German Exams: 2 down 1 to go!

I’ve done it! The two worst class room exams this year have been idled through and delivered. The first one, Tysk 1101, was 9 o’clock Monday, and I had looked up all the nearby cafés around campus to find out when they opened in order to secure a cup of coffee. I found a good spot staring into the backs of the American Lit section, with my back against the rest of the library. Then I started farting.

Around an hour into the four hour ordeal I couldn’t take it anymore and asked to have someone follow me to the restroom. I don’t know how they do it in other countries, but in Norway you are allowed to take breaks and walk outside, as long as an exam warden follows every step you take — sometimes even checking the WC stalls.

And if you ever notice a lack of retired people in your immediate vicinity, you can bet there’s an exam going on somewhere. The very temporary (4 hour) positions are mostly filled with retired people. Solemn, long-nosed men and knitting grandmothers. But I digress!

I had remained calm during the morning, which is important in order to rightly comprehend the tasks in front of you. If you panic, you’ll certainly overlook something important (such as a negation at the end of the sentence — always funny). But you can be too calm as well.

I was like: Remain calm. Just be calm.
‘I am calm’ I thought. ‘Caaaaallmmm.. Soo veryyy caaaaaalmmmmzzzz… zzz.. zzz.. zzz-*! naCHTUNG!’ One of the retired wardens walked over and slapped my across the face. "Shush!" People who lived through the war knows how to use violence for peaceful purposes. If you’re good, they’ll reward you with candy.

We got a text about Martin Luther (the Reformist, not the King) and how they had done archeological excavations in what has been established as his childhood home. The point of the article was two-fold; 1) his father was very rich — contrary to popular beliefs in Germany, and 2) they may have found the Toilet on which his Turmerlebnis unfold itself.. don’t ask. I really enjoyed the read, and answered the comprehension questions, in Norwegian, as best I could.

"DO NOT WRITE A NOVEL", the lady had said at the last session of the course.

That’s exactly what I did. I even wrote in my own Norwegian interpretation of the questions I then answered, totaling some 8 pages! What’s worse is that I completely lost track of time, so that after the 4 reading comprehension tasks I still had some 8-10 tasks of very time consuming grammatical analysis to do!

Needless to say, I just barely made it in time. Then I headed home, knowing I had to read for the next exam, Tysk 1100, which was today. German Syntax 1.

Let me just add in here that all of the courses I take this fall have a recommended prior education of High School German, sporting at least a C. I didn’t have German in High School at all. Zippo. Zilch. I had French. It’s Latin based, not even Germanic. But I mostly played Quake II: CTF II instead.

In order to stay on a positive note, let’s just say I have been setup for quite a lot of Eureka! moments this fall.. Especially since the first exam ended, and I have learned how many errors I did, which could have easily been avoided. I went from being satisfied to questioning my very academic existence in a few pages.

But I can’t give up either. With a little luck my classmates, of which many come straight from High School, panicked and really screwed up. If the statistics work in my favour, I can still avoid having to do it over again. If not, then I’ll just have to do it. The bar for a Master in Philosophy’s set to C, but I’d like it to linger around B if I can. Right now, I feel that I’ll need a lot of luck to avoid an E!

Enough of the alphabet soup!

The exam today didn’t start until half past two in the afternoon, so I had plenty of time to not be nervous. As usual, I remained calm. Almost too calm. In fact, I overslept, and didn’t get to read through the pages I had planned to, and instead barely made it to the library just before the exam started with only 5 minutes to spare!

This reminds me of gym classes in my childhood when we were counting our pulse strokes after anaerobic training, and they could’t find my pulse because I was so calm. For the rest of the year I just wrote ‘In a coma’ in the report book to skip gym class, and the Physed teacher couldn’t argue against the science. The following year, alas, he had changed batteries in the pulse-meters.. but I digress.

Today we had German Syntax and despite my calm prior to the exam, I was rather stressed out when we finally started. Who knows what sort of misunderstandings I have conjured up along the way?

First we had to recognize 5 Genitive cases in a text about electric cars’ success in Norway. I have been so focused on the Accusative and Dative cases (direct and indirect objects, mainly) in my German training, so it was really hard to turn my brain around to notice ownership- or description-like appositions. But I managed to find all 5! At least that’s what I think..
I actually nailed the last one on account of Mark Twain’s «Wegen des Regens» below. Talk about basing my education on happy happenstance!

Then we had some verbs that had to be located and shown in the Infinitive, as well as a translation of a text from Norwegian to German, also about electric cars, sporting a lot of Modus Conjunctive (indirect speech).

As usual, my non-existing vocabulary made this pretty hard. But I at least delivered something that meant something going in the same general direction as it was supposed to be. It really bothers me that I know historical words such as Sword, Horse carriage and the like, but not Airport or Pollution.

I see now that I missed on the latter. I didn’t know what pollution was, so I just used a German sounding of the Norwegian ‘forurensning’, that is, die Verureinung. The correct word is die Verunreinigung. Bad luck.

The last task, however, was complete hell.

As I wrote about earlier, our German Syntax professor is quite the geek, and he had stated that he "wanted to make things interesting". So today as the final task we were given a foul text written by some Norwegian girl living in Germany, who could not for the life of her form a German sentence. She wrote Norwegian in German, had bad punctuation, and sometimes just blurted out nonsensical statements. The task read: "In the (genuine) text below, there is one type of mistake that is occurring more often than (all) the others. What type of word are we talking about and what kind of error(s)? Could we give this/these type of error/s a nickname?"

Pure evil.

I have no idea what kind of statistics the professor is going for here, but he’s setting himself up for a lot of misunderstandings and — let’s not trivialize people’s feelings — angry retorts.

I based my comprehension of the task that he used the word -flexion, which rules out verbs (conjugation), and focused on the Flexive (plural endings) of Adjectives and Nouns, but I have no idea whether this is right or not. Time will tell. In the meantime, I can only look forward to learning more German, so that I more easily can identify all the errors I put on record as of 6:30 pm today. Cheers!

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