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Month: March 2017

Das ist ein Brief

Dear Rosetta Stone,

I want to write to my mother in German and talk to her about her favorite topic: Me.

I want to bring her immeasurable happiness by telling her what I ate, tell her I am walking, and I want to tell her I am not swimming. I will also tell her I am not riding a bicycle. If I read a newspaper, I would like to tell her that too.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to share anything about myself yet, because the pronoun “I” is not covered in the first two hours of Core Lesson 1.

I know:
The girl: Das Madchen
The boy: Der Junge
The woman: Die Frau
The man: Der Mann
They: Sie

But I do not know, “I,” nor how to conjugate it, arguably the most important of all. My mother will find it very curious if I recap my day by only describing what other people do.

Let me be clear: if I only present information about other people to her, in broken German, she will suspect I am hiding something. And when my mother thinks I’m hiding something, she frets. And then with the persistence of a strongly motivated FBI agent, who is willing to cut corners for answers to questions the brass is too scared to ask, she will get to the bottom of what I may be hiding. She will brutally interrogate my siblings, exhaust my husband’s patience, and write desperate, threatening emails. And I will have to explain, IN ENGLISH – SO FORGET ABOUT PRACTICING ANY NEWLY LEARNED GERMAN, that I could not write about myself, because you did not include the pronoun “I” in the first two hours of the course. Who knows if she will believe this truth.

Please consider incorporating “I” and relevant conjugations earlier into the curriculum.

Kind regards,

A Person Who Bought Your Software Years Ago and Only Started Using it Recently

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The Problem with the Digital Revolution

I’m sitting here, on an airplane, enraged.*

Apparently my music is inaccessible without internet, which is infuriating. While we (the public) were distracted with elections and wars, digital music providers have been quietly making us dependent on online streaming services. I am livid. When the masses learn about this, there will surely be outrage on an unprecedented scale.

Let me explain how this came to pass.
I have a phone with TWO music applications: ITunes and Amazon Music. I have purchased music through both of these programs, because I spend money on such luxuries. And I have played the songs I have purchased on my mobile device. Because that is what you do: you buy music and then listen to it. However, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was “streaming” the songs I had purchased. They were in my “library” but they were not actually on my device.

So now, I’m stuck listening on repeat to the only songs that I have downloaded to my device, which are: 4 songs from Glee, one Alicia Keys song, and one Pitbull song. These are all songs that happen to be stored on my phone because I use them as WAKEUP ALARMS. This means I already HATE the only songs that I have access to without the internet.

This lack of music is truly a creative shackle. How am I to work on my craft (fanciful writing) without sweet melodies inspiring me in the background?

*Editor’s note: I wrote this on the plane, and then waited until I landed, with strong internet access, to post it.

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Das ist ein kurzer Aufsatz

Guten tag. I purchased Rosetta Stone*. What inspired this? Primarily, Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime. This book provides incredible insight into Trevor’s life growing up in South Africa. I learned more about apartheid than I ever learned in school. Noah talks about how he used language to navigate between different groups. Here is a passage from the book:

Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says “We’re the same.” A language barrier says “We’re different.”

The architects of apartheid understood this. Part of the effort to divide black people was to make sure we were separated not just physically but by language as well. In the Bantu schools, children were only taught in their home language. Zulu kids learned in Zulu. Tswana kids learned in Tswana. Because of this, we’d fall into the trap government had set for us and fight among ourselves, believing that we were different.

The great thing about language is that you can just as easily use it to do the opposite: convince people that they are the same.

With German, I can convince Germans that I am like them. So far it’s going really well. Der Mann ist ein Apfel. Die Frau trinkt Wasser. That means, A man eats an apple. The woman drinks water.
I don’t know how to say, “I …” yet, so I can’t say, “I eat an apple,” because that’s not covered in the first two hours of the course. This feels like an oversight. Maybe it is the course’s way of telling me I shouldn’t be talking about myself. I’m not going to overthink it.


*Four years ago, and I started using it today. We will explore the delay in opening and installing it in another post, after if I come up with a reasonable explanation.

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A Fun Book Club Anecdote

Yesterday during book club, we were discussing Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth. The conversation topic was about the Jewish diaspora. I started thinking about my ancestors’ background, and how they felt in America. “Wait, this isn’t about you,” I thought to myself, “Focus on Jewish people. Geez.”

Then, seconds later, Alex pointed to me, and he said, “What about where your family is from? How is it for people from that country?” And that was so wonderful, because we were able to shift the conversation to me.

So, the moral of the story here is that good things come to those who wait.

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