Friday, April 28, 2017

Preparing for the telc B2 Deutsch als Fremdsprache test: describing a book

I've been preparing for about two months to take the telc test for the B2 level of German as a Foreign Language. While that sounds like a long time to study, keep in mind that it involved much procrastinating, gnashing of teeth, and metaphorically lying on my side in vocabulary defeat. The actual time spent studying is thereby diminished.

This is a little ditty that I wrote. On the telc test, one must describe something. I prepared a book description in case that came up. My friends kindly edited it for me because I still make errors and it drives me up the wall. Any remaining errors are my own.

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Ich werde das Buch “The Math Myth” von Andrew Hacker beschreiben. In diesem Buch geht es um das Thema Mathematik im Amerikanischen Bildungssytem. Der Autor meint, dass nicht alle Schueler und Studenten in Amerika fortgeschrittene Mathematik brauchen.

Er fragt sich z. B., warum zukuenftige Englisch Lehrer Trigonometrie lernen sollen. Sie wuerden sie nicht unterrichten. Es faellt vielen Amerikanische Studenten schwer, die obligatorischen Mathematikkurse an der Uni zu bestehen. Deshalb fallen viele von ihnen im ersten Jahr an der Uni durch.

Statt unnoetige Mathematik zu lernen, schlaegt Herr Hacker vor, dass Studenten passende Mathematik lernen. Manchmal ist solche Mathematik nur Arithmetik und Logik. 

Meiner Meinung nach ist diese Idee perfekt. Ich hasse Mathematik und es ist mir schwer gefallen, gute Noten in diesen Kursen zu bekommen. Ausser in diesen Kursen bin ich eine gute Studentin.
Als [insert name of my profession here] benutze ich wenig Mathematik. Haette ich Buchfuehrung gelernt, haette das genuegt.


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If you can understand German and/or just stuck this in Google Translate and want to read my...rant (?) about math:

When I describe this book, most of the people to whom I describe it become incensed and argue with me about its validity. Part of the reason for that stems from my lack of ability/desire to debate and effectively present this material to people who are touchy about the subject because they love math. The other part is that I'm mostly surrounded with scientists, engineers, computer scientists, linguists who are heavily involved with computers, etc. This pitiful English major won't find a common outlook in this group because math is their lifeblood. For me, it's painful and useless Kryptonite.

I very much agree with the author of this book and I think that the US's practice of forcing advanced mathematics on most, if not all, students is keeping those who have interests/abilities/and future studies that have nothing to do with math from reaching their full potential. Oh, and please don't just say that all it takes is the right teacher. I had an amazing teacher in high school for the two of three years of math that I took. I very much liked her and appreciated the effort she put into teaching and the enthusiasm that she showed. Despite that, I only received middling grades (in my other classes, I earned As) and instantly forgot everything after the test. My brain is not a math brain and frankly, there is no good reason for it to be as such anyway. I've had a good life and decent career without math.

Don't even give me the line that learning math teaches one how to think critically, either. I am good at problem solving and I am absolutely horrible with/absolutely hate/and find no use in my own life for math. I learned problem solving through other means, many of which include much introspection. For problem solving that deals with other people (whether they help solve the problem or they unfortunately contribute to it), I've turned to my studies in Sociology, Psychology, and Management. Figuring out how a bunch of numbers fits together doesn't prepare a person to work through an issue with a living, breathing person, for example. For many problems, using a style of reasoning gained from math study is just too cold and calculating.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It's almost Mannheim Maimarkt time again!

The Mannheim Maimarkt is one of the many things I always look forward to in the springtime. If you're somewhat close to Mannheim, it's definitely worth a visit. This year, it occurs from April 29 to May 9.

Do you know where you can shop 'til you drop; try food and wines from all over the world; and see so much more? All of this is possible at the Maimarkt Mannheim, which goes through the end of this weekend. Located near the SAP arena on the outskirts of Mannheim, it opens at 9 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to see as much as is possible; the Markt is huge!

The Maimarkt is almost 400 years old. Today, it's quite a sight to behold, with about 1,400 exhibitors. It is basically a trade show but is also so much more. Of course one can go shopping, visiting vendors who sell everything from kitchen gadgets to car insurance. If one is hungry, there is a huge international food court with wonderful things to eat and drink. Love horses? There is a show jumping and Dressage competition! There is even a neighborhood of houses at the edge of the fairgrounds. Does anyone live here? Nope; they're builders' model homes that are open for tours.

Adult tickets are 8 euros when bought at the Markt. Even better yet is to buy the ticket from a VRN ticket machine available at most train stations in the area; for only 1,70 euros more, one can also receive a roundtrip travel card in the VRN's service area (including Kaiserslautern) to use the train to get to the Maimarkt. 

More information is available at: www.maimarkt.de

Thursday, April 20, 2017

So they made a list about Germany

and howdy-hee, it seems rather right on!

Plus it's not annoyingly chirpy.

