It’s been about 5 months, practically the entire winter, since my last post. Life’s kind of like a swan right now, everything’s picture-perfect on the surface with a lot of frantic paddling beneath.
Recently, I earned the C1 certificate in German which indicates conversational-adequacy. There’s only one class left – C2, business German. I’m longing to take it, but there are gaps that need to be remedied in my current skill level before taking the final class and test.
One of those gaps is active usage (speaking), as classes focus on learning grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure – so while reading/writing/understanding is a breeze, speaking needs work. If you’ve ever taken a highschool foreign language class, then you’ll understand how wide expectations and reality can be from another. Thus, I’ve taken a job as a Modeberaterin (salesgirl) at a department store. It’s the perfect opportunity to continuously practice the language and build a bit of professional reputation (which is immeasurably necessary in Austria), while taking the burden of paying for my Krankenkasse (health insurance) from my husbands’ shoulders.
Life’s a worldwind and most times, I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Scheduled for 120 hrs per month, about 30 per week, with full-time being officially 38.5 and my shifts being variable; some weeks are literally full-time. Add attending classes and studying as well as job-hunting and it’s no wonder I’m constantly exhausted and easily fall ill.
My job environment has been a joy. It’s always fun to enter a room and be met by cold silence and resentful stares followed by conversations about me in dialect (which they haven’t yet realized I can dicepher). As usual, there’s a queen bee – does highschool ever end?!! The work is physically streneous, the customers range from lovely to ‘just shoot me now’, and the hours are tortoreous (apparently I drew the short straws for the weekly 12 hr shift!). Despite it all, my speaking ability has improved immensely – I’m no longer afraid to use the telephone, my dialogue is much smoother, clearer, and quicker, and my cognition of both standard and dialect speech is child’s play. Overheard conversations (on the television, radio, in public) are as easily understood as if they were spoken in English. It’s gotten to the point that it’s becoming difficult to hide from my coworkers that I do understand their snide ‘secret’ remarks.
However, I have freed myself from the ‘joys’ of public transportation by buying the cutest little two-seater convertible. My first trip was to a Flohmarkt (flea market) with MIL1 where I happened upon a Destiny’s Child CD for only €2! Blaring “Survivor” or “Independent” can either renew determination or tears – depending on the day.
I’m dying to return to my field, so jobhunting and networking has become a second job. Most weeks, I apply to up to 10 offered positions, either logical stepping stones or directly affiliated to my field. If I do receive a response, it’s always the requisitory “You are highly qualified, possess all of the requested skill requirements, however, we have opted for another candidate.” Jobhunting has been tough on my identity and self-esteem – especially when I see the exact same ad a week/month/year later. The constant rejection eats at my confidence and most days I am reduced to tearfully questioning my decisions, my abilities, and my worth.
I feel like an athlete that’s lost the use of her body. The will is there, but the impulses no longer elicite the expected responses. I wish it was as easy as the main character’s recovery in “Kill Bill” – “move your big toe” (and then it happened!). As my friends, husband, and family here keep saying, I should be happy… but I’m not.
So happy to hear about your progress with thelanguage, how you have mastered german and austrian dialect is truly impressive! Even if it means that you have to hear what your “nice” colleagues say, they’re idiots! (but you knew that). ❤ Alles Liebe!
Hey there! Thanks for the compliment; however, mastering German takes years and I wouldn’t be so arrogant to say I’m anywhere near there yet.
Of course, I am still mastering it, and it is my second mother tongue 🙂 What I meant to say, was that it is impressive how far you have come in a very short time when it comes to learning (the hard language) german ❤ Keep up the good work.
You’re right! I haven’t actually taken the opportunity to congratulate myself on accomplishments; but when reviewed, I haven’t done so bad. 🙂
Thanks for reminding me to slow down and smell the roses – as well as for your constant support. ❤
Sounds like soooo much is going on! I’ve never thought I’d EVER want to attempt to learn another language because it’s just, well… unimaginably difficult! I did Spanish in high school but only retained bare basics. I’m sure German is even harder. Hats off to you for challenging yourself to take the job you have and improving on your speaking and comprehension through doing so. I know it’s going to take some getting used to being in a country like that, but don’t doubt yourself please! In my estimation you are really doing your darn-dest to make the most of the situation and I’m proud of ya!
Hi, how are you?!
A lot has been going on and sometimes it can bee too much; nonetheless, one must just ‘keep on swimming’. Learning the language wasn’t the most difficult part, adapting to/accepting a culture that is so foreign and sometimes gives very clear signs that one is unwanted is the hardest.
Thanks for the support!
impressive C1 in 3 years – that is a major feat you should be extremely proud of yourself – really – I have worked with expats who have lived in non-english speaking countries for years and never picked up more German or French than the ability to order a beer – way to go you!! Seriously.
Secondly – no high school never ends, all people age sadly I have observed that not everyone matures – a bit like those small bitter apples on the tree that are left at the end of the summer and stay on through the winter, never fully ripe never fully sweet but bitter and woody from the start, that’s how it is, wherever you are whatever language you are in, and there is always that comfort groups take in having someone “other” – easier to keep a group together if there is a common “alien factor” – living in an alien culture is not easy I am sure – keep on swimming indeed- any meetup groups where you are?
🙂 Thank you. No, highschool never ends, but with enough observation and practice one can finally learn the game.
I’m re-entered my profession and life is ‘verdammt’ good. I’ve learned to play to my strengths and that everyone has weaknesses; some just opt to hide them by belittling others.
I’ll always be grateful however, for the way it all panned out – the ‘college-like’ courses, the ‘high school-like’ first job; everything has it’s purpose.
I tried the meet-ups but quickly realized they weren’t for me. Working in a fully German-speaking environment was enough and I still work in one although my English is a career advantage. I’ve got a group of English-speaking, married-to-Austrian folks from various walks of life and that works well.
I’ve always been blessed but each day I realize it more and more.
sounds like you have really integrated fully into your new environment – congratulations!