I took five years of German in high school. Although, that "fifth year" I was a distracted senior, and because I wanted to fit it in, I had to take the class on my own. I usually sat out in the hall, across from Frau Kornreich's other Deutsch class, and slowly made my way through a YA book. She would occasionally check in on me, help me read and understand certain pharagraphs, and, let's be honest, make sure I wasn't skipping.
So, one of the silver linings of moving here was my base knowledge of this chunky language. I have a decent understanding of German pronunciation (it's danke shhh-URN, not shane), and some of the locals have noticed, and this makes them smile, or laugh, or maybe both I guess. I'm still a bit timid to cough up complete sentences ... In my mind, I tend to get halfway through, then forget how to conjugate. Or, I just simply can't remember the WORD for that WORD. I know it will begin to make more sense, and I'm happy to revisit my speaking skills even if they are shit.
Few times I've caught myself giggling at certain phrases or words that I DO actually remember. The German language has many complex spellings and characters and titles. Frau Kornreich was always clever in her teachings, and through her large frame and lavish, blonde "Troy Polamalu" hairstyle came a clear understanding of how to pronounce and learn a term, acting out various situations.
"GERADEAUS!" she would yell, and point and purse her lips. This obviously means, "Straight ahead!" I can picture her now, teaching us this as she set the scene for someone giving directions. This particular word comes to mind for me daily, as I navigate the streets of this new maze I am living within. It all makes no sense, not only on a map, but there are simply few places where I could make my way "geradeaus" ... everything here is curvy and pretzeled about into itself.
Not to mention, there aren't many streets here that are easy to spell, let alone pronounce. Let me just give you an example of yesterday's directions from Google:
Head southeast on Mittlerestrasse toward Friedensgasse
Turn left onto Klingelbergstrasse
Sharp right toward Bernoullistrasse
Slight left onto Bernoullistrasse
Continue onto Petersplatz
Turn left onto Petersgraben
Turn right onto Peterskirchplatz
Continue onto Kellergässlein
It's a miracle I can get Nels to the park, and then back home again. But the more I navigate by foot, I see familiar landmarks and this always helps. I even tried driving last week, not a complete failure, but definitely a bit more stressful as I ease into an intersection to then quickly decipher a street name ...