Learning German

Although English is a pretty helpful language to get around a whole lot of countries, it’s a pretty good feeling to visit a foreign country and be able to speak their language, even if just the basics and with very poor pronunciation. It makes locals happy too knowing that tourists/travellers are making the effort.

I set off to Germany on 8 June 2005. I moved there to live with a local family for a year as an au pair and, although I was to speak English with them (they all wanted to learn/improve and the kids were starting at an international school), I had to attend an interview in German as basic knowledge of the language was a prerequisite to have the au pair visa granted.

I didn’t speak one “a” in German. I didn’t even know how to say a simple “hallo“! How on Earth would I pass a whole interview??!!

It was around the fall of 2004 at the end of my year living in the US when I decided to make that move to Europe but wasn’t sure where to yet so I bought one of those book + CD courses to learn both French and German. Safe to say I barely touched them…to be honest, I was leaning more towards France but nowadays I’m really glad I ended up in Deutschland. I really like both countries/cultures/lifestyles but the latter fits my personality a lot more and I actually ended up falling in love with the language (as hard as it is to learn it!).

Long before Facebook there was another social network…no, not MySpace. It was Orkut. It was American but for some weird reason it was popular only in Brazil, India and I think Pakistan. But anyway, it was really good to meet people! Way less negativity than Facebook too…it was, at least most of the time, a pretty happy place where people had profiles stating some basic facts about them and what they liked in books, movies, music and all that. There was a space to leave “testimonials” about your friends too and people used that to declare their love for one another.

There were also loads of what were called “communities” (groups) and, once I matched with a family in Germany based purely on their music taste, I joined Orkut’s list of members of Au Pairs in Deutschland, whose ownership actually ended up being transferred to me!

In that group I made hundreds of friends who were already in Germany, getting ready to go or planning on going…two girls in particular, I can’t remember why now as it’s been over a decade (wtf??!!), and I became really good friends and we used to chat LOADS on good ol’ MSN messenger (aaahhh good times…). We were all Brazilians, I had gone back home from the US already, one was in her native town of Araxá and the other one was working as an au pair in Canada.

We had way too much free time in our hands so we decided to help each other learn German for the visa interview and one of them suggested we listened to German music. So there we were trying to sing along to soft spoken Annett Louisan and punk rockers Die Ärzte while having absolutely no clue what the songs were about (once we figured it out it was great! Männer Sind SchweineMen Are Pigs – is a classic!).

Anyway, I have a music blog where I share playlists (mixtapes!) and, a couple of days ago, I made one all about German music so I thought I’d share it in case those of you learning the language or interested in it want to check it out. There’s a lot of mainstream pop rock with very simple, easy to understand lyrics and you can find it here: Mixtape | 99 Luftballons

The BBC website also has some courses to help you learn basic Spanish, Italian, French and other 37 languages!

Any other suggestions, especially for different languages or music additions are more than welcome! Just hit me up here.

xoxo travelling mixtape


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