Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kaffee mit Dieter

I have finally become a "regular" at the local cafè, Mosers.  I say a regular because the girls behind the counter have started to banter with me rather than proceed robotically filling my order.  I'm sure they, as all restaurants workers do (take my word on this as a former pizza flinger/ burger flipper), gossip about why my first drink is always cappuccino.  Drinking a cappuccino past breakfast, I have been told, implies that you have...err...stomach problems.  Not the case really, I just like the big cup.

I'm sure they also titter about why I'm always there with the same man.  An older man. SCANDALOUS!
But really it's all in jest, of course.

Every week or so for the last couple of months I have been meeting for coffee with my German friend, Dieter.  Everyone who is learning another language should get themselves a Dieter.  We have language exchange: he helps me practice my German and I help him with his English.  He is exacting with grammar and doesn't let me pull that whole if-I-just-say-something-really-fast-no-one-will-hear-my-mistake crap.  No laziness allowed and he always wants to proofread my class homework.

Yesterday, he actually said, whilst laughing coffee right out of his nose, "Mein Gott! Wo hast du dieses Wort gelernt? Im Zug? Dieses Wort wird sicher nicht auf dem Test." Apparently, I've been picking up some rather sketchy phrases on the public transit.  I'd better stop riding the night S-Bahn.

This illustrates the fabulous thing about friends from other cultures.  I have my own, personal Ask-a-German.  And vice-versa.  He gives me the inside scoop about cultural norms, the best ski lifts, when a company is trying to pull a fast one on us and asks me really thought-provoking questions about the USA such as, "Why do Americans on American television never say goodbye at the end of phone calls.  Does everyone just hang up?  How do you know when the conversation is over?"  Take a look, its true!  I had never noticed this, but assured him that we do tend to much more polite than TV depicts us.

Meeting Dieter was really just a stroke of luck. He decided to start trying to improve his English to help make his trips to America and Canada a bit easier.  He needs English for these excursions because he is a pilot and must have the air traffic control commands perfect. While he doesn't have any problem with these after so many years of practice, Dieter is also a bit of a friendly chatter.  In order to do this more easily in the USA, he started taking classes at the same language school in which I take German classes.  His classes are doubly useful in that they are available for a discount to the students because they use these English classes to train new language teachers.

Dieter is retired from working for many years remodeling houses and apartments in the Zürich area. He is also a ski-enthusiast, a published poet, a former parachute instructor, and was serving in the German military at the same time my own father was stationed in Burchtesgaden.  I like to think that maybe Dieter and my dad shared dirty jokes over boot-shaped pints in a little German bar in the 1970s.

Want to find your own Dieter?  If you are here in Baden, check out the public library.  They have a language exchange that meets every month.  Also Meetup.com lists tons of language exchanges or Stammtische in the area.  Living no where near anyone that speaks the language you are looking to learn?  No problem.  Check out italki.comLivemocha, or MyLanguageExchange.com and set up an online session.  You've got nothing to lose and you might just meet a new friend.

Brief shameless plug follows: I really can't say enough good things about the TLC/International House language school here in Baden - the teachers are great, the staff flexible and everyone is open and very friendly.  Although they are a bit pricey, it is definitely the best thing I have ever spent money on.

Aside from all the cappuccinos.