Sunday, May 20, 2012

Word of the week: sau

The linguist inside me is a bit perturbed by the classification of this topic as a word when technically it’s an expressive intensifier, which functions similarly to an adjective but to emphasize speaker emotion. But whatever, just something I’ve noticed in my ongoing education in the German language…and by education I don’t mean reading grammar books, I mean based on what I take in from radio, television and other native speakers.
I’ve mentioned before some of the linguistic tells of my Californian roots, for example, frequent use of the word, “totally.” This is also an expressive intensifier. Let me give you some examples, it’s very multi-functional.

Yesterday you missed a totally cool party.
In this case the speaker is emotional about how cool the party was.

Yesterday you totally missed a cool party.
In this case the speaker is emotional about the person having missed the party.

Other examples in English include: terribly, really, extremely…the list goes on. But now I want to introduce you to totally’s German equivalent: sau

In addition to the more standard version of this intensifier sehr ‘very,’ sau- is more informal, which is to say, perhaps something you'd use with somene auf Du. The actual meaning of sau is sow, a female pig. Its function is similar to the English equivalent.

Gestern hast du eine sau coole Party verpasst.
Here the speaker is emphasizing how cool the party was.

If you wish to express emotion that the person missed this cool party, as in the second example with totally, one might make use of another intensifier voll ‘completely’

Gestern hast du voll die coole Party verpasst.

Sau can even be added to adjectives to emphasize speaker emotion about the degree of something. For example, if you go outside and see the temperature is -10º C, you might say it is “saukalt.” ‘very cold.’  When adding all the costs of getting a driver’s license, including all the theoretical lessons and behind the wheel training, one might describe it as “sauteuer.” ‘very expensive.’ You can even use sau to represent an individual, for example, to show sympathy with a touch of sarcasm, Du arme Sau 'You poor thing.' Or in some cases a lack thereof: Da interessiert sich keine Sau für ‘Not a single person is interested in that.’

I’m still learning the ins and outs of the German language, it’s sauschwer ‘really hard.’

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This is still a thing?

Hello, my name is Valerie and I am a blogger of convenience. I know I have been rather absent as of late. Karneval came and went and somewhere in between it changed to spring. This semester I have class Monday-Friday and that has kind of intruded on free time to sit and muse. But May is a great month, at least here in NRW. There are several bank holidays peppered throughout the month, so it’s basically a smooth cruise into summer.

As a free-lance worker, you’ve got to lock up whatever work you want well in advance. That’s one thing I learned my first year here. Shortly after my arrival, after my 90 day tourist visa had expired but before I was given residency I was still on a temporary permit. During that time I went on quite a few interviews and trial lessons. I was really open to any and every opportunity. The old expression “beggars can’t be choosers,” became my mantra (inspiring stuff, I know). Allow me to paint a picture of some of my interviews: I sat before a potential employer, a foreigner, hoping to obtain a contract, even though I had no valid visa for the time of period stated on this hypothetical contract and could boast only a bit of work experience in the field. What’s German for long shot? 

I had one such interview in July of 2010. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it, but summer holidays here are kind of a big deal. Trying to get ahold of anyone between July and August just by email, let alone setting up an interview, is a bit of a tall order. We discussed my situation up until that point, what brought me here, what I was expecting and what I had done so far. I could tell a few minutes in that there was no offer to be had and I was more or less just explaining my situation to someone who was nice enough to pencil me in. Besides the fact that I had no visa, which to an employer here is kind of a deal-breaker, I was also relatively new in teaching at the time, and furthermore, I was asking for work three months before the semester was due to start, what I didn’t know at that time was that I was about two months too late.

With this in mind, a couple weeks ago I emailed this contact. As this semester winds up, and I slowly transition into the summer lull, now is the time to look for work the fall. Plus, in the last two years I’ve branched out considerably and taken on more technical courses, so what’s the harm in sending a CV and asking to be kept in mind for the coming semester? I was shocked to get a response the next day and had an interview the same week. This time it was a much more positive experience. I felt more at ease and had a lot more to talk about with respect to teaching. Short of the long, I’ve been offered position and will begin in October! 

Once again the topic of getting my German driver’s license has surfaced. Another fun fact I’ve recently learned is that if you (as a foreign resident in Germany) possess a driver’s license from your country (keep in mind that a license from California exempts me from neither the 30 question theoretical exam [of which I cannot miss more than 2 questions and some of the questions have more than one correct answer] nor the driving exam), you are permitted to take the two exams without having attended the requisite 14 ninety minute theoretical driving lessons. That is however, if you do so before three years after your entry into the country. Never mind that these lessons are kind of pricy (plus the additional behind the wheel training I’d require), they are also in German (obv.) I will admit, my language skills are passable, but I am not about to kid myself that I’d understand (let alone be able to commit to memory) everything contained within an hour and a half theoretical lesson…fourteen times. 

Also this is not the driver's training I had when I was 16, where I sat in a crowded poorly ventilated room (I only mention that as I took my training courses in the summer, and July in southern California is a really hot place), and for the life of me I can't remember anything other than the video called "Red Asphalt" we watched on our last lesson, whose name I feel is straight forward enough that I need not expand on its contents. Theoretical lessons revolve around specific road scenarios, parking rules, driving within and outside built-up areas (cities), towing rules for vehicles of all sizes (never mind the fact that you need a different permit to tow certain loads, as a normal car driver you are still expected to know these random numbers), car mechanics and handling, driving with care to the environment, as well as the plenary rules and consequences of sharing the road with cyclists, pedestrians, children, disabled and elderly people, farm vehicles, buses, trains and trams, and occasionally wild game. We're talking formulas, weights, distances and speeds a plenty, and don't even get me started on who has right of way when.

In lieu of suffering these lessons I’ve taken to the internet to study and force myself to power through at least 5 question sets a week (that’s 150 questions). My stats are still unimpressive, but I’m working on it. Once I think I'm ready, I'll find a school to take the test, also have to get first aid certified somewhere along the way as well. To close I thought I’d leave you with a few (of the MANY) questions I got wrong. 

How can you save fuel when driving a motor vehicle with an automatic transmission?
         By not using the “kick down” facility if possible
(Bonus point to anyone who can explain to me what the kick down facility is)

You are holding a driving permit class B. Your car has the following specifications:
-empty mass 900 kg
-permissible total mass 1400 kg
-permissible tow load 1000 kg
Which trailer are you allowed to tow?
         A trailer with a permissible total mass of 850 kg

When must a car with a trailer driving outside built-up areas on roads with only one lane for each direction keep a sufficient distance from the car in front so that an overtaking vehicle may pull in?
         When the combination of vehicles exceeds 7m

You are travelling at 100 km/h and have a reaction time of 1 second and brake normally. What is the stopping distance according to the rule of thumb?
         130 m
-fun fact: stopping distance= reaction distance + braking distance
Reaction distance= (speed in kmh/10) x 3   Braking distance=(speed in kmh/10)²
                                 100/10 x 3= 30 m                              10²=100 

Where are you allowed to park a trailer with a permissible total mass exceeding 2 t in built-up areas regularly on Sundays and public holidays between 22h00 and 6h00?
         In industrial areas
         In wholly residential areas, on specifically designated parking spaces

What must you know about catalytic converters?
         A catalytic converter can be damaged or destroyed the car is towed to start
         A catalytic converter can be damaged when the engine starts after many
           unsuccessful attempts

What must be regularly serviced to prevent high fuel consumption and excessive pollutant emission?
         Engine air filter
         Ignition system
         Carburetor or fuel injection system