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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Liebhaber | Mistranslation Monday

Liebhaber. What a beautiful word. Or at least I thought it was until an embarrassing situation with the German boyfriend happened recently.

Marco and I recently played the computer game Spore together. In the game, you can choose to make your character an aggressive killing machine by killing all other species. You can choose to be a peaceful ruler by simply studying the other species. Or you can choose to be something in the middle.

We had already played through the game once, and our character ended up somewhere in the middle. Since it was pretty fun, I wanted to play it through again, but instead get each of the other scenarios.

So, I told Marco that he can play as a Mörder (murderer) and I would play as a Liebhaber.

You see, Liebhaber is a compound word composed of Lieb (Liebe = Love) and Haber ("Have-er," like someone that has something). Love-Haver.

"You're going to play as a what?!" Marco replied in a tone of voice I wasn't expecting.

"A Liebhaber!"

"What do you think that word means?"

Like most new words I hear in German, I had simply guessed the meaning from its root words. Although, as I had already experienced with the word vermöbeln, this method is not very reliable.

Anyways, I don't always learn from my mistakes, and I had interpreted Liebhaber as "love-haver" - like someone who has a lot of love for something. Like a philanthropist or peacemaker.

I was wrong.

"A Liebhaber is a lover - like someone a married person has an affair with," Marco explained.

Oh... that's not what I meant.

P.S. I did look it up myself, and Liebhaber can also mean "enthusiast" (not just lover). But anyways, that is also not what I meant.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hooray for Being Average!

Being "average" is often conveyed as a something negative. However, as a foreign student in a German program with no other foreigners, being "average" is something I strive for.

I had a difficult time during the final exam period of my first semester of grad school in Germany. And although my current GPA is (so far) lower than my undergraduate GPA, I am happy. Why? Because my GPA is average.

My school's online platform allows students to see a table of grades from each class. This table shows the number of students that got each of the possible grades. In Germany, grades are on a scale of 1-4, in which 1 is the best and 4 is the worst.

Here are the results from the final exam from hell:

German grades

The only possible grades are 1, 1.3, 1.7, 2, 2.3, 2.7, etc. So, according to this table, one person got a perfect score (1.0), two people got a very good score (1.3), four people got a good score (1.7), two people -- me included -- got a 2.0, two people got a 2.3, three people received a 2.7, and one person had a 3.0.

At the bottom, you can see that there were 15 students in total, and the average grade was a 2.0. That's right, the average grade was a 2.0. I got a 2.0. This means I am average!

Growing up, I was an above-average student. This continued to college, when I graduated with honors. But by getting my degree in a foreign country and in a foreign language, this has changed.

Studying in a foreign country is hard. German universities are different from American universities. Classes are formatted differently. Professors have different expectations of their students.

Studying in a foreign language is especially hard. The texts you have to read each week aren't in English. The lectures are not in English. Final exams are not in English.

This exam was particularly terrifying since it was my first exam in German. Since it was timed (and I couldn't use a computer), I knew my exam would be riddled with grammatical errors. Also, the subject material was straight up hard (old German philosophers, anyone?).

So, being average is just fine with me, and it is something I will continue to strive for in the coming semesters. Hooray for being average!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Giggles & Jiggles | Mistranslation Monday

On Sunday nights, Marco and I always watch Game of Thrones together. Anyone that watches Game of Thrones knows that the show can leave you in a weird mood once the credits start rolling.

I guess the episode a few weeks ago left Marco in a really weird mood, because as he was getting ready for bed later that night, he told me:

"I have the jiggles!"

I shot him the *what the heck are you talking about* look.

"I mean the giggles!" he said in an attempt to correct himself.

"You have the jiggles or the giggles?" I ask, not really knowing what the jiggles are, while also being quite certain that he did not have the giggles. 

"I just meant I have goosebumps," he replied, sounding discouraged.

Hey, it was a nice try at finding a new way to express the feeling of goosebumps. And I suppose it also kind of worked since it's now totally normal for Marco or me to say that we have the "jiggles and giggles" when we really just have the goosebumps.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

German Dialects vs. American Dialects

Dialects are a controversial topic in Germany. When raising a child, many parents are confronted with the dilemma of whether or not they should raise their child with dialect or raise them speaking Hochdeutsch (standard or "high" German). Although Marco must speak Hochdeutsch daily (both at work and home), he is still a big proponent of keeping dialects alive.

And I have to say that I am too.

So, one weekend, Marco and I decided to test our German dialects by taking an online German dialect quiz from the German news outlet Spiegel. Here are our results:

MarcoGerman dialect quiz - Schwäbisch

Marco comes from Baden-Württemberg, so you can already see that his results were pretty darn accurate. He placed the pin with the white dot in the middle on his hometown, and result #4, which the quiz guessed from Marco's answers, was less than 20 km away. Not bad!

CourtneyAmerican takes German dialect quiz

Although I am obviously not German, here are my results from the quiz. Since foreigners are always taught Hochdeutsch, it makes since that the quiz guessed I lived somewhere in the northwest, where Hochdeutsch is also the regional dialect.

Impressed with the results of this survey, I decided to search for something similar, but for Americans. Turns out, the New York Times offers an online American dialect quiz. I was pretty skeptical, since I do not think that dialects in the U.S. vary as strongly as dialects within Germany, but I decided to give it a shot anyways (and Marco did too). Here are those results:


English is Marco's second language, so it makes sense that his results are a little all over the place (except the South, thankfully). What was particularly weird, was that his #1 result was Honolulu.

CourtneyChicago accent map

Chicago accent map

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and went to college in the city, so this turned out to be incredibly accurate. You can see some of the answers that best showed my Chicago-ness in the bottom picture (who pronounces cot and caught the same?!).

So although Marco and I both live away from our hometowns, away from where our native dialects are spoken, we have both been able to hold on to those dialects pretty well thus far. I hope it stays like that.

 If you take the quiz(zes) yourself, let me know your results in the comments below!
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