Adventures in Language Learning

Lately I’ve been thinking about a saying/encouragement about language learning. It’s the type of thing where you aren’t sure where you heard it, or who said it, but it sticks with you for some strange reason. I’ve heard, repeatedly, that when you’re learning a language there will be a [MaGiCaL] light bulb moment and things will just make sense. During my language classes throughout university I held onto that. I waited and waited and waited for my light bulb moment, for something to just click. And when it never did I became angry. All I could think is what a load of horseshit that “encouragement” was. All it did was get my hopes up that I’d be able to truly learn another language only to let me down. But what I failed to realize and accept is, is that I would actually have to put effort into language learning.

I know what you’re thinking: “Brittany, you idiot, of course you have to actually put effort into learning a language…or anything, really.” And you would be right, but I’m not always a smart woman. I also lacked the real desire to actually learn. All I wanted was to *know* the language. Putting in the leg work wasn’t something that I even wanted to think about, let alone do. I am an intensely lazy person, and I took that approach, or lack of one, when it came to learning a language. The truth is, is that you have to want to learn. You have to want to understand what goes into making the language work. As awful as it can be to learn grammar it’s just as important as vocabulary. You need to learn it all, the fun and the not so fun parts, in order to achieve any sort of true understanding. And that bit of encouragement that made me so angry? It’s not wrong. It just doesn’t give the whole picture. There isn’t one singular “Ah-ha!” moment. Language learning is a series of light bulb moments. Along the way you hit points where individually things might make sense, but when you bring them all together you’re completely lost, until one day something just clicks. Then you coast along on that high of understanding until you realize that you’re lost again. Language learning is a cycle of confusion, frustration, understanding, excitement, rinse, and repeat.

So what makes this time different? Well the obvious difference is that I now live in  the country of (one of) my target language(s)–Germany, for those of you that are new here–and have to learn the language in order to live and work within society. I’m taking intensive classes where we only use German, and soon French–I begin an A1 intensive class soon. I’ve also learned to take an interest in grammar. It’s become fascinating to me. Learning German grammar has helped me understand English grammar, oddly enough. In other words, I’m neck deep in the learning process, and I’m not trying to avoid it….well, most days. What can I say? I’m still a lazy woman, and some days I just really want to communicate in my own language.

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I’ve been MIA, as usual. I wish I had some cool, badass reason for being absent. Something like, I got a job as an international spy or an art thief or maybe just a job in general, but it’s only because I’ve been lazy. I go to school three days a week, and then just exist until Monday to start it all over again. I’m trying to get into better habits for my mental and physical health, because, as usual, I’m a mess. BUT that’s not what I got on my dusty computer to talk about. Today I want to talk about racism and prejudice.

If you do not want to read about racism and prejudice this is not the post for you.

Let me repeat: If you do not want to read about anything that has to do with racism then pick a different post of mine to read.

I have always struggled with standing up for my beliefs, regardless of what they are, but I am finding it harder to stay silent as I grow and change. Recently my sorority was in the spotlight for a reason that seems to be a reoccurring theme for a lot of social clubs: racism.

To sum up what happened a woman took two videos of herself using the n-word. In one she asks if it’s okay to say it if it’s in a song or something and the other she just says it over and over and over again and then states “if you’re offended you can suck my dick.” This woman has since been kicked out of the sorority; which is great, but what this has also done is show just how deep racism and prejudice run within our society.

Several sisters of color have come out stating that they’ve disaffiliated from our organization because of this and similar actions; and, while there have been many comments of support for them and outrage at what they’ve experienced, there are also an alarming amount of comments stating that kicking this girl out was going too far and that they should be allowed to say the n-word because it is “used as a way of saying ‘my friend’ or used as a lyric” (almost a direct quote from a comment in the thread). This same sister also seems to believe that everyone says it so what’s the big deal, which is even more alarming. And this is where I decided to stop being a coward, and be an ally. Here is a portion of our interaction: Please excuse the weird formatting and order. I couldn’t put it into a more logical looking order.

