Nearing the exams (basic German)

The libraries are as full as my sinuses. It’s the Tide of Exams around Oslo University campus these days, and I have a hard time finding a place to read up on German grammar. And boy is there a lot to read..

As you have figured, I don’t have much time for blogging. Or anything else. I was slightly ill last week, pushing myself to perform an oral exam in Deutsche Lautsprache (pronunciation) which counts for 50% of my grade in German phonetics. And that’s one of the easier ordeals I must go through a’fore X-Mas.

I have three courses altogether, three written exams (4 hour school tests) to do, starting Monday next week. First up is Reading comprehension (Tysk 1101), which is excellent for beginners. It’s about — you guessed it! — reading comprehension. Which means I can apply some of my comprehension skills from philosophy. But the German language is so inclined that it has no problem whatsoever placing the object before the verb, whereas Norwegian (and English) places the verb before the object, not to mention that the Subject is somewhere close by the verb, easily establishing the who-did-what routine. German is like a rubber band, however, and you must try to insert as many trivial facts into each sentence so as to further lengthen the distance from the acting part to the actual act as humanly possible.

So you can’t rely on your reading/comprehension skills either. When there are direct and indirect objects you must know just how to discern which is which. Enter the famous German Kasus, case, oder der Fall. z.B. haben wir die GeschenkeAccusativ Object, dass ichNominativ Subjekt schenkeVerb dirDativ Object.. I hope that was somewhat correct.

Sometimes you stumble across random legacy constructions that are thusly because no one has thought to change them. Enter the so-called "free Dativ" which can more or less pop up in the middle, or wherever, of a sentence for no apparent reason at all. Mark Twain has a lot to say about it in The Awful German Language:

Now the answer to this question — according to the book — is that the bird is waiting in the blacksmith shop on account of the rain. Of course no bird would do that, but then you must stick to the book. Very well, I begin to cipher out the German for that answer. I begin at the wrong end, necessarily, for that is the German idea. I say to myself, "Regen (rain) is masculine — or maybe it is feminine — or possibly neuter — it is too much trouble to look now. Therefore, it is either der (the) Regen, or die (the) Regen, or das (the) Regen, according to which gender it may turn out to be when I look. In the interest of science, I will cipher it out on the hypothesis that it is masculine. Very well — then the rain is der Regen, if it is simply in the quiescent state of being mentioned, without enlargement or discussion — Nominative case; but if this rain is lying around, in a kind of a general way on the ground, it is then definitely located, it is doing something — that is, resting (which is one of the German grammar’s ideas of doing something), and this throws the rain into the Dative case, and makes it dem Regen. However, this rain is not resting, but is doing something actively, — it is falling — to interfere with the bird, likely — and this indicates movement, which has the effect of sliding it into the Accusative case and changing dem Regen into den Regen." Having completed the grammatical horoscope of this matter, I answer up confidently and state in German that the bird is staying in the blacksmith shop "wegen (on account of) den Regen." Then the teacher lets me softly down with the remark that whenever the word "wegen" drops into a sentence, it always throws that subject into the Genitive case, regardless of consequences — and that therefore this bird stayed in the blacksmith shop "wegen des Regens."

N. B. — I was informed, later, by a higher authority, that there was an "exception" which permits one to say "wegen dem Regen" in certain peculiar and complex circumstances, but that this exception is not extended to anything but rain.

Now you may say that it’s funny ’cause it’s true, but you don’t have to answer for it in a written exam less than a week from now..

Thankfully 1101 can be written in Norwegian so I don’t have to spend so much energy worrying about die Kasus-Numerus Differanzierung, especially since I am still learning how to rightly detect the gender of everything around me. See above.

Following that we have German Syntax I (Tysk 1100), which is, according to the teaching Prof: "The most boring class in Oslo University" And that’s his words. This guy is the kind of Professor that, and I quote again, "like to make things interesting". Scares the living schattenfreude out of newcomers like me. And he wants everything written in Deutsch, bitte and bitte without any syntactical inconsistencies with whatever it is you are claiming semantically.

That’s next week in a shoe box.
On the 16th is the last chapter, the remaining 50% of Spoken German (Tysk 1105) which is mostly Phonetic Theory as applied to modern German, with strong emphasis on and correct transcription to IPA symbols under a given intonation and die Auslautverhärtung which rears its head all the time, apparently. For all insanity in the world, I’m actually looking forward to it. After that I’ll be enjoying my X-Mas holiday or, more likely, committed.

Wish me good luck, und auf Wiedersehen! Time to hit the sack.

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