Lost in translation

In the clouds

I still do a double take when I hear the phrase “Talk to you soon”. It really confused me quite a bit when I first moved to the US because sometimes, I would not talk to that person again for a week or even longer! It took me not too long to realize that it is just a way to end a conversation and does not necessarily implicate the plan to actually talk soon – it may happen, or it may not. Also confusing was the friendly “Hello, how are you?” when entering a store. I never knew how to reply to that and always felt awkward. Now I know that in those cases it’s just a form of greeting and it’s completely ok to just reply “Good” (even if that is not really the case).

I knew English from taking it in school for eight years before moving to the US. Coming here though took my understanding (or not understanding) to a whole new level. And I did not understand quite a bit – everyone was talking so fast and not everyone learned the same English I learned in school (I was convinced of that). The absolute highlight was when I was finally able to turn the subtitles on the TV off. Now I can hardly believe that was ever necessary. But it did prove the point that you need to use a language to become good at it. Maybe some people don’t need that but I certainly do.

Sometimes I still feel like some things are lost in translation and there may be certain nuances that I don’t catch. I am afraid that happens in both languages these days. After 17 years in the US my German is still ok (and I am happy to report my friends in Germany are still surprised when I talk without an American accent) but using it almost the whole day (except at home) sometimes the English word comes faster than the German one. This still happens the other way around, too. My husband is German as well and we speak it at home with each other and the kids, but we developed our own little Germanglish vocabulary what is kind of fun (even though I sometimes forget that it’s a made-up word and my German and/or American friends look at me confused).

Explaining something at work comes more natural in English for sure. From every once in a while we will have a German student in the lab but when I try to explain an experiment to them I always switch to English.

I am sorry to report I still have my German accent and mispronounce a word here and there to the amusement of my kids. I think I am one of those people who always will. But that’s ok. Living in the Bay Area and working at a university it does not really stick out that much as it is a very international crowd in general.

I was a little worried when the kids started school that they would have a hard time with English since we were speaking German at home and at least my daughter did not know much English at first since her preschool was in Japanese. I am happy to report they are doing just fine. It actually requires way more effort to keep up their German over time.

Have you learned another language in school, and did you get to use it at some point? Maybe on vacation or an extended stay in another country?


Countdown to Halloween


Since September the kids keep asking me how much longer it takes until it is Halloween. But now pumpkin patch season is definitely here and the countdown is going. The visit to the pumpkin patch by now belongs to our getting-ready-for-Halloween tradition I would say. The last two years we went to a really nice one in Suisun City, California. A train from the Western Railway Museum will take you out to a pumpkin patch organized by the local Rotary Club. They have a hay stack with labyrinth, hay rides, games, pumpkin catapults, face painting, music and food among other things. The kids love it and we were planning to go again this weekend but now it looks like rain. It’s a real bummer but maybe the weather forecast will be wrong after all?


We already went to one pumpkin patch two weeks ago, so we won’t go without this year even if the rain keeps going. The Petaluma pumpkin patch has a corn maze and everyone was excited to make it through. They also had a big pumpkin field where you can pick your own pumpkins and a corn box for the kids to play with (they liked that part the best). It definitely was a lot of fun. I took so many pictures of sunflowers that day and feel like fall season is upon us.

mazeI am not really sure how it is now but when we left Germany Halloween was not a very big deal there. Sure there were pumpkins and fall stuff but not related to Halloween but more to the harvest celebrations. By the way, how is that now? I seem to pick up more and more Jack-o-lantern pictures in my social media feed over the last couple of years. I am still not sure about the whole Halloween dressing up thing. Dressing up always makes me uncomfortable but I prefer Halloween to carnival (coming from someone who only wore black for a while in her youth). We still have two weeks left to decide what to do on the day and how to dress up. How about you? Do you carve a pumpkin or dress up for the day?




Listen to this


When our kids go to bed they get to pick one CD from their extensive German radio play collection to listen to while falling asleep  I actually had to look up what they would be called and I am not sure I picked the right word. Is it radio play or audio drama or..? Maybe someone can help me out on this one?

I have not come across them in the US really. Sure, there are very good recordings of audio books for kids (and they do like them) but my personal opinion is that it is so much more fun to listen to the story when the different characters are spoken by different actors and you get sound effects and background noises.

Audio dramas were very popular in Germany when I was growing up and as far as I can tell they still are. They were in fact so popular that the actors of one specific recording (“Die drei ???” or “Three Investigators” as is the original American title) toured theaters around the country to read life performances. It puzzles me why the audio plays are more and especially popular in Germany. If anyone has an idea I would be more than happy to hear.

In the meantime I am happy that my kids like to listen to them and I sometimes find them quietly sitting in their room relaxing or playing while doing so.