 

SISTER 1 (original comment the rest are replies to this one): I get everyone is upset but you need to understand what we stand for. And not judging other women is apart of that. Yes she messed up, but I’m sure everyone else has as well. Don’t prosecute her…. show her sisterly love and help her understand why she was in the wrong. Jumping to throw stones at someone the first chance we get is not what we are about ladies. Remember who you are.

Sister 2: she didn’t get caught underage drinking SISTER 1, she made a lot of racial slurs and that should not be tolerated from anyone at any time

Me: I’m not Sister 2, but I know I’ve never said the n-word in my life, and I grew up with certain family members saying it (which is wtf!). The thing about slurs is that if you aren’t a member of the group the slur is used on you don’t get to say whether or not it’s offensive. Also, the girl in the video, after repeatedly saying the n-word, says “if you’re offended you can suck my dick”. That doesn’t sound like someone that’s “singing a lyric or using it at “my friend””.

Sister 2:no, I don’t say words like that because I was raised better than that. And I’m not throwing shade at you, I’m just saying that what happened here and racisim as a whole needs to stop being downplayed.

SISTER 1:so you’re saying not at one time in your life you have never used the “n” word? Not even once ? Not even in a song? Have you ever offended another race ? Even once ? If you haven’t then good for you. But I’m sure more people have at least one time. Intentional or singing lyrics. What offends one person doesn’t necessarily offend another. We are all women with different views , races, religions etc. therefore we are not all going to think the same way. So what is okay for one person may not be okay for another. Recognize people are different. Don’t be so quick to judge people. And for further information , a racial slur… meaning used directed at another race with purpose of hurting someone. Saying the WORD as a lyric or saying it as “my friend” with zero negative connotation is not a racial slur. There a lot of slang word that I’m sure you use all the time that offend other people. Just keep that in mind before you throw shade on someone else.

SISTER 1:I never saw the “ you can suck my dick part”. So apologizes on that part. I’m friends with many of color and family members as well. So I do actually feel that i can say wether or not it offends me , seeing that I am also apart of the organization. I just don’t feel that it’s fair to say we don’t judge and accepts all points of view and people when that’s exactly what you’re going against. It’s a bit hypocritical tbh. What happened to “once a sister, always a sister.” We should be begging for this girl to get councilors to talk to her and mediation. Not just kick her out. That’s not right regardless of what she’s done.

Me: having friends and family members that are diverse doesn’t grant you the right to say whether or not something is offensive or not. Most people meet those qualifications. It’s one thing to accept people for who they are and not judge them if they’re bi, trans, have different beliefs, or the like, but another just to sweep racism under the rug. If you scroll up in the comments you’ll read about women that left our sorority because of this stuff. If our sisters of color are leaving because of racism then we need to fix it, and get rid of the racist, not coddle her and allow the sisters she’s hurting to leave in the name of “non-judgement”.

SISTER 1:we can go back and forth but I just feel you’re way too judgmental. I hope that when a similar situation comes up in your life you are given leniency

SISTER 1: On top of that saying I can’t say anything bc I’m not of color can also be turned. You’re not of color so you don’t really get to say that it’s wrong. Think about it both ways girly.

Me: I never said you weren’t entitled to your opinion. Just that you don’t get to dictate whether or not something is offensive. Our sisters of color have said as much, I’m merely trying to be back them up. Also, please don’t call me girly. I’m a grown woman. I haven’t been petty with you and would request the same from you.

SISTER 1:it’s a term of endearment commonly used in the south. Not used as a demeaning term. Lol stop jumping to conclusions.

Me: I’m from Georgia, so I also know it’s used in a petty way. I’m actually one of the founding sisters of our chapter.

