Most people would agree that the key to learning a language is practice. Practicing in stores and restaurants, with friends at lunch, with roommates, and with your teacher, or with other students learning with TOTALe—these are all great and involve different levels of worry about how the other person will respond to your German, with its perhaps-not-perfect accent.
Yesterday afternoon I found a way to practice with very little of the above anxiety. I took some work, grabbed a half-chicken and fries from Hühnerhaus, and sat out on the steps in Görlitzer Park. There were a few people tossing a football (I debated going over and showing them how to throw a spiral), two guys playing jazz guitar, and a bunch of people just enjoying a beer or coffee and the sunshine.
A few seconds after I opened my bag of food, I had a visitor. He sat there completely still and focused, but very polite. (German dogs are remarkably well behaved. Most don’t have leashes but know how to follow the traffic signals, and I’ve only heard one dog bark the entire time I’ve been here.) This dog seemed to be entirely unaccompanied. I used the opportunity to practice my German: Es ist mein Essen. (No response.) Wo is dein Mensch? (No response.) Was ist dein Name? (No response.) Sitz! (He sits down.)
Some of my Pommes frites were a bit over-soaked in ketchup, so I eventually relented and threw one to the unnamed dog. He ate it quickly and went right back to staring at me. Nein, das ist alles! (More staring.) War es lecker? (Some drool.) By the end of the hour, he’d eaten about fifteen french fries. And, as soon as all the food was gone, a young woman whistled from across the park, and the dog ran off to go home.
Learn more about Will Perkins’s adventures in language learning.
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