1. Another tandem with Bettina, one of my students. My brain refused to do language and even 35 minutes of bad German was agony. Like an idiot i was thinking in English and trying to translate into German, and having about 2000 German words to my 40,000 (or so) English, not to mention grammar, i kept running into untranslateables.

When i speak bad German well, my thoughts automatically restrict themselves to the available means. That is, i don’t think anything i can’t say in 2000 words with very basic grammar. This doesn’t mean i think like an idiot, but the form of these thoughts becomes extremely simple; it is possible to articulate complicated ideas using simple language. In our previous tandem, i was able to express thoughts at my normal level, in German, without overwhelming difficulty, though it took some ingenuity. When i can manage in German, i make a micro-second’s choice of complexity, and channel all my thoughts into this very basic grammar and vocabulary.

2. i taught myself functional Italian through books, mainly Dante, and used this as a platform for real speech. This was not greatly difficult.  With German, it seems the wrong strategy. Instead, i’ve decided to make no effort to master literary German; to instead concentrate on the living, spoken form, and only then try to read, e.g., Rilke and so on. This seems obvious and natural – it is, after all, the path one takes with one’s own language, to ask for ice cream, and complain, and so on, and only then to start to read. Any yet, i suppose many people do learn through books, through tedious school lessons. i only wonder that in the past it was normal for a chap to be able to converse in some form of Ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, just from school and books – though no doubt institutional beatings & sodomy were of use, for these are valuable pedagogical tools.

3. Munich in Oktoberfest is a little strange. Many men in lederhosen, which looks surprisingly manly and dignified, and many buxom ladies in dirndls. For those not privileged to live in Munich, here are a couple of representative dirndls:

As you can imagine, this is pleasing unto Elberry. Some of my students have tried to persuade me to go to Oktoberfest; some have tried to persuade me to wear lederhosen; some have tried to persuade me to wear a dirndl. i have denied all. Walking through the touristy Tal this afternoon, i suddenly remembered my sisters, in my last life, wearing dirndls, probably for some godawful folk festival or perhaps we even went to Oktoberfest, since i suppose Munich wasn’t a million miles away. Not a hideous thought though approximately five seconds later i was struck deaf & palsied by a yet more outlandish feeling – that i may even have worn lederhosen as a child in that life; suddenly it struck me as exactly the kind of grotesque thing my family would have done and i felt premonitory horrors and once more appreciated why we remember so little – or generally nothing – of our other lives, since we may often have worn lederhosen.

The mind can only take so much.

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