I’m not showing this so that someone will give me a pat on the back and a cookie (although I would totally love a cookie at this moment, because cookie), but because I find views like Sister 1’s so common. This “why can’t we say/do *thing* since ~they~ can.” And then when challenged the person doubles down, usually by saying something along the lines of “my uncle’s friend’s poodle’s girlfriend’s owner” is *insert some minority group here* so I’m not racist.” No, that’s not how this works. Almost everyone knows someone, or is related to someone, from a minority group. That doesn’t grant us some magical pass to say whatever we want. Also, unlike what Sister 1 seemed to be wanting, racism should NEVER be ignored in order to appear non-judgemental.

Why is it that we, and when I say we I mean white people, myself included, react so defensively and angrily when our belief systems are shaken? I completely understand feeling uncomfortable, but rather than lash out, sit with that discomfort. Ask yourself why does it make me uncomfortable? And in the case of Sister 1, why does she want to say the n-word so badly? Would she be okay saying it around non-white people? I have a feeling the answer is a resounding “No,” because it’s an unacceptable thing to say, just like all slurs. Personally, when someone around me uses “gay, fag, or queer” and they aren’t part of the LGBQT+ community I become uneasy. I can easily pass as straight, because I married a man and most people don’t know I’m Bi–well, I guess they do now. Surprise!–, but I also know people are still hostile and angry that I exist. And I assume that people of color have similar feelings when they hear slurs thrown around.

Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Would you be comfortable, knowing the history of a word, and having it used around or against you? Probably not. We are all people just trying to live our lives, don’t make it harder by being racist or prejudiced. And if someone tries to explain to you how you or someone else is being discriminatory don’t double down. Try to listen, to learn, and to grow. I know, I have been trying to do that. And also, fight injustice wherever you see it.

 

 

Observations from my language class

Now that I have two weeks of language classes under my belt I am a complete expert when it comes to the German language…I wish! In reality I am slightly less lost than I was before I started, but not by much. I have noticed a few interesting things, though, that have almost nothing to do with German. [Disclaimer: I will be making generalizations. These are just my observations, best guesses, and opinions, and should not be taken as 100% fact.]

For starters, we tend to divide ourselves down gender lines. The guys sit with the guys and the women sit with the women. I don’t think it was a conscious choice, honestly, but I have no idea–I was an overachiever, and was the first one there so I just chose a seat; and then, everyone else showed up and sat down. Our placement is also rather interesting. The women all sit closest to our teacher while the men choose to sit as far away as possible. I have a theory, that sounds kind of harsh even though I don’t mean it to, on why the women sit close and the men sit so far away: I think it has something to do with the way we see the class. Or rather, the importance we place upon the class.

All of the students are around the same age. All but one of the men are 22 or 23. The women are between 22 and 29. And, for the most part, most of the women in class seem very serious about learning German. The men, however, act as if they’re the NFL football player that kept saying “I’m here so I won’t get fined”. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmABbHSOTqQ ) They chat through lessons, shout out answers when someone else is trying to work their way through an answer, and joke around. Most of us have to take the class in order to get our next residence permit so I don’t think they see the class as unimportant, per say, but I definitely think they see it as an inconvenience to be endured because they HAVE to.

I think, ultimately, that what I’m noticing is just two different levels in maturity. I’ll readily admit that during the first week and a half I got really annoyed by them, it’s still annoying, but I realized that they were acting like other 22 year-old guys I know. Most of the 22 year old guys I know tend to act like they know the secrets of life itself, and like nothing in the world bothers them–good or bad. [Gentlemen: if you do know life’s secrets be a pal and help a sister out, because I am lost in the sauce.] There are, of course, exceptions, but generally speaking it just seems like the men seem to take everything less seriously than the women. Or maybe, I am reading too much into the situation.

I’m genuinely curious if other language/integration courses are similar. Have you experienced something similar? Please let me know.

I was well aware of the whole no kitchen thing when moving into apartments in Germany, but what I didn’t know about was the lighting situation…or rather, the lack of it. Upon walking into the apartment and flipping the light switch I realized we didn’t have any light. Actually all we had were some very scary looking wires sticking out of the ceiling. With the exception of the kitchen we paid for a few days before, HB and I were completely unprepared for living in our new home. Fast forward a week and our apartment is almost completely put together. All we need is a couch, coffee table, and a few little bits and bobs.

