By Eva Buzo
I decided in my final year of university that it was now time for me to get out of my little English bubble and learn another language. According to The Associate Press, 66 per cent of the world is at least bilingual and after leading an increasingly transient lifestyle, I was embarrassed to admit I had never put any effort into learning another language.
To solve this problem, I spent a year saving money and bought a one-way ticket to Lindau, Germany to try my hand at German.
Lindau is a small town close to the boarder where Switzerland, Austria and Germany meet. It has the backdrop of the Alps and is surrounded by Lake Constance, a delightful little Bavarian town where I could kick start my new life as a Polyglot.
When I arrived I knew about three words in German, all learnt from movies. I wanted to fast track my learning so I chose the ‘full-immersion’ route and had organised through my language school a host family to stay with for my first six weeks. Everywhere I went and everyone I would speak to would be German.
I was not aware of how ambitious this was in my planning phase, but from the moment I stepped off the train I had walked myself onto the set of a Charlie Chaplain movie- a life of mime and slapstick comedy.
On my first day, my host family presented me with a bicycle and a map and sent me on my way to explore Lake Constance.
As I rode along the bike track, winding around Lake Constance with the Alps in front of me, I couldn’t help but hum tunes from The Sound of Music to myself. I had half a mind to take myself up to the mountains and do some frolicking in the grass.
At one point I needed to ask for directions as I was no longer sure what country I was in (a novel problem for me, as an Australian, you can tell if you’re in the wrong country by the mere fact you would have to be wet). I approached an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench enjoying the scenery, and tried to think of the German word for Switzerland. I’m sure I’d heard it before.
Halfway into my question, I realised that amongst the three German words in my head, two of them sounded the same.
Schweiz and Scheisse
One means Switzerland, the other means shit.
The man wasn’t angry at me when I asked him where the shit was, more confused as I pointed at the map and looked at him with my ‘I’m a lost puppy’ look that I often employ whilst traveling to draw out the kindness of strangers.
We were unable to solve my navigational problems, so I smiled appreciatively and walked back to my bike. Must have been my accent.
Coming up next, When Some Strangers Come to Call and The Day I Learnt How Germans Feel About Nudity