Take a peek here since gosh knows I probably won't be writing anything of substance for a while. It's busy as can be in ATW land.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

It's not that enticing

We randomly received a magazine that tries to entice retired military members to make their new home in Alabama. One thing that the publishers believe that makes their state attractive to retirees is an event where one pokes poisonous snakes with sticks. They even included a picture for illustrative purposes. Oy vey.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The TV Show that just keeps on giving

I was on German TV a while ago. I thought that no one would see the episode. Hoo-whee, was I wrong. My neighbor's mother recognized me on it. I've only met her one other time.

Even crazier yet is that my friend J said that his parents, who live in another German state, called him to ask if his friend (moi) had recently been on TV.

What?!

I have never met his folks before.

I asked him how on earth they knew it was me. His response was that, statistically speaking, it was likely to have been me because of my demographics as well as the idea that Americans don't normally (always) try too hard to integrate here, especially those in the military community.

I'm working on achieving the level of Integrated As Heck, so that can stick out sometimes, it seems.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Week: March 26 ed.

This week, I was still dealing with the fallout of the car accident. My car was beyond what was economically feasible to repair so my insurance company paid me out for it. I was then left with the need to sell it myself. The insurance company had found a bidder but he had offered such a low price that I decided to sell the car on my own.

I found a seller through a business card someone had left in my mailbox. He’s an exporter and quickly decided to buy the car. We conducted the entire transaction in German; thank goodness for finally being fluent enough to do this! He asked me why I spoke such good German. Ha!

I also finalized buying the replacement car. The experience wasn’t optimal because it was somewhat of a high pressure situation, but the car was a good price so it worked out.

Holy heck, though; this week was stressful. I slept much better but my body was unhappy with me for all the stress (and eating salty food). I had no time to exercise or eat good food and was plagued with headaches; it doesn’t help that it’s high time for allergies. Basically, all I could think of was taking care of the car stuff and there were a lot of projects at work going on. If I felt this way all the time, I’d be really, really unhealthy. I can see why people who are constantly in a state of stress are more prone to heart attacks!

Beyond the stress, I did enjoy myself a bit too. I met with my tandem partner and we continued with some exercises in preparation for the upcoming telc test. I also visited the German class.

A group of us went out to dinner one evening and met some new people. I’ve recently read The Math Myth: and Other STEM Delusions by Andrew Hacker and was talking about how he thinks math is overrated and there is no need for most general people to take such high levels of math. It’s keeping otherwise talented students from reaching their goals and it doesn’t make sense to make someone who’s going to be an English major take Calculus, for example. Even engineers only use a fraction of the high level math that they’ve learned.

It was definitely the wrong group of people to tell this opinion; members included a PhD in Mathematics; a computer science masters student; a theoretical linguist; a nurse; and an economist. They believe that learning math allows one to think critically. I disagree; I am absolutely horrible with math and hate it. Yet I’m a very logical person who’s decent with problem solving (as long as it doesn’t include numbers or telling what side of the stupid cube comes next!).

I invited A over for more pizza and Moo time. My pizza is so much better than the local offerings, if I do say so myself. It’s way more flavorful and has an adequate amount of sauce. A is always happy to eat it and Moo is always happy for extra attention from his adoring fans.

During the weekend, I traveled for work reasons. However, everything was not all work and no play. I stopped in Munich to visit a friend I made the last time I was there. He’s a big Moo fan, too, and is completely obsessed with cats, which is totally fine by me as I’m a fan of CCDs (Crazy Cat Dudes).

We had a weird weekend, which also suits me. L. had bought me an awesome tie-dyed shirt with cats printed on it. I convinced him to put on his shirt like mine and we wore them out and about in Munich. He says that Munich is so conservative and it drives him nuts that people are such Judgy-McJudgersons about what people wear; he normally wouldn’t wear his shirt in public. He liked visiting the US because people don’t care if one wears a crazy tie-dyed cat shirt. I told him the key is to just not care what others think and that one should wear tie-dye more often. We weren’t doing anything illegal or immoral; it was just amazingly tacky and awesome.

Dressed as weirdo t-shirt twins, we met with one of his friends, took hammocks to the park, and hung out for a while and ate candy which reclining in the hammocks. We also pet some neighborhood cats, visited the cat café where we had met before, and then went back to his apartment and I cooked rajmah masala.

The next day, we met a bigger group of his friends and visited the local Sikh temple. As we entered, we removed our shoes and all of us covered our heads with scarves, out of respect. I was trying not to giggle because we looked like a very weird gaggle of pirates. We washed our hands then sat down in the main room and were served tasty vegan Indian food, pakoras, chutney, and some sort of fried bread.

Members of the temple welcomed us warmly and took us on a tour. They even invited us into their worship area, advising us that we would sit on the floor and mustn’t point our feet toward the altar as that would be disrespectful. They answered questions about their religion and offered us a type of dough to eat; they believe in sustaining one’s body as well as one’s soul. In fact, anyone is welcome to come by at all times, and they will also feed the person if he is in need.

We learned some tenants of the religion, such as one should not remove body hair as it’s a living part of one’s body and that god had made a person already perfect so it would be disrespectful to remove it. Cutting one’s fingernails is okay because fingernails are dead. Equality, personal rights, and living a simple life are other important aspects of the religion.