HB and I are finally feeling a bit more settled. I’ve had my first appointment with the foreigner’s office, and now have the correct application; which is, minus a few signatures and proof of insurance, filled out and ready to go. Now we just have to wait and wait, and wait some more for a second appointment. During that appointment I should finally figure out when and where my integration and language course(s) will be. FINALLY! It’s very isolating and annoying not being about to accurately communicate with anyone. I’m sure once I’m actively in a course I’ll be a lot less enthusiastic, but as of right now I am excited.

Please excuse my absence last week. We moved into our apartment and we’ve been trying to get everything set up, so I’ve been a bit busy. There will be a new post up on Sunday, because we should FINALLY have internet by the end of the week. We should also have almost all of our furniture so our apartment will finally feel like a home, and we can stop sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Maybe in an upcoming post I’ll do an apartment tour. We shall see. Until Sunday, I hope y’all have a good week!

My Experiences with Mental Health Professionals

I’ve written about my struggle with mental illness before, but what I haven’t written about is my interactions, and frustrations, with mental health professionals. I want to be upfront with everyone, I am a proponent of seeing someone if you are struggling. Actually, I think it is of the utmost importance. I’ve encouraged friends to seek out therapists, just like other friends did for me; so, my complaints and frustrations are not meant to try to convince people not to go, or scare people out of going. Instead I want to be an example to people that if you do not mesh well with your mental health professionals to not stay because you’re scared of leaving. Let me reiterate that: DO NOT STAY WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS IF YOU DO NOT FEEL LIKE THEY ARE HELPING YOU. FIND SOMEONE ELSE. You deserve to feel listened to, and you deserve to have someone that is invested in your mental health.

I briefly visited a child psychologist when I was younger, but I don’t really count that, because: 1. I didn’t choose to go, 2. I went maybe four times, and 3. I don’t remember much besides drawing (I don’t even know if I was given a diagnosis).

My first counselor was one of my university’s counselors. I genuinely liked visiting with her. My only complaint would be that I lead the sessions, and she rarely added or asked anything. It was really nice to just get all the awful things out of my head, and to have to someone that didn’t judge me and just listened. I saw her for almost two years before I moved to Columbus to live with HB. She is the reason I am on antidepressants, and I will forever be indebted to her for that. She made the suggestion that I might benefit from them. I just kept putting off making an appointment until one day I told her that I thought I was ready, and that I’d call once we were finished with our session. She asked what was stopping me from calling now? She told me to get my phone out and call.  I walked out of that appointment feeling like I could take on anything. Diane came into my life and blessed me with the desire and the will to take care of myself.

I wish I could say the take-on-the-world feeling hung around until my doctor’s appointment, but it didn’t. Instead I went in feeling like a child. I was embarrassed and fragile. My doctor ran through the depression check-list/questionnaire, and “shockingly” I was, in fact, depressed. That was the first time, to my knowledge, that I had formally been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I’ve spent that vast majority of my life with depression, but now I had an official diagnosis. Together we went through medications and their side-effects. I have minor anxiety, so we decided on something that was more for depression, but would help with anxiety as well. We decided on Pristiq. I was warned to watch out for suicidal ideation as well as a few other things, so she suggested to keep a journal the first three to four weeks as the medication worked its way into my system to monitor my mental health.

I wish I could say that Pristiq worked for me. I thought it did, because I felt different. The reality, however, was that it made it worse. Several months later, my new general practitioner changed my prescription, due to unrelated issues, to Zoloft. Along with a new prescription I had an appointment with a new counselor.

