*Since starting this bloggy thing I’ve been writing mostly about China and Argentina. This is because I’m in Argentina right now and I had just come back from China when I started, so those are the things most fresh in my mind. I actually did write about my time in Germany, but back then I was still shy and overly protective of my writing. Now the goblins in my head are clamoring for equality, so I’m going to post what I wrote about my stay in Germany here.
**Original date: June 22, 2013
First of all, I just want to say that studying abroad is a fantastic thing to do. People, if you still have the chance to study abroad, DO IT. DO IT NOW. I’ve only been in Berlin for two weeks and most of that time was spent being sick and recovering from jet lag, but it was still amazing.
Anyways, on Friday my teacher decided that we should play a game. A homonyms game (those are the words that have the same spelling and pronunciation, but different meanings). For this game he divided us into teams of two. Now, the classes at the German Language School are pretty small, about five to eight people, and that day we were an odd number. As many of you already know, I’m incredibly picky when it comes to sitting in a classroom. I either sit in a corner, near the door, or near the wall. Sometimes all three. The last thing I want is to be near the other students.
Because of this, I ended up being my team. Just me.
This in itself isn’t bad (I most certainly got what I wanted, as far as not being near other people was concerned), but when the instructions are given in a foreign language and you only understand every other word, it helps to have a second opinion.
The game was this: each team was given a list of German homonyms. We were to pick a word and describe one of the meanings in our own words, and the other teams had to guess the word and its other meaning. The first team to guess correctly got a point, and extra points were also awarded for good grammar. Pretty simple. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the entire game was based on these lists. I thought that the list was an example of how to play the game, and that we had to come up with our own words. I didn’t realize that each team had a different list of words.
I couldn’t think of any German homonyms, except one. I looked at the other students playing the game and I wondered how they were able to think of these words so quickly. Was their German really that much better than mine?
Soon enough, it was my turn. Everyone was looking at me, expecting something intelligent to come out of my mouth, and so I began to describe the only German homonym that I knew: Schwanz.
It means tail. It’s also slang for penis.
The room got very quiet, and you could tell that most of them knew instantly what it was, but no one wanted to say it out loud. I think they all assumed that there had to be another word, one that could be properly used in the classroom.
Finally one student yelled, “Schwanz!” The other students laughed, presumably because they were thinking, “That can’t really be the word. The teacher wouldn’t make us play a game involving the word ‘penis,’ and we’re all adults here. Surely this girl wouldn’t use such crude language in a classroom setting.”
They were wrong. I never behave like an adult if I can help it.
When I told him he had gotten it right there was a brief moment of disbelief. The other students looked back at their own lists and one asked, “Is that really on your list?” This was when I started to feel like I had misunderstood the instructions. I asked if we were supposed to be coming up with the words on our own. The teacher laughed and said that it was perfectly fine to use our own words, but the others were using words from the lists he had given them.
So that’s what those papers were for! Suddenly the world made sense again.
I told the teacher that “Schwanz” is a very important word for foreigners to know and that it should be included in the game. He agreed and suggested that I add it to the list (he was by far my favorite teacher at this school).
I sincerely hope that from this point forward, students at the German Language School in Berlin will occasionally be required to get their classmates to shout the German word for penis as a legitimate part of their education.