blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

German and Chinese

The old sanatorium at Davos, the setting of Mann's novel
I spent a few weeks this summer reading in German. I read both volumes of Thomas Mann's Der Zauberberg again (a "set book" when I was studying German at university and a favourite of mine) and got hold of a film of the novel that wanders rather from the original, but is still in keeping with its spirit, though I was disappointed with its interpretation of the last chapter. I've been watching DVDs of a German TV dramatisation of Buddenbrooks as well. Sabine of the German Embassy left some books behind when she left Ottawa this summer, one of which was the novel Eine Handvoll Glück by Barbara Noack, set in wartime Berlin and the few years before. Apart from the Berliner Dialekt used in the dialogue I found that story a very readable one.

Since September I've been in charge of the weekly meetings of the German-speaking Konversationsgruppe (26 people) that's part of Ottawa-CFUW's Diplomatic Hospitality service. Chris, who is also needing to study the language like mad in preparation for a business trip to Bremen, Stuttgart, etc. discovered something useful on the Deutsche Welle website: Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten: international news read out by German newsreaders at an abnormally slow pace and very clearly articulated, which gives non-Germans a better chance to follow what's being said––brilliant idea. I wish I'd had access to this when I was a teacher in the old days. I've told my Konversationsgruppe about it, anyhow. We've had five meetings so far and at the last one I decided to hand out some copies of extracts from a little book of old Chinese stories ("Anekdoten") entitled "Und Buddha Lacht" and translated by a German sinologist called Franz Kuhn, who died in 1961. As a matter of fact, Dr. Kuhn was the great uncle of Dagmar, one of my German-Canadian friends, and Dagmar was there to tell us a great deal more about him than appears in the Wikipedia article! Also present was Lolan, Chinese by origin, who with her in-depth knowledge of China's history and culture could help us appreciate the background to the stories.

I have also been taking some more Mandarin Chinese lessons on Skype with Mr. Yin of the Ottawa Chinese Language Centre, and practising with my daughter-in-law Sha or my friend Yiwen when the opportunity arises. I hope I'm making progress, have been trying to use modifying words like "yīnggāi" (should) and "kěnéng" (perhaps) as well as the very basic vocabulary, in order to make my sentences in Chinese a bit longer than they were to start with.

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