Enter Ms. Grey: a young, outgoing, and talkative woman. I genuinely like Ms. Grey as a person, but as a counselor we didn’t click. During our first session Ms. Grey made it known that she thought it was weird how important my dog was to me. I know it sounds odd, but Nyx is extremely important to me. She also makes me leave the house when I can’t or don’t want to. Most of our sessions were dominated by her, and, truthfully, it was by design. I figured out quickly that she liked to talk and took advantage of it. Whenever I did talk I tried to steer the session in the direction of my depression and issues I was having, but she was so focused on my anxiety. No matter how many times I told her that my anxiety wasn’t the issue, and that I wasn’t all that anxious about moving to Germany at that moment that is all she wanted to talk about. It was both annoying and disheartening to not be listened to. I finally stopped going to see her, because I wasn’t getting anywhere, and, for the most part, felt relatively okay.

I didn’t see Ms. Grey again for almost six months. I originally tried to just make an appointment with an actual psychologist, because I thought they might be of more help, but due to the procedures of where I went I had to see Ms. Grey again and get a referral. This would be, probably, the most beneficial appointment I had with her. I was showing signs of mania. I was freaking out and worried, and I just wanted to figure out what was going on. I didn’t get a referral for a psychologist out of that appointment, but I did get one for a psychiatrist. After the referral she, once again, wanted to talk about my anxiety. I wanted to scream at her “ANXIETY IS NOT MY ISSUE!” That was our last appointment.

I saw my psychiatrist a total of three times before I moved. He was a very direct man. Think of a stereotypical military officer. Our first appointment he told me to go through my entire history. I can barely remember what I ate for lunch, and I almost told him that, but ran through what I could remember. The entire time he jotted down notes. I thought he was really listening to me. Once I’d finished he said he’d up my Zoloft prescription, and we’d see how I felt after that. We did not even mention my mania…you know, the reason I was there. I didn’t really think much about it at the time, but looking back now it just makes me angry. The following two appointments were formalities. The “how’s the medicine doing, do you feel like you’re going crazy again?” type appointments. I was in and out of his office in five minutes. Getting all my vitals beforehand took longer.

Fast forward to September 3rd. I have my novel-sized medical records in hand, and I decided to go through them to see what my diagnosis was. It turns out my psychiatrist changed my diagnosis to Adjustment Disorder. I was angry. I felt like he didn’t listen to me, or even my counselor who was the one that pointed out that I was showing signs of mania. He took the fact that I was leaving for Germany soon and decided that’s why I was depressed. He disregarded that I had been dealing with depression for the vast majority of my life at that point. Instead he just chalked it up to me having a difficult time adjusting. Even now it makes me angry to think that I wasn’t listened to by the person that was supposed to care about my mental health–as a side note the man was retiring at the end of the year.

Whether it was his readiness to be retired or just a general lack of concern I’ll never know, but what I do know is that I refuse to stay with mental health professionals that don’t listen to me. I was afraid to stop visiting, because I hate conflict of any kind. I don’t like to “fire” people, and that’s exactly what I would have been doing. I suffered for that, and I won’t make that mistake again. I need to take care of myself, and in order to do that I need to have a team of health professionals that want to help me do just that. If they can’t or won’t then they aren’t worth my time. Ms. Grey and my psychiatrist were a speed-bump in my mental health journey, but my negative experiences with them will not stop me from finding a new therapist and psychiatrist. My mental health is too important for that. Let my mistakes be a lesson to you, dear reader, as well. If you are struggling and you decide to seek help, do not be afraid to leave a therapist if they don’t feel like the perfect fit for you. Take care of yourself. You are important, and you deserve to be listened to, believed, and treated with respect.

To my dear friend that started his journey today: I want to say I am so proud of you. I know how hard it is to take that first step, but you did it. Be proud!

 

Differences Between the U.S. and Germany: 3 weeks

I’ve been in Germany for about three weeks, and I have noticed some obvious differences between the U.S. and Germany. They aren’t good or bad, per say, just differences between the two countries. I’ll try to avoid the extremely obvious differences that I’ve experienced before moving (like public transport or grocery shopping),  and focus on the not so obvious things.

