Thursday, December 9, 2010

Orientierungskurs (Or, Intensive German Culture-Politics-History-Literature Crash Course for Foreign Dummies)

Recently (since January 1, 2005), the German government (the Bundestag) passed a law (Gesetz), stating that all Foreigners (Ausländer) wishing to stay in Deutschland for more than 12 months ought to go through an Orientierungskurs. This is a brilliant idea.

I'd like to claim credit and say that Angie did read my blog and created this Deutschland für Idiots course for me. But, alas, I cannot but say the truth. The Germans are a first-world nation because they think of everything. Like we Latinamericans say, mientras Usted apenas va llegando, yo ya fui y volví, something along the lines of, while you are now only arriving, I have already come and gone back (ok, maybe today is not my best day for translations...).

All the blogs I've posted about my lack of knowledge of the Deutsch system have come to an end, because after these 9 days (4 down, 5 more to go) I will know everything worth knowing about the Deutsch. Should you have a question (besonders, die Deutschen), I have the answer. I dare you to ask me.

Would you like to know about the Deutsch coat of arms? Or maybe about the coat of arms of Schleswig-Holstein, mein Bundesland? Yeah--I know all about it. And about the flag, and the national anthem, and the Schwarzetag, and the Feiertagen. Oh, yeah.

But you see, all jokes aside, this is a brilliant idea. In other countries, you are required to know all these details only when you apply for citizenship. Not here. Here you have to learn the language (in the vast majority of cases the government pays for these intensive language courses), and you have to learn the culture, the political system, the history, and well, in my case, I tend to ask about literature and philosophy.

The test (yes, we have to take and pass a test) will include questions about our (ha ha, "our" and not "their") current government officials, local, state and national. But only my state officials. I'm so happy the Germans have only 16 states, 3 of which happen to be "city-states" (Bremen, Hamburg und Berlin).

Interesting facts about Colombia and Germany:

Citizens in Colombia: 45+ million
Citizens in Germany: 80+ million

States in Colombia: 32
States in Germany: 16

Total area in Colombia: 1 million km2
Total area in Germany: 350,000 km2

That means, my country is almost 3 times bigger than Germany, it has half the population, double so many states, and yet is immensely underdeveloped when directly compared to Germany! That goes to prove that size does not matter. ;-)

It has been an awesome experience. Being in a class with people who want to learn, who have smart questions; a class where der, die and das are not at all important; a class taught in German by German teachers who are not German language teachers.

I find myself amazed sometimes, when I find myself (yes, I find myself twice in one sentence) not translating in my head but understanding almost every word in German. Wow. Of course context helps... but man, have I come a long way in 4 months! If only I could remember to say wenn and not wann, and to decline my adjectives...

Oh well. Dass kommt.

For now, I am off to studying the 250 questions, from which 25 will be chosen to compose my test. I'm confident I'll pass.

By the way, just to share my nerdiness, I am not required by law to take this course. I chose to do it. Since Stacey loves awkward situations, I will share one with her (and you, too):

Natalya: (imagine everything in German) Hello, I'd like to sign up for the Orientierungskurs.
Secretary: Of course. Your passport number, please.
Natalya: (I give my passport number)
Secretary: Natalya... Delg... Delga... Delgado-Chegwin?
Natalya: Yes, Natalya Delgado Chegwin.
Secretary: You are not required to take this course.
Natalya: I know. I would like to. I think it will be very interest--
Secretary: Yes, but you are not required to take it.
Natalya: I know, but--
Secretary: You are not required by law to take it. You will have to pay.
Natalya: I am aware of that, and I am willing to pay. It's 130 Euros, yes?
Secretary: Yes, but you are not required to take this course.
Natalya: (Oh. My. Gosh.) (I smile) I know. I would, however, very much like to take it.
Secretary: But I don't know how to register you. It's only for people who are required by law to take it.
Natalya: I can't take it?
Secretary: You can. But I don't understand why.
Natalya: Well, I think it's very interesting to know--
Secretary: (Types something in her computer) Ok. There. 20 Euros, please.
Natalya: I thought it was 130 Euros.
Secretary: Yes. You have earned a discount because you are an Au Pair.
Natalya: I am not an Au Pair.
Secretary: Oh. You have earned a discount because you are a student.
Natalya: I am not technically a student, I am not registered in the University.
Secretary: We'll just pretend that you are (actually winks!).
Natalya: Oh, thanks. So, I can take the course?
Secretary: I still don't understand why, but yes.

Wow. Thanks, lady.

I guess in the Deutsche Menschen chapter I will understand what the heck happened up there.


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  2. Hahahaha, those ackward moments of 'what the hell are you thinking??' are the best. Actually it happened to me in the Uni in Sweden, they wanted to know why while I did my exchange semester in Finland I took 8 extra credits (meaning a 4 hour a week class), since that meant I had studied more than required :S.

  3. Excelente Natalia!! Estoy en la misma situación en este momento, sólo que ya no soy tan joven como vos!! Muchas gracias por ese "Humor Latino" que le pusiste!

    1. Te deseo muchos éxitos! Realmente vale la pena aprender todo eso. :-)