It's snowing

· 708 words · 4 minute read


Snow is falling in Linz today. This makes the kids very happy. I put on some ski gear and rode my bike to work along with dozens of other folks.

Snow fits the scenery. Linz is all in for Christmas. Lights are strung above the streets. Clear lights, globes, stars, and multi-colored spirals.

Linz has three different Christmas markets within a half mile radius. Main square’s market has tasty Glühwein. Volksgarten has classical music, animatronic elves, and a ferris wheel. Pfarrplatz has a petting zoo.

We went to a Christmas gospel thing at the cathedral last weekend. The lead singer spoke fluent German, which the audience loved. He must have some link to Austria — he’s been doing this every year for over a decade.


The next day we went to a little party hosted at our friends’ house. They’re also from the Bay Area. I tried to speak some German with their neighbors, but it’s not happening. We stuck with English.

Let’s talk more about that.

I expected Max and Zoe to learn German faster than we would, but we’re progressing at the same pace. Every store, restaurant, movie theater, or office in Linz has some English, and it doesn’t seem crucial to spend the money, or time, on intensive language training.

Alison and I practice German at home using an app called Duolingo. I also listen to a German podcast, produced by an Irish guy who learns along with you. Once a week there is a class at my work, and we are both taking an extracurricular class too. Mine starts on Friday.

We can use numbers pretty well, but it’s hard to calculate things since the first number is the digit, not the ten. In German you say “two and twenty” — instead of “twenty-two,” and that split second of confusion makes it hard to take in whatever is said next.

The time is also flipped around. 8:30 is “Half nine,” rather than “half past eight.”

Now for the articles. What a mess.

“The” is an article. French, Italian and Spanish have genders — so the articles change. Spanish has “el” and “la.” El niño. The boy. Masculine. La niña. The girl. Feminine.

Like Spanish, German has masculine and feminine, but there’s also neutral. Der and die for masculine / feminine. Das for neutral.

Der Junge. The boy. Masculine. Das Mädchen. The girl. Feminine right? No. It’s Neutral. Jokes on you. Apparently neutral things are often diminutive, meaning little and cute. Like a cute little kitty cat. Die kleine Katze. Oh, wait, that’s feminine. Kill me.

Notice the ending too. Der Junge ends in “e” — so you might think, oh, things that end in “e” are masculine. Nope. The cute kitty Katze ends in “e” also. So you have to memorize the article, and the gender, with every word.

To make it even worse — the articles change when the noun is not the subject of the sentence. Dog is masculine. Der Hunde. But if he’s the direct object (after the verb)— he’s den Hunde. There are more articles to learn soon. Possessive articles. If something is yours or mine. Great.

Sentence structure is also difficult. Verb placement. This one makes me crazy. You call me on the phone and invite us to dinner. “I would like you and your wife to join us for dinner next week.” This translates to “I want you and your wife next week dinner with us join.” The second verb always comes last. It’s like watching Rachel Maddow. A slow reveal. You want my wife and I to do something dinner related. I wonder what. Eat dinner? Buy dinner? Regurgitate dinner? Oh! Join! You want us to JOIN you at dinner! Sorry. We can’t.

The slow reveal isn’t hard for us yet — because our vocabulary is so limited that we don’t understand most of what people are saying to begin with. But as our vocab improves, I am thinking it might be like the flipped numbers. A split second pause to think and whatever follows is lost.

The word for “repeat” is wiederholen.

To summarize. Christmas is here. German is hard. :)

Time to sign off and earn my daily Duolingo points before bed time.

Gute Nacht!