  • Germany hasn’t joined the rest of the world in digitizing everything.

That’s not to say that Germany is not as technologically advanced as the U.S., because it is. Where Germany falls short, though, is when it comes to having all the info you need for, say, your residence permit, or something equally important, on an official government site. OR, if there is a site that just straight up lists what all you need it’s ridiculously difficult to find, because I have yet to find it. (I may or may not be an idiot at times, so it very well might be me.)

Their online banking is not as instantaneous as in the U.S., either. (At least it isn’t with Deutsche Bank.) It takes several days for your charges to be noted on your account. It’s not a huge deal, you just have to be more aware of your spending–which is never a bad thing.

You can’t get everything done online. For a lot of things you must mail something off. For example: Our AirBnB doesn’t have internet so we bought an internet stick at Aldi, but to register the internet stick in order to get it to work you have to mail off a form verifying you are who you say you are. It’s not a huge inconvenience, because the post system is relatively fast; but still, it would be so much easier to just do it all online.

  • Hours of operation are taken extremely seriously here.

Our Rathaus in Garmisch closes at 4 every day, except for Thursday when it’s open until 5. HB is in class from 8.30 until 4.30 or 5. He got to the Rathaus at 4:50 in order to register us with the Einwohnermeldeamt. The woman at the desk was livid that he came in so late and that she’d have to work a few minutes late. As soon as it was 5 o’clock the entire building emptied. It was like watching a fire drill. I have never seen a government building empty so quickly right at closing time. People just kept streaming out of the building. In the U.S. it’s not uncommon for the doors to be locked so no one else can enter, but for the people working to stay until everyone had been helped. And, if for some reason they couldn’t be helped, be offered an appointment for early the following day. Or if you’re shopping the sales associates to stay there until you are finished shopping. [If it’s only a few minutes it’s completely okay, but if you’re in there for thirty minutes we will give you dirty looks and follow you around with the vacuum so you get the picture to leave–been there, done that, don’t want to go back again.]

  • Going off my last point, some governmental hours of operation are an absolute joke

The hours for our local Auslaenderbehoerde are ridiculous. They’re open from 8 until 12:30, and you are not getting in if you walk in at 12:20 to just get info for what all you need to have for your resident permit application. Instead, you will be told to make an appointment…that may or may not actually work with your schedule, but oh well, suck it up buttercup! This is how it’s done. [This is a minor annoyance for me, because HB’s schedule is extremely strict. He has a little time to come home during lunch, but it’s not much. And I don’t know nearly enough German to go by myself to get it taken care of. It’s all around annoying, but I can’t imagine it’s much better in the U.S. Maybe the hours might be better, but I’m sure the hoops you need to jump through are just as annoying. Immigration sucks no matter where you are (I assume.).]

  • Dogs can go almost everywhere.

Okay, this one I already knew, but being in possession of a semi-loyal, four-legged friend, it’s so fantastic! It’s so incredibly nice being able to bring Nyx almost everywhere with me. There are times when having her with me is inconvenient; like, when it’s packed in Mueller and I’m trying to grab one or two things and get out, but Nyx wants to try to say hello to everyone we pass. But that is so much better than having to leave her at home.

  • Vacuums.

I’m not sure how I’ve gone so long without ever seeing a vacuum here, but I have. For reference, if you don’t know what each type of vacuum looks like here is a typical vacuum in the U.S. and here is a typical vacuum in Europe…or just Germany? I have no idea, but I assume most of Europe uses the same type. They are quite cumbersome for such small things, BUT they’re ridiculously quiet so it’s a fair trade-off, I think. It is, however, a bit odd that Europe still has bag vacuums, but that’s just because I’m so used to bag-less. I think the last time I used a vacuum with a bag in it was in the 90s. But when in Rome…er…Germany…do as the Germans do.

I have no doubt that more differences will make their appearance the longer I’m here, but those are the most obvious ones I’ve noticed so far.