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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eichhörnchen, Einhörnchen, und die deutsche Sprache

Translation: Squirrels, Baby Unicorn Squirrels, and the German language.

While I was studying abroad in Lüneburg in 2011, I kept a blog for my school. Unfortunately, I only ever posted 3 entries to that blog, but I will share one of these posts with you now. It was written after being in Germany about 2 weeks:

As I enter my 3rd week in Germany, I am feeling much more confident in my German-speaking abilities and can feel an immense increase in my knowledge of the language. I had been told by many people that understanding/being able to speak German will not be necessary to live here. While it certainly isn't necessary (about 3/4 of the Americans in this exchange program can't say much more than 'Ein Bier, bitte') I still believe is it incredibly important to speak the native language of any country you choose to reside.

My very first experience in Germany occurred in the airport, when my driver said to me in German, 'I was expecting a man' (Courtney is not a German name, and they have a hell of a time trying to pronounce it, but at least they always remember it). Since then, I have made many German friends and am able to somewhat communicate with my German roommates since I studied German for a few years before embarking on this trip. And speaking of German roommates, I cannot emphasize enough how elated I am to only live with Germans. From listening to their phone conversations, conversations with each other, and speaking in German together daily, I believe they have taught me more already than my 10 hours of German classes each week.

One of my roommates loves to test my knowledge of the German language daily. Our most common game is one in which he lists a category, such as vegetables (Gemüse) and will start having me list all of them that I know. Once I exhaust my knowledge he will move onto new words for me to learn. This may seem like too simple of a game for someone who has been studying German for more than 4 years, but one humbling thing you find when moving to a country where you are not a native speaker is that your accent SUCKS and NOBODY CAN UNDERSTAND YOU.

So recently, we began talking about animals that live in Germany, and in my attempt to say squirrel (Eichhörnchen) he completely could not understand me and drilled me on this word for a full hour. A few nights later, I decide to show off by saying it to a different German friend, but what he hears is Einhörnchen, or little unicorn. So it goes. As my neighbor told me, and I often must remind myself, it is the difficulty which makes the German language so beautiful.

And yes, of course I own this t-shirt.


  1. Because it is so difficult and because we used to see them all over when we took walks, one of the first German words I taught my wife was "Eichhörnchen". It took her a while to learn to say it let alone remember it. I also love the Bavarian variation of the word, especially when a native Bavarian says it!

  2. lol this post made me laugh out loud. My host family (German) never stop laughing at my failed attempts to say Einhoernchen. And any words that start with Phy/psy etc. ' your accent SUCKS and NOBODY CAN UNDERSTAND YOU.' Ich kenne dieses gefuehl! haha


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