking to me. I immediately panic. Eyes widen in fear. Stomach drops. I smile. Give an awkward chuckle while searching for ONE word that I understand. Then I usually pretend to drop something and have to busy myself with that because I have NO CLUE what is happening.

The other day I was in the supermarket in the baking section and some guy came up to me and asked me something. An awkward pause ensued while I look around praying that he was talking to someone else; no such luck. I take a deep breath. Wie bitte? Wissen Sie, wo das Salz ist? Salt! Salt! I know that word. And not only do I know that word. I know where the salt is! So I said, auf Deutsch, the salt is next to the Butcher counter. However, judging from the way he looked at me, I think what I really said was "the salt is on top of the meat." Whatever, he got that it was in the area of the meat. Welcome to my world where I have to rely on one word and a mixture of trial and error to navigate through so many situations. The man reappeared a few minutes later waving the salt happily so it all worked out in the end. Does that count as an actual conversation? Maybe I exaggerate the fifth grade level thing. Maybe we're really talking first-grader peeking out from behind her Momma's skirt level. But I take comfort that I am not as bad as some. Take, for example, my partner for the spoken portion of the German exam.

The DZZ test consists of four parts: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Each section is about an hour in duration except for the spoken which is shorter. Typically, you can select your own speaking partner from someone in your current class. I was originally scheduled to take the test in November but had to fly to the states at the last minute because of my Mom. So, being that I was not actively enrolled in a class, I was assigned a partner. Now, someone could be partner-less because of a situation like mine or they could be partner-less because no one in their current class wants to partner with them. I got a piece of paper with a name. Female. Russian sounding.

First up - listening. You get to hear each recorded bit once and then have to answer a question on the content. No major problems except the idiot who kept asking the teacher to replay the piece because he couldn't "hear" it aka didn't understand it. On to reading comprehension. When the time was up for the reading portion of the test, the teacher went from desk to desk collecting the papers. A few people hadn't finished but reluctantly gave up their answer sheets. Except for one women. She pulled the paper back when the teacher tried to take it. He tried to take it again. She pulled it back saying "Nein, nein." He explained that it had to be fair for everyone. She shooed him off to the other people in her row. He collected their papers. He came back for hers. She wouldn't give it up. At that point, I knew, just knew, that she was my partner. And she was.

The speaking portion consists of three parts. First, you have to introduce yourself, where you are from, where you live, family, why you are in Germany and so on. Second, you have to describe a picture that they show you. Third, you and your partner have to have a conversation on a given topic.

Introductions aside. Fairly basic. Svetlana, my partner, now has to describe the picture the teacher is holding up in front of her. It is a picture of a little boy with a bowl of apples in front of him. Their condensed conversation goes something like this:

Teacher: What do you see?
Svetlana: A boy at a table. And an apple.
T: What else?
S: Two apples.
T: Can you say anything else about the picture?
Hemming, hawing. The teacher tries another tactic.
T: What kind of fruit do you like to eat?
S: Apples.
T: Anything else?
S: Vegetables.
T: Let's say you are going to the store tonight. What kind of fruit or vegetables will you buy?
Now at this point I am screaming inside my head Bananen, Orangen! Good God please anything but...
S: Apples
So the teacher asks her if she thinks nutrition is important which is obviously the theme and she says...
S: Yes, very important.
And it goes on like that. Now it is my turn and the teacher holds up my picture to describe. It is a picture of a little girl sitting at a table with a bowl of fruit in front of her: grapes and APPLES!

There was no way I could avoid saying it. Although we did manage to move past apples and have a conversation about nutrition in schools. For our last bit we had to come up with a plan to help a co-worker who was sick: doctor recommendation, medicine, how to help at home, how to help at the office. I can't say it was pretty. Svetlana was by now a nervous wreck which was making me a nervous wreck so I was just babbling away trying to fill the dead air space with no regard for grammar, adjective endings, case and other such painful (yet important) things. All I can say it is is done. And the best part is that they refund you the 20 Euro you paid to reserve your spot which means you can get a bottle of Tequila on the way home and forget the whole thing.

Here is my recipe for the best-tasting, pain-eliminating, memory-reducing margarita ever.

1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
1 part silver tequila (or your preference)
1 part Grand Marnier

Shake. Pour. Enjoy. Forget.

1 comment:

Lisa Kiene said...

Ahhh... I am lost in your writing...lost in a good way ...the escape way. And ahhhh the forever addition of the Grand Marnier! Have you talked to Cordelia or Phillipe?

Bummer back to work I have a 10 a.m. mtg. blah blah blah