Friday, October 31, 2014

me too

Sometimes, there is nothing better than coffee & conversation with good friends. There is nothing better than doing life together, than sharing honestly what you're feeling and hearing those two beautiful words in return: me too. I understand. It's ok.

Or, perhaps better said: ich auch. Ich verstehe. Es ist ok.

Because somehow these moments & conversations happen in German. I myself am mostly still shocked about this. When we first moved here, my one greatest fear was that it would take me years to ever make real friends. That I would never be able to go deeper than my every-day-text-book-recite-by-heart German. There's only so many times you can ask someone their favorite colour after all... 

It's a scary thing (as a writer & youth worker) to be suddenly surrounded by people you cannot communicate with. I often say that for me, one of the hardest things about moving to Germany was that I felt I had a new personality. Everything I knew how to do, everything I was gifted at, involved words. Listening to them, writing them, creating a safe space for others to speak them and sometimes even getting up there and speaking them myself. It was an almost cruel twist of fate that took that away from me so quickly. 

And so, I did the only thing I knew how to do at the time- I abandoned my own words- my margin-scrawled poems & heartfelt conversations...these things that betrayed me in my new home, and picked up my language textbooks (and knitting needles!), my brain swimming with foreign sounds that hid the new words I was trying so hard to learn. 

But somewhere along the road things got a little better. I started this blog. I made some very patient friends. And slowly, slowly the words came back. I started writing again. I met with people who became my dear friends, first in coffee shops for awkward conversations where I stumbled over my words and then slowly (oh so slowly) got a little better...

and I think what's so beautiful for me about those times- when the coffee is gone and we talk on (and on...) is that I've been given a gift I never thought I would receive. I can more than get by in this language. Sure, I can make myself understood but I can also communicate with complete honesty what is in my heart. And I can understand what is uttered in return.

And somehow in those moments the words ich auch are even more beautiful than me too. Because I know the journey I had to take to make it here, I know what it took to be able to understand them. 

Still. I wouldn't hold your breath for a post in German here any time soon. I still haven't cracked the code that is writing with correct German grammar...


  1. What a beautiful post, Ruth! It must have been so hard for you. I went to stay with friends in Italy a few years ago having only very, very basic Italian and it was maybe the toughest 2 weeks of my life. Wanting to communicate and connect so badly and simply not being able to was really painful. Still, it's the only real way to learn a language I think and it's a glorious feeling when things (and words) finally click into place one by one. Oh, and forget the grammar. Seriously, native speakers understand you anyway just by context. You always feel it must sound so jarring in their ears but when I hear a foreigner speak German I don't notice wrong grammar much. I mean, I wouldn't even expect them to have correct grammar, German grammar being pretty tough.
    Italian is even worse though - every sentence I speak in Italian has at least five mistakes in it. Oh well.

    1. thanks so much for sharing your experience- it's good to know I'm not alone. That sounds like such a challenge, traveling with just a basic grasp on the language but I hope rewarding as well! And you're so right, it is such a glorious feeling when things click. The best. I also think it's so inspiring that almost everyone here speaks & learns so many different languages! So many people here speak stellar English as well as French or Spanish (or Italian :) ) It was a bit embarrassing in the Sprachschule because I was the only one learning my 2nd language... oh well, better late than never :)