It was definitely an interesting and educational experience to visit the temple. I didn’t know much about the religion beforehand. The members’ hospitality was very kind and they were happy to answer our questions without being pushy.

Saying goodbye to the group, I then headed to downtown Munich. I had a couple hours before I was supposed to travel to Garmisch so I wandered downtown for a while, stopping by a sculpture museum. Afterward I grabbed some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor. They’re delicious and naturally sweet.

I had also stopped by the tourist bureau and tried not to crack up at some tourists, an American couple. They saw a travel agency’s sign that said “make America günstig again” and wanted to know what it means. The staff member told them that it means “make America cheap again,” which in my mind is way better than what the other, similar catchphrase implies. I think the tourists wondered if it meant something sinister.

I had heard another pair of American tourists at the U-Bahn and was trying not to smile then. The lady, in a loud and bewildered voice, said “I don’t know, how do we get there and what is a ‘glees’ 1?” She was referring to the German word for “track” or “platform” and it’s actually pronounced so that it rhymes with “ice.” I was smiling because we’ve all been there as tourists before becoming familiar with Germany. L and I were already climbing into the train; otherwise I would’ve asked if they wanted help.


As I departed for Garmisch on the Flixbus (which at only 6 euros prebooked, is way cheaper than taking the train), I reflected on the weekend. It was unusual, relaxing, tasty, and friend and cat-filled (not relating to the tastiness!), which is just fine in my book.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My week: March 19 ed.

This week was stressful, friend-filled, warm fuzzy-filled, with another dose of stressfulness.

The week before, a German lady hit and totalled my car. She was the one who almost immediately asked where I learned to speak such good German. Looking back, I can admit how absurd it was that this was about the second thing she said to me. We then had some conversations about how we were like a tv program for the obnoxiously nosy bystanders as we waited for the police. One nutty woman even came nearer for a better look at the crumpled cars then walked away, smirking. Oh, for Pete's sake!

Anyway, I spent much of my week dealing with the car issues but on top of that my calendar was full. I felt a bit frazzled but not full-out stressed (believe me, I've been way more stressed than this before and made it through everything). Despite not feeling that mentally stressed, I couldn't sleep well; I was getting about 5 hours a night and felt as if I was going to get sick. I was thankful to catch up with sleep on the weekend, which seemed to reset everything.

I met with my tandem partner and she had put together more practice activities for the telc B2 test. Can I just say that the test's speaking components are so boring? I am getting sick of reading an article about a touchy topic and then explaining my opinion about it. I'm fine with conversations in German but I don't enjoy making a presentation. Despite this, I do greatly appreciate that my friend is willing to help me practice with these exercises because they must be boring for her, too, and it's a great help to prepare for the exam.

In addition to my other activities, I decided to join a club in the German community. It's all German speaking, all the time. Actually, the leader did have a side conversation with me and very kindly offered to speak English. I politely declined, since it's a German club, and feel that it's only right to speak German there (if I weren't fluent enough to grasp mostly everything going on, I wouldn't have joined). Man, if I had two hours or more of speaking full-on German a day, I'd be up to C2 reasonably fast.

I mentioned a Really Big Idea I had and some members were interested. It's an idea developed by a community group in Australia and it helps protect the environment, reduces waste, saves money, and unites the community. Obviously it's right up my alley and the other women were very interested, too. I'd like to work on the behind-the-scenes planning and have the other club members be the official face of the program because I don't really want to be on tv again after my five minutes of fame. Plus, I think I've embarrassed myself enough by speaking halting German in front of the whole (local tv-viewing) world. I've already been thinking about other community groups we could include, as well as stores and sponsors. Press your thumbs for me that we can pull this off :)

German class also met as usual, but I had such a hard time concentrating because I was stressed about the car. I had taken some time off to go car shopping and visited about ten car dealers. They were polite and helpful but it's not something I enjoy.

I met with another club and participated in some of their activities. I'm hoping to pull them into the Really Big Idea too as it fits their mission well.

During the weekend, I looked at cars some more but had already mostly decided on a particular one so was able to back off the search.

Another group was offering a cooking class so I joined that and enjoyed myself. The funny thing was that I didn't eat any of the main dishes that we had cooked. I really don't care for fish, and that was in most of the dishes. I was happy to learn about another cuisine (even if it doesn't appeal to me personally :) and destress with some company and cooking so I didn't mind only being able to eat mashed potatoes and a carrot salad. The organizer was sweet; when he found out that I didn't eat most of the stuff we were making, he was worried that I wouldn't have anything and wanted to know what he could do. I told him I'd have no problems eating the potatoes and salad and not to worry.

Some friends and I met on Sunday to wander around downtown Kaiserslautern for the advertising association's event "Kaiserslautern in Bloom" (KL blueht auf). Marching bands assaulted the city with their raucous, fun-loving tunes and the city was awash with people. My friends W and M from an hour away made a quick appearance and we shared some good laughs (and our elbow sidehugs). Plus, A and I finally caught up. Normally we hang out quite a bit but we've both been busy and/or traveling. After the downtown events, I invited her over for homemade pizza. We chatted and hung with Moo, a peaceful end to